Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne celebrated the annual Chrism Mass April 12 at St. Joseph Cathedral, during which he blessed the sacred oils to be used in the upcoming liturgical year and priests of the Diocese renewed the promises they made at their ordination.
Containers holding the three oils – Oil of the Sick, Oil of the Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism – as well as the perfume that is mixed into the Sacred Chrism to give it its rich aroma – were presented by deacons serving in the Diocese.
The Oil of the Sick was blessed for the healing of body, mind and spirit. The Oil of Catechumens was blessed for the anointing of those preparing for baptism. “Through this anointing, they are strengthened by Christ to resist the power of evil in all its forms,” explained Josh Perry, director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese.
The Holy Chrism was consecrated by the bishop and priests of the Diocese to anoint infants after baptism, those who are to be confirmed and bishops and priests at their ordinations. It is also used to anoint altars and churches at the time of their dedication.
In renewing the promises they made at ordination, the priests resolved to be “faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist” and “discharge the sacred office of teaching … not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls.” The bishop also exhorted those in attendance to pray for the priests and to pray for him so that he “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.”
This Chrism Mass offers an opportunity to consider corporate and individual calls to discipleship, both as laity and as ordained. “The readings, prayers and rituals of this Mass manifest and affirm the Catholic faith that we share in Jesus Christ. This flows from the waters of our baptism and is lived in the vocation of our lives: single, married, ordained, widowed, religious, professed celibate,” Bishop Coyne said in his homily.
Emphasizing that faith “does not leave us moored to one place, one moment in our lives” but rather “propels us forward,” he spoke about obedience to God’s will: “Jesus knows what lies ahead, but He is obedient to the will of the Father, obedient even unto death. In full freedom, He moves forward on the path that He has chosen to accept as true man and true God. In His humanity He offers us the purest example of trust that God’s will be done.”
He continued, “To be a disciple is to be obedient to the will of the Master. To be a disciple is to believe in the truth of the message of Faith offered by the Master and so then embrace it and live it.”
Bishop Coyne asked his listeners to consider that as Christians, as people of the Catholic Church, if they are serious about the call to discipleship, there has to be a momentum to life that impels them forward deeper and deeper into the life of faith. “Can we stand firm in the choice that we have made, and proclaim that ‘I am a Catholic?’ Can we say, ‘This is who I am now. This is what I will be. I have chosen to live as a disciple of Christ in the faith of the Catholic Church.’”
Reflecting on the readings from the Gospel of John at daily Mass during recent weeks, Bishop Coyne noted that Jesus says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
That truth “frees us from the path of sin,” the bishop said. “It frees us from the slavery to things of this world. It frees us to move beyond ourselves to love God and to love our neighbor. It frees us to know and embrace the hope of eternal life. It doesn’t free us from sin and temptation and the cares and burdens of this world, but it frees us to know that He, Jesus, is the way the truth and the life; He is our rock in whom we trust. But there is a claim upon us, a paradox, for in order to be free we must take on the burden of obedience to the will of God — ‘Thy will be done, not mine.’ I am made free by taking on the yoke of obedience.”
The annual Chrism Mass traditionally is celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday but (as is done in most Dioceses in the United States) can be moved to another time around Easter. “The Chrism Mass brings the diocesan community together as the bishop blesses the priests of the Diocese and blesses the holy oils that will be used in the sacramental life of the Church in the coming year,” Perry said.
After the Mass, the oils were distributed and brought back to all the churches in the Diocese.