Each year, Priests, Deacons, Religious, Seminarians, and the faithful throughout the Diocese gather on Wednesday of Holy Week to celebrate the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Allentown.
The Chrism Mass is typically the largest gathering of clergy in any diocese throughout the year.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Allentown has been postponed, and will be rescheduled at a later date.
During this Mass, the Bishop blesses the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and consecrates the Sacred Chrism, for use in parishes during the upcoming year.
The use of oil traces its roots to the Bible. Olive oil was prevalent in Jerusalem and had many practical uses: food, heating, providing light, and healing wounds. Kings and prophets were anointed as chosen by God.
Today the use of oil is also prevalent. Its sacramental use is similar to the practical ones: healing, strengthening, and a sign of being chosen by God. Four sacraments use blessed Oils: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.
The Oil of Catechumens is the first Oil we ever receive, just moments before the waters of Baptism are poured over our head. This anointing provides us with the armor of Christ, to protect us from the evil one and prepare us for a life of grace.
The Oil of the Sick is used in the Anointing of the Sick to strengthen the infirmed and those preparing for the end of their earthly pilgrimage.
The Sacred Chrism is unique in nature: a mixture of olive oil and balsam, giving it a sweet fragrance.
Chrism is used in Baptism to crown the newly baptized as priest, prophet, and king; to seal those in Confirmation with the Holy Spirit; to consecrate the hands of those who, as priests, will offer the Eucharist; and to consecrate Altars where the Sacrifice is offered.
Because the Diocese will not gather during Holy Week to celebrate the Chrism Mass, the Oils from last year will continue to be used to offer grace and consolation to those in need. When they receive this year’s Oils, priests will bury or burn any leftover Oil from last year.
This series of articles is by Father Keith A. Mathur, director,Office for Divine Worship, about the special liturgies of Holy Week.