One of special Holy Week services for the world s Catholics is the Mass of Chrism, in which the local bishop blesses the oils that will be used for baptisms, confirmations, ordinations of priests and bishops, and the consecration of altars.
Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo diocese celebrated the Chrism Mass Tuesday in Rosary Cathedral, with priests and parishioners from all 159 parishes in the diocese participating in the ceremony.
Chrism, made with olive oil and fragrant balsam, signifies the Holy Spirit, according to the Rev. Charles Singler, rector of Rosary Cathedral and director of worship for the diocese.
This oil is used for several sacraments in the church, Father Singler said. It is used for the sacrament of initiation, the rite of infant baptism, for confirmation, and for the anointing of the sick. It is also used for the dedication of an altar, with the altar top anointed with chrism. On the day of a priest s ordination, his hands are anointed with the oil, and when a bishop is ordained, the crown of his head is anointed with chrism.
Chrism is a Greek word for an anointing, and oils have been blessed by bishops since the early days of the church. Many Christian denominations use oil for anointing and there are numerous Bible references to using oils in religious rites, from Moses references to anointing the tabernacle with oil in Exodus, to St. James writing in his New Testament epistle that church elders should anoint the sick with oil.
During the Chrism Mass, representatives from Catholic parishes hold containers of oil in the air for the bishop to bless them.
Also during the ceremony, the bishop will make the sign of the cross and breathe into an urn containing the sacred oil. His breath represents the invocation of the Spirit upon the oil, Father Singler said.
The Chrism Mass is typically held on Holy Thursday, but it can be celebrated earlier during Holy Week at the discretion of the local bishop. The late Bishop James Hoffman decided to move the Chrism Mass to Tuesday about a decade ago, Father Singler said. It was a pastoral decision to make it easier for priests from the outer areas of the 19-county diocese, who had to hurry from the cathedral in Toledo to their churches for Holy Thursday evening Mass.
After the oils are blessed and consecrated, they are used in parishes for sacramental anointing throughout the year. If parishes run low on supplies of chrism, they can call Rosary Cathedral for additional oil.