Anointing was understood as an experience of God’s grace in the Hebrew scriptures. In this case, the psalmists write, “You anoint me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5) and “God has anointed you with the oil of gladness” (Ps. 54:7).

In the New Testament, the disciples of Jesus anointed the sick with oil while healing, and Matthew and Mark also referred to a woman in Bethany who poured oil on Jesus’ head shortly before his crucifixion. In the ancient days Near East, the oil used for healing sealing, and strengthening was Olive oil. In those days, athletes in ancient Greece used it to limber up and soothe their muscles before competing.

Oil was also poured on the head of guests or visitors as a sign of hospitality. Prophets were also anointed with olive oil, and they anointed kings in turn.
In recent times, Roman Catholics and many other Christian churches use olive oil mixed with perfume (usually balsam) during the celebrations of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders.

Sacred chrism (called sacrum chrisma in Latin) is also used to anoint the altar and walls of a church building during the church dedication.
Chrism oil is blessed and distributed at Chrism Mass during Holy Week along with the other two oils used in blessing catechumens and to anoint the sick.

During the blessing of the Chrism oil, the bishop breathes on the chrism, an expression that recalls Jesus breathing on his disciples after the resurrection and sending the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).
Parishes normally keep the chrism (along with the other two holy oils) in a closed container called a Chrismaria, which is also stored in a container called an ambry, usually near the baptismal font. The blessed chrism is used to signify our new life in Christ throughout the liturgical year and the fact that we, like the Hebrews, are set apart and marked by God.

The oil is used In the baptismal rite with these words “as Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so shall you live always as a member of his Body, sharing in his everlasting life”. At confirmation the confirm candidate is also signed with chrism on the forehead and the priest says these words “receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit”. The confirm candidate “receives the ‘mark,’ which is the seal of the Holy Spirit,” in order to share completely in the mission of Jesus Christ.

And during Holy orders the bishop anoints the hands of new priests and the consecrating bishop anoints the head of new bishops to signify their service to the people of God.

Any chrism that is unused is to be disposed in a revere and careful way. For some parishes, this means to bury or burn the oil (although many liturgical guides says that olive oil is hard to burn and they went ahead to recommend soaking cotton balls in the chrism so as to help the process along). As there is no dictate on how to dispose the chrism properly, many parishes either burn it in the paschal fire or, most times, in a separate celebration of the liturgy during Holy Week.

The liturgy in other way, acknowledges the inward transformation by the Holy Spirit which is signified by anointing with chrism. It’s in our belief that burning chrism returns the oil to God and it also celebrates the renewal of our faith and the new oils that are soon to be consecrated for the coming year.

Leave a Reply