Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Chrism of Salvation
by Father Jan Larson
(From the Feb. 28, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Every year, during the season of Lent, the bishop of every diocese blesses three oils that will be used in various liturgical celebrations during the church year. This liturgy of blessing is celebrated in what is often called the Chrism Mass. Blessed oil is used for the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and for the rituals used in the blessing of those preparing for baptism, and a special scented oil called chrism is used during the liturgies of baptism and ordination, and for the anointing of altars and church buildings.
Perhaps the liturgical anointing with which we are most familiar is that which we witness during the celebration of infant baptism, since infant baptisms are normally celebrated during the Sunday Masses of every parish. Indeed, all baptisms are sacraments of initiation into the universal church and into a particular parish community, and therefore are celebrated during the Sunday liturgy whenever possible. The words of the anointing, spoken by the priest or deacon who leads the liturgy of baptism, are spoken immediately after the baptism with water: “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you always live as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” The priest or deacon then anoints the child on the crown of the head with chrism, in silence.
What is significant about these words is not simply their power, but that these words were spoken over each
of us at our baptism. As the words so clearly portray, it is really Christ himself who anoints us, making us a member
of his body, and giving each Christian a share in his own ministry of priest, prophet and king. The effect of baptism
is that we are reconciled with God in Christ and enter into a new kind of life, the life of the Spirit, which is the
life by which Christ himself lives. It is this Spirit-given identity with Christ which the anointing celebrates above
all, for the name “Christ” means in Greek “one who has been anointed.” Thus the anointing with perfumed oil is the
joyful acknowledgement that we are one with Christ, living members of his body, members through whom he continues to
live in the world and to act among people for their salvation and for the Father’s glory. Peter expressed this so
well in his first letter: “You area chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may
declare the wonderful deeds of him who brought you out of darkness into his own wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
(Father Larson is a priest of and liturgical consultant for the Archdiocese of Seattle.)
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