Chrism Mass is during Holy Week ( before Holy Thursday or on the morning of Holy Thursday), the bishop, joined by the priests of the diocese, gather at the Cathedral to celebrate the Chrism Mass.  This Mass manifests the unity of the priests with their bishop.

Blessing of Holy Oils

The Chrism Mass is held during Holy Week in every Catholic diocese.  During this mass, the priests, deacons and representatives of the entire diocesan community gather around their Bishop, who blesses the Holy Oils for use in the coming year.

These are:
→  Oil of the Sick
→  Oil of Catechumens
→  Sacred Chrism

Whenever the Holy Oils are used in a diocese, the ministry of the Bishop who consecrated them is symbolically present.

Unity, Renewal of Vows and Promises

The Chrism Mass reminds us of our oneness in Christ through Baptism and its holy anointing, made possible by the ministry of the Bishop and his priests.  The Chrism mass is also a key moment in which the unity of the Bishop with his priests (together, they form the presbyterate) is manifested and renewed.  During the liturgy, the entire assembly is called to renew its baptismal promises; deacons and priests also renew their vow of obedience to the local Bishop and their commitment to serve God’s people.  At the end of the Chrism Mass, the Holy Oils are brought back to parishes of the diocese for use in the coming year.

One Flock, One Eucharist Gathered Around the Bishop

The following statement from the Second Vatican Council can help us understand the significance of the Chrism mass for the Church:

The bishop is to be considered the high priest of his flock from whom the life of his people in Christ is in some way derived and on whom it in some way depends.

Therefore, all should hold in the greatest esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church. They must be convinced that the principal manifestation of the Church consists in the full, active participation of all God’s holy people in the same liturgical celebrations, especially in the same Eucharist, in one prayer, at one altar, at which the bishop presides, surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers.

(Second Vatican Council. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), No. 41)

Spiritual Symbolism of oil

Sacred Scripture also attests to the spiritual symbolism of oil.  For instance, Psalm 23:5 reads, “You anoint my head with oil,” signifying favour and strength from the Lord; and Psalm 45:8 reads, “You love justice and hate wickedness; therefore, God your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings,” signifying the special designation from God and the joy of being His servant.

Moreover, to be “the anointed” of the Lord indicated receiving a special vocation from the Lord and the empowerment with the Holy Spirit to fulfill that vocation: Jesus, echoing the words of Isaiah, spoke, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore, He has anointed me” (Lk 4:18).  St. Paul emphasized this point, “God is the one Who firmly establishes us along with you in Christ; it is He Who anointed us and has sealed us, thereby depositing the first payment, the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor 1:21).

Therefore, the symbolism of oil is rich sanctification, healing, strengthening, beautification, dedication, consecration and sacrifice. 


The Importance of Oil in Scriptures

There have been varies reference to the importance of olive oil in our daily throughout the Bible. 

For cooking -  Numbers 11:7-9 -

 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its colour was like the colour of gum resin. The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it.

For fuel in the lamps - Matthew 25:1-9 -

‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.”

 As a healing agent in medicine - Isaiah 1:6 -

From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds;
they have not been drained, or bound up, or softened with oil. 

and Luke 10:34 - 

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

The Jews anointed the head of a guest as a sign of welcome - Luke 7:46 -

You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

Prepared a body for burial - Mark 16:1 -.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

Institution of Oill

Given this heritage, the early Church adopted the use of olive oil for its sacramental rituals.  The Oil of Catechumens is used in connection with the sacrament of baptism. St. Hippolytus, in his Apostolic Tradition (A.D. 215), wrote of an “oil of exorcism” used to anoint the candidates immediately before baptism.  This practice continues: In the current baptismal liturgy, the priest offers the prayer of exorcism and then with the oil of catechumens anoints the person to be baptized on the chest, saying,Given this heritage, the early Church adopted the use of olive oil for its sacramental rituals.  The Oil of Catechumens is used in connection with the sacrament of baptism. St. Hippolytus, in his Apostolic Tradition (A.D. 215), wrote of an “oil of exorcism” used to anoint the candidates immediately before baptism.  This practice continues: In the current baptismal liturgy, the priest offers the prayer of exorcism and then with the oil of catechumens anoints the person to be baptized on the chest, saying, “We anoint you with the oil of salvation in the name of Christ our Savior; may He strengthen you with His power, Who lives and reigns forever and ever.”

Anointing with the oil of catechumens following a prayer of exorcism may also take place during the period of the catechumenate on one or several occasions.  In both cases this anointing symbolizes the person’s need for the help and strength of God to sever the bondage of the past and to overcome the opposition of the devil so that he may profess his faith, come to baptism and live as a child of God.

The oil of the infirm is used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick (formerly known as extreme unction). St. James wrote, “Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the priests of the Church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. ” (Jas 5:14-15).

The Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus recorded one of the earliest formulas for blessing the oil of the infirm. Also, in the early Church, a priest (or several priests) would bless this oil at the time it was to be used, a tradition that has been retained in the Eastern Churches. However, in the Latin Rite, at least since the time of the Middles Ages, priests have used oil blessed by the bishop; for instance, St. Boniface in 730 ordered all priests in Germany to use the oil of the infirm blessed by bishops only.  Presently, the priest, anointing the forehead of the person, says, “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit,” and then anointing his hands, says, “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.” Another body part may also be anointed if the hands are not accessible or if there is another particular need.

Oil and Anointing:

A - Ancient Greece and Rome
→ Oil was used by ancient Greek and Roman athletes to limber up muscles; it was believed to bring strength and protection.
→ Oil was also used for its healing properties, and poured on head as sign of belonging (for example, in the initiation of Roman soldiers).

B - Old Testament
→ used to consecrate altars, sacred places, and sacred vessels
→ used in anointing priests
→prophets were also considered anointed by God’s Spirit to speak powerfully, and with authority, in God’s name.
→ kings were anointed (by prophets) to rule God’s people
→ anointing also a sign of God’s strength, favour, joy of being God’s servant (See Ps. 45, 8: “God your God has anointed you with the oil of
→ an important ingredient in preparing food that kept people alive
→ used to add beauty to face; poured over the head of guests as sign of welcome

The Messiah: God’s Anointed One

The biblical word for one who was anointed was messiah.  Translated into Greek, the language of the New Testament, it becomes Christos, or Christ.  


Jesus: God’s Anointed One


When we call Jesus our Messiah, we are saying that he was anointed
by God to announce God’s word – the Good News of salvation- to God
people. In Luke, Jesus says:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring
good news to the poor…” (Luke 4, 18ff)


Three Holy Oils:

Christians as Anointed Ones:

 This quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a good summary of the importance of the three holy oils:

Anointing with oil has all these meanings in the sacramental life. The pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of catechumens signifies cleansing and strengthening; the anointing of the sick expresses healing and comfort. The post-baptismal anointing with sacred chrism in Confirmation and Ordination is the sign of consecration. By Confirmation Christians, that is, those who are anointed, share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he is filled, so that their lives may give off 'the aroma of Christ.' [2 Cor 2, 15]) Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1294.
Baptism makes us Christians, that is, anointed ones who share in the life of the crucified and risen Jesus, God’s anointed one.  Immediately
before being baptized with water, we are anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, which strengthens and purifies us.  After baptism, with water, we are anointed with the Oil of Chrism, which consecrates us as members of Christ’s body who share in Jesus’ anointing as priest, prophet and king.  This anointing with Chrism gives us the Holy Spirit’s strength to live out our baptism.  Anointing with Chrism at Confirmation completes the grace of Baptism, and seals us with the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s gifts.

Holy Chrism

Holy Chrism is a mixture of olive oil (a rich oil, symbol of richness of God’s grace) and balsam fragrance (symbol of sweetness of Christian virtue). The Oil of Chrism is a sign of fullness of grace and spiritual strength; it consecrates and enables us to live out the call to follow Jesus the Christ (the anointed one) as baptized/confirmed/ordained Christians:

"The holy chrism consecrated by the bishop is used to anoint the newly baptized, to seal the candidates for confirmation, and to anoint the hands of presbyters [priests] and the heads of bishops at their ordination, as well as in the rites of anointing pertaining to the dedication of churches and altars. The oil of the catechumens is used in the preparation of the catechumens for their baptism. The oil of the sick is used to bring comfort and support to the sick in their infirmity." (Ceremonial of Bishops, 274)

i). Use at Baptism:
Right after the actual baptism with water, the priest anoints the candidate on the crown of the head with Chrism saying: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of His body, sharing everlasting life. Amen.”

ii). Use at Confirmation:
In the Sacrament of confirmation, the bishop anoints the forehead of the candidate with chrism saying, "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit."

iii). Use in Holy Orders:
When a man is being ordained to the priesthood his hands are anointed with the oil of chrism; and when a priest is being consecrated a bishop his head is
anointed by the consecrating bishop with chrism.

iv). Other Uses of Holy Chrism:
Holy Chrism is also used in the dedication ceremony of a church. Here, the bishop anoints the altar, pouring holy chrism on the middle of the altar and on each of its four corners. It is recommended that the bishop anoint the entire altar. After anointing the altar, he anoints the walls of the Church in 12 or fourteen places marked by crosses. It is also used to anoint the new bell of the church.

Oil of the Sick

Oil of Catechumens

Used in Sacrament of the Sick to bring the strengthening and healing power of Christ, who is at work in the Church by the action of the Holy Spirit. St. James writes:

“Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders [priests] of the
Church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name
of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise
them up, and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (Jas 5:14-
 The Oil of Catechumens is used at Baptism, to strengthen (with wisdom and courage to live the Gospel) and purify candidates (from original sin) before baptizing with water.

Blessing and Distribution of the Holy Oils

At the offertory, the three Holy Oils and balsam fragrance are carried up to the sanctuary with gifts of bread and wine.

The Oil of the Sick is blessed by the bishop during the Eucharistic Prayer. The bishop then mixes the balsam fragrance into the Chrism, and blesses it, praying:

"Make this chrism a sign of life and salvation for those who are to be born again in the waters of baptism. Wash away the evil they have inherited from sinful Adam, and when they are anointed with this holy oil make them temples of your glory, radiant with the goodness of life that has its source in you."

As the bishop prays, the priests present with him extend their right hands toward the Chrism, signifying their participation in his authority, through which Christ himself sanctifies and builds up his body, the Church. When the Chrism is blessed, the Bishop breathes over the open vessel which contains it. This is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who blew over the face of the waters before creation (Gen 1, 2b), and of the risen Jesus, who appeared to his disciples and breathed on them saying “Receive the Holy Spirit…”(John 20, 22-23). It is the Holy Spirit who consecrates this oil through the Bishop’s invocation.

Finally, after the Chrism has been blessed, the Bishop blesses the Oil of Catechumens. At the end of the liturgy, the holy oils are given to the deacons of the diocese, who distribute it to representatives of each parish. It is recommended that each parish keep the vessels containing the Holy Oils in a
special clear glass cabinet called an ambry, where they can be viewed by all the faithful. Many newer churches have an ambry, which is usually located close to the baptismal font. It reminds all who see it of the anointing which unites and strengthens us to live as one body in Christ, and comes to us through ministry of his Church.

Final Remarks

The Chrism Mass is a celebration of the entire Christian community:

? →a community whose oneness comes from its union with the crucified and risen Jesus – God’s anointed one – through Baptism,
? →a community that shares in the riches and consolation of Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit through the sacramental ministry of its Bishop and priests,
? →a community that gathers around its Bishop as one body made up of many parts, with Christ as its head.
Powered byEMF Form Builder