Out of all the many liturgies celebrated during Holy Week, the Chrism Mass is one that some Catholics ever participate in. This is because the liturgy is mostly celebrated at the cathedral church of the diocese, which is presided over by the local bishop.
According to tradition, this Mass was celebrated on Holy Thursday, though due to some pastoral reasons in the United States it is often moved to Monday or Tuesday of Holy Week, and it is even celebrated on a different day during Lent in some cases.
All of the priests of a diocese come together for this Mass, and during this Mass the bishop will consecrate the sacred oils used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders. Every parish receives its annual supply of these oils at the Chrism Mass.
Pope Benedict XVI, in one of his homily given in 2010 related some of the symbolism of this Mass. He described that, “On Thursday, during the Chrism Mass the holy oils are at the center of the liturgical action. They are consecrated in the Cathedral of the Bishop for the whole year.
They therefore, serve also as an expression of the Church’s unity, guaranteed by the episcopate, and they always point to Christ, who is the true ‘shepherd and guardian’ of our souls.”
In four sacraments, oil is the sign of God’s goodness reaching out to our touch: even in baptism, in confirmation which is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, and in the different grades of the sacrament of holy orders and finally in the anointing of the sick, in which oil is given to us. Oil is taken as God’s medicine, the medicine which assures us of his goodness, offering us strength and consolation, still at the same time points beyond the moment of the illness towards the definitive healing and the resurrection.
However, oil in its different kinds, accompanies us throughout our lives: starting with the catechumenate and baptism, and it continues right up to the moment when we prepare to meet God, who is our Judge and Savior.
Furthermore, the Chrism Mass, is presented to us as part of the language of the creation of God, that speaks in particular to the priests. it speaks of Christ, whom God anointed King and Priest, it speaks of him who makes us sharers in his priesthood,and in his anointing.
One of the additional expression of the Chrism Mass is the annual renewal of priestly promises. With all of the priests of the local diocese present before the bishop, they renew their fidelity to him and to Jesus Christ.
A biblical dimension to this Mass is how in the Jesus visits his friends at Bethany and Mary anoints him with precious oil, preparing him for his burial. In this way, the Chrism Mass calls to mind this episodes and points out to what will happen later in the week.
Chrism Mass is an awesome celebration of unity and is meant to strengthen ties with a diocese, bringing unity among all parishes under the guidance of its local shepherd. All lay people are always encouraged to attend this liturgy and experience the beauty of the local church.