Lent Project Day 31: The Chrism Mass

Photo by Pixabay Olive oil being poured from a dark bottle into a small bowl. The bowl is on a counter with a few green olives, olive leaves, and the tools used to press the oil.

The Chrism mass is my favourite mass of the year. I know that seems like a strange concept but some celebrations are just more meaningful? Beautiful? I don’t know. I always feel a little wistful and nostalgic (except that I didn’t do this as a child, so not nostalgic exactly). I feel longing. I don’t even know what the longing is for, exactly. But there is an ache for something that lands in my chest for the duration. The Midnight mass at Christmas is similar, but a distant second for sure. The Chrism mass just feels more sacred than any other. The Bishop blesses all the oils that we use throughout the year for the sacraments. From baptism to last rites, the oil blessed at the Chrism mass flows us through our Catholic lives. Oil is significant in many religions. It burned in lanterns to light the temples and home altars. It is the fuel to light our way.

Some background: The Chrism mass is an annual mass that blesses the holy oils that RC kids (also Lutheran and Anglican kids) use in our sacraments throughout the year. The Chrism used in baptism, confirmation and holy orders is consecrated. The oil of catechumens (also used in baptism), and the oil of the sick (used for the Anointing of the Sick) are blessed. They’re decanted into portions that each priest brings back to his parish for use all year. The Bishop also keeps a reserve in case a parish supply needs to be replenished.

In some places, the Chrism mass happens on Holy Thursday. In the Diocese of Hamilton (to which my parish belongs), it happened on Monday afternoon. I’ve been to the Chrism mass in the Diocese of Kingston a few times. I love that mass. It’s arguably my favourite mass of the year. This year, only priests attended because COVID. But normally both ordained and lay representatives or each parish gather at the Cathedral for this blessed event. So yesterday, the oil that was blessed and distributed at this year’s Chrism mass was safely in parishes all around the diocese.

I’ve been thinking about that oil, across the street in St. Clement Church. I’ve been thinking about the foreheads that will receive that oil this year. I don’t even know where in the church that oil is kept. In my parents parish, they have recessed spots in the wall behind the altar that house the bottles. I like being able to see it; it’s like a thread back to the umbrella of the diocese we all belong to, and the bishop who blessed it. In fact, when it is used, it carries the blessing of the bishop who consecrated/blessed it, no matter who uses it.

 Beyond the eponymous oil that gives it’s name to the mass, it’s also a day when the ordained recall the celebration of their vows of the Holy Orders. And this is the part that I can best use for my reflection part of the Lent Project.

This lent, may I reflect on my vocations – religious, familial, and all the rest – and celebrate the choices that have made my life so blessed. This Lent, may I renew my dedication to the things I hold sacred, whatever those touchstones are.

Extra Credit:

I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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