Chrism Mass 2011
Holy Thursday 2011
The Chrism Mass
My dear people,
As we dispose ourselves to participate once again in the Easter Triduum, we firstly gather this morning in St. Macartan’s Cathedral for the Chrism Mass. I welcome all the priests of the diocese who have come to join us as well as those who are visiting. I welcome the young people present who are preparing for Confirmation; this is a special year for you and we are glad you could join us. I welcome especially the old, the sick, the infirm and all you who care for them. The oil of the sick and the Sacrament of the sick have a special significance for you and this Mass is in a way your Mass. I welcome our teachers who show such strength in witness and our religious who generously sacrifice their lives in the service of God and others. I welcome all you faithful people here and invite you to join those already mentioned in confessing our sinfulness and asking God’s pardon.
My dear fellow-priests and friends,
Today’s liturgy is rather special and worthy of a closer look. The Bishop is joined by the priests of the diocese. This gathering makes us more aware that we are a team of priests committed to serving the people of the diocese and, like the human body, at our best when all parts work together in a spirit of harmony and care for one another. The opening prayer of the Mass puts it, “Help us to be faithful witnesses in the world to the salvation Christ won for all mankind.”
One of the parts which marks out this Mass is our renewal of commitment to priestly service. We are reminded that we are celebrating the memory of the first eucharist at which the apostles were called. We are asked to reaffirm our willingness to joyfully sacrifice our own pleasure and ambition to bring the peace and love of Christ to our brothers and sisters. We are called to teach the Christian faith without thinking of our own profit and to celebrate the Eucharist with sincere devotion.
Then, with a change in emphasis and direction, the faithful are asked to pray for their priests that the Lord may “help them to be faithful ministers so that they will be able to lead you to him.” You are asked also to pray for your bishop that despite his unworthiness he may be “a genuine sign of Christ’s loving presence among you.” We end asking the Lord to “bring all of us, his priests and people, to eternal life.”
If we look closely at the picture painted, all of us are on the road together searching for peace, fulfilment and happiness. Priests are not sainted nor put on a pedestal and the bishop is reminded of his own unworthiness. People are asked to pray for their priests and their bishop. Knowing and living with their feet of clay, these priests have committed to giving over their lives to walk with their brothers and sisters in a spirit of service to help them to find God. We are like a family on the move together and doing best when we walk humbly, supporting, forgiving and encouraging one another. The psalmist sets the tone “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.”
After this renewal of commitment the offertory gifts are brought to the altar and
today they are accompanied by the oils. Blessing the oil of the sick the Bishop prays, “May your blessing come upon all who are anointed with this oil that they may be freed from pain and illness and made well again in body, mind and soul.”
Blessing the oil of catechumens (those awaiting Baptism), the Bishop prays, “Bless this oil and give wisdom and strength to all who are anointed with it in preparation for their baptism.”
Blessing the oil of chrism, the Bishop prays, “Bless this oil so that all who are anointed with it may be inwardly transformed.”
The different aspects of today’s liturgy are woven together quite beautifully in the preface of the Mass. Speaking of Christ and of the priests he has called, the Preface states: “He calls them to lead your holy people in love, nourish them by your word, and strengthen them through the sacraments. Father, they are to give their lives in your service and for the salvation of your people as they strive to grow in the likeness of Christ and honour you by their courageous witness of faith and love.”
The final prayer of today’s Mass says, “Lord God almighty, you have given us fresh strength in these sacramental gifts.”
We should all leave the Cathedral this morning feeling renewed and nourished in our eucharistic celebration. The ties of faith and love that bind us to one another and to God should be strengthened. Our priests will bring the blessed oils back to their parish for use in caring for the sick and in baptising and confirming. It will be their special wish and prayer that they will have reason to return to the cathedral to witness the oil of chrism in use in the ceremony of ordination. They will feel that their own commitment and witness have been fruitful when they see new generations coming forward to answer the Lord’s call for shepherds for his people.
May all our prayers be united in asking the Lord to grant that fervent wish.
+Liam S. MacDaid