Chrism becoming grace

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Just as ordinary bread becomes the Body of Christ after the consecration, said St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the holy oil and chrism are no longer ointment after the priest's invocation, but Christ's very grace. "It is applied ... with a symbolic meaning: The body is anointed with visible ointment, and the soul is sanctified by the holy, hidden Spirit," he said.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde and priests, deacons and seminarians of the diocese gathered at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington March 24 to bless the oil that will be used throughout the year to anoint and heal. The bishop also congratulates his brother priests on the day when Christs instituted the priesthood - Holy Thursday.

As the laity filled the pews, the choir, accompanied by violin and organ, gently sang Psalm 23, its verses harken back to the biblical roots of holy oil: "You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Seven deacons presented Bishop Loverde with the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumens and the sacred chrism for him to bless. At the end of Mass, the deacons carried the oil out of the cathedral; seminarians helped dispense the oils into smaller containers to be sent to all the parishes.

In his homily, Bishop Loverde quoted the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, "We have been anointed and sent to bring glad tidings to the lowly." Those glad tidings are the mercy of God, he said.

Chrism MassBishop Loverde blesses the sacred chrism on #HolyThursday. Read about the significance of the Chrism Mass here: http://bit.ly/1VKJPE4 #HolyWeekPosted by Arlington Catholic Herald on Thursday, March 24, 2016


"The culture desperately needs to experience God's mercy. Pope Francis said that without a witness to mercy, life becomes sterile," said the bishop. "Mercy is the force that awakens us. The church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel."

Bishop Loverde then turned to the priests of the diocese. "I need you to be the face of the Father's mercy," he told them, before asking them to renew their priestly promises. Bishop Loverde said he is proud of the priests he has ordained for the diocese in his 17 years as bishop, 73 of them according to the diocesan Office of Vocations.

Catholics from around the diocese filled the pews for the Mass. Though Margot Araujo has been a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More for 30 years, she still vividly recalls the different rituals she saw at the chrism Mass in her home country of El Salvador. "I still remember and missed them so I needed to be here. I know that here is God," she said.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.


Photos from the chrism Mass can be purchased here.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016