Mass of Chrism by Archbishop O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan O’Brien

Chrism Mass 2017

Our Catholic faith in its liturgical expression uses material things – gifts of creation – to express its spiritual content.  It takes them up, and makes them instruments of our encounter with the divine.  Simple things, ordinary elements, such as water, bread, wine, and olive oil, are given new meaning; they are used to express the deep spiritual relationship which the death and resurrection of Christ has made possible for us.

Tonight it is olive oil which is the focus of our attention.  Olive oil has a range of purposes:  it is nourishment; it is medicine; it beautifies; and it is associated with strengthening.  In the Old Testament, kings and priests were anointed with oil to signify their dignity and responsibility, as well as to indicate that their power came from God.

The very name we bear of ‘Christian’ is derived from Christ, the Messiah or anointed one.  To be a Christian is to belong to him, who God has anointed, not with oil, but with what the oil symbolizes: the power of the Holy Spirit.

The fact that we celebrate the Chrism Mass during Holy Week allows us to see that what we are celebrating is the power that was released by Christ’s death and resurrection.  It was the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on the apostles at Pentecost that gave the Church the spiritual force which continues to sustain it today.  In blessing the oils and consecrating the Chrism this evening, we are taking this natural gift of God and transforming it into a sign and instrument of God’s grace – a pledge of the Spirit’s assistance to help us to live our lives as followers of Christ.

We ask God to bless the Oil of Catechumens, so that those who are anointed with it will understand the Good News of Jesus Christ and will be ready for the new life of baptism.

In blessing the Oil of the Sick, we ask our compassionate God to grant to those who are anointed with this oil healing of mind, body, and soul.  Finally, in the consecration of the Chrism, we ask God to pour out the Holy Spirit upon this perfumed oil, which will strengthen those who have been baptized, and will be used in the outpouring of the Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and also in setting apart for worship altars and church buildings.

Chrism also plays an important role in the ordination of bishops and priests. The bishop’s head is anointed with Chrism, as are the priest’s hands, signifying that, by virtue of the gift of the Spirit given in the laying on of hands, the bishop and priest participate in the priesthood of Christ in such as way as to act in the person of Christ, the head of the Church.  In the sacramental actions of the priest, it is Christ himself who acts; the priest is the privileged instrument.

As you can see, oil, this simple element of nature, has a rich significance and symbolism in our Christian tradition.  In the various sacraments, we are anointed not just with it but with what the oil symbolizes – namely, the power of God’s Spirit who consecrates, strengthens, and heals the members of Christ’s Body, so that the mission of the anointed One may continue in our place and our day.

The Mass of Chrism is the annual reminder that pastoral work is not all about us, but, rather, about how we participate in Christ’s mission through the presence of God’s Spirit working within us.

To gather together, as we do tonight, for the Chrism Mass is a very important way for us to express the shared mission which is ours.  When we take back to our parishes and other communities the oils which have been blessed and consecrated tonight, we demonstrate the connection which exists between the bishop and the sacramental life of each parish and community.  We show how that ministry is rooted in God’s grace conveyed to us in the sacraments.  This is an important part of our Catholic identity and spirituality, and that is why I am always pleased to have so many take part in this Mass of Chrism.  It reminds us of who we are together.

In a particular way tonight, we recognize how those involved in ordained ministry are situated in relationship to Christ and to the people they serve.  While all of us are called to be what Pope Francis calls “missionary disciples”, bishops, priests, and deacons have a particular role to guide and serve, in the name of Christ, all who share in the Church’s mission.

The Chrism Mass is one of but a few times in the year when all the members of the presbyterate concelebrate the Eucharist with the bishop, thus signifying the communion that priests have with the bishop in exercising the priesthood of Christ.

Also during the Chrism Mass, priests and deacons are given the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to priestly and diaconal ministry.  This renewal of promises also gives all present an opportunity to pray for them and to acknowledge the importance of their ministry for the mission of the Church.

I hope that, by being present here tonight, all of us will be helped to have a renewed sense of our place and responsibility for the Church’s mission, and will be strengthened and comforted by the knowledge that we are not alone in this; we have so many good and dedicated people throughout the Archdiocese, and we can count on the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us as we strive to continue Christ’s saving work.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.