Chrism Mass: A Celebration of Priesthood

by on March 24, 2016

Photo Credit: Diocese of El Paso, TX

The holiest time of the year — the sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil — begins tonight throughout the Church. But another holy moment happened this morning, if not earlier this week or last, in dioceses around the world: the Chrism Mass.

Traditionally celebrated the morning of Holy Thursday to coincide with the anniversary of Christ’s institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper, it is frequently celebrated earlier in Holy Week to allow priests who live and work far from the cathedral to attend. During the Mass, the diocesan bishop blesses the holy oils that will be used in the diocese for the next year’s sacraments of baptism and anointing of the sick, and he consecrates the perfumed oil, the Holy Chrism, that will be used at baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations.

The consecration of the Holy Chrism each year recalls its use in each priest’s own ordination to the priesthood, and so every priest returns to the cathedral for this Mass to renew the promises he made originally when he was ordained. As such, the Chrism Mass becomes a wonderful celebration of the priesthood for both priests and the people they serve.

This year was the fifth time I’ve assisted with our Chrism Mass in El Paso, which was held Monday. Since our diocese is so large — a desert- and mountain-covered expanse that spreads across two time zones and the 10 westernmost counties of Texas — I don’t often get to see all our priests. But on this night, I was glad to see each of them, and indeed, witness their recommittal to the ordained ministry in which they’ve faithfully served for decades, in many cases.

As I helped one elderly monsignor up the sanctuary steps as the entire assembly of priests gathered around the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer, he whispered, “How long until you’re ordained? I need someone to take my place!” He then took his place among his brother concelebrants — row upon row of just about every diocesan and religious priest serving the nearly 700,000 Catholics of the Borderland region.

Seeing them was a reminder to me of the brotherhood I look forward to joining in a few years, of the dedication and service expected of those ordained to serve, and of the responsibility I have while in formation to learn as much as I can so that I can be an effective minister. The promises my diocese’s priests renewed at the Chrism Mass are the promises I am hopeful of making myself in a few years time, and they represent a commitment I look forward to making in Christ’s service.

Chrism Mass: Renewal of Priestly Promises

After the homily, the bishop speaks with the priests in these or similar words.

Beloved sons,
on the anniversary of that day
when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood
on his Apostles and on us,
are you resolved to renew,
in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people,
the promises you once made?

The priests, all together, respond: I am.

Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus
and more closely conformed to him,
denying yourselves and confirming those promises
about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church
which, prompted by love of him,
you willingly and joyfully pledged
on the day of your priestly ordination?

Priests: I am.

Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God
in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites
and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching,
following Christ the Head and Shepherd,
not seeking any gain,
but moved only by zeal for souls?

Priests: I am.

Then, turned towards the people, the bishop continues:

As for you, dearest sons and daughters,
pray for your Priests,
that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them,
and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest,
so that they may lead you to him,
who is the source of salvation.

People: Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

And pray also for me,
that I may be faithful to the apostolic office
entrusted to me in my lowliness
and that in your midst I may be made day by day
a living and more perfect image of Christ,
the Priest, the Good Shepherd,
the Teacher and the Servant of all.

People: Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

May the Lord keep us all in his charity
and lead all of us,
shepherds and flock,
to eternal life.

All: Amen.