The Chrism Mass is one of the most wonderful liturgies of the Church year and it is a shame that most people miss out on it. At the Chrism Mass the Bishop of the diocese prepares and blesses all the oils (Holy Chrism, Oil of Catechumens and Oil of the Sick) which will be used throughout the year in the diocese. Traditionally this event is held on Holy Thursday but many diocese have moved it to earlier in Holy Week so more priests from parishes in the diocese can attend, although I am sure that some smaller diocese, like Rome still have it on Holy Thursday. It is one of the Masses you should go to at least once in your lifetime.
It is just a regular mass that the Bishop presides, so off we go. The Chrism Mass doesn’t change year to year so it’s the same readings like most of the other Triduum events. There are a few changes from your typical mass during Lent the first among them is the Gloria is said and there are a couple of other additions to the liturgy. The first reading comes from the prophet Isaiah and in the reading we hear Isaiah say that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him because he has been anointed. Then he gets into his mission [the Lord] has sent me to bring glad tiding to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, comfort all who morn and give them oil of gladness in place of mourning. These people will be priests of the Lord. Now this is a reminder to priests of their role in the world but this reading also has meaning for everyone who is baptized, we have all been anointed and therefore it it our job to do the mission as outlines above. All to often we just leave it for the priests and other religious sisters and brothers to do but it is a universal calling to bring glad tidings to the world.
The Psalm even gets into the anointing vibe and also bring forth the bringing the joy “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Turning to the second reading we hear from the Book of Revelation, now we side step the whole anointing thing for a reading, but the role of priests is brought up again. We hear the greeting from John of Patmos to the seven churches in Asia minor, although the reading cuts off the first verse. Now the greeting is more of a list about Jesus and it goes on the say that Jesus has “made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father” this also seems to indicate the universal priesthood that the first reading touches on.
As we reach the Gospel we hear from Luke of a time Jesus preached in Nazareth, this is early in the public ministry of Jesus, he had just returned from his time in the desert after his baptism. The reading has been trimmed so it doesn’t tell the whole story but Jesus goes to synagogue and reads from the scroll, he reads from the prophet Isaiah “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me…” we should remember that reading. when Jesus finishes he rolls the scroll back and says that “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” This is a reminder to priests my St.Joseph’s Sunday Missal says that preaching should come from scripture, not be something that the congregation wants to hear and that the congregation should care more about what is said than who says it. I’ve always been a fan of good preaching but sometime you get really bad preaching like the past Sunday, I heard 6 minutes in which the Gospel was basically summarized and how Jesus was just quoting scripture when he said “My God, My God why have you abandoned me” since he wasn’t abandoned or something.
Next comes the homily from the bishop and after that a renewal of commitment to Priestly Service by all the priests present, this is like how some religious need to renew their vows before they get to final vows or married couple renew their wedding vows, since priests are not it is pretty cool event. At this point there could be the blessing of all the oils or they could take place before the end of the Eucharist prayer (oil of the sick) and after communion (the others).