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Bishop Burbidge celebrates his first Chrism Mass in Arlington

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Updated 4/13/17 at 2:53 p.m. 

Every sacrament uses a perceptible element, such as water or spoken words, to convey a supernatural reality. In a moment, bread becomes Christ’s body through the invocation of the priest, men and women promise themselves to one another until death and a word from the priest absolves all sin from the penitent.

At the Chrism Mass, oil and chrism become grace that later will be conferred upon the brow of a catechumen, a person in need of healing or a newly consecrated house of God. On Holy Thursday, April 13, in the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, the Arlington church celebrated the institution of the priesthood and witnessed the blessing of the holy oils by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge.

Olive oil was used in ancient times to signify honor and respect, and that something or someone was set apart for a special purpose. In the first reading from Isaiah, oil is compared to a diadem and a “glorious mantle” that will replace ashes, mourning and a listless spirit.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge reflected on the diocesan events he has been a part of thus far. In January, he attended the Life is Very Good rally prior to the March for Life in Washington with hundreds of students.

“Life is very good because of its Source, the Lord our God, who created us in His own image and likeness. We are His anointed ones,” he said.

Bishop Burbidge celebrated Mass at the men’s and women’s conferences, “Girding for Battle” and “Breaking Free through Forgiveness.” He is grateful for this year’s Bishop’s Lenten Appeal titled, “Offering Hands to Serve and Hearts to Love.”

“We are merely His hands, His instruments,” said Bishop Burbidge. “It is Christ who sanctifies, enlightens and transforms us. And so, in just a few moments, the sacred chrism will be consecrated and the oils of the catechumens and the sick will be blessed. They will be carried home to our churches and communities for the celebration of the sacraments and as visible signs of God’s saving power in our midst.”

The Chrism Mass was also a celebration of the diocese’s many priests. At the start of the Mass, around 100 priests in white vestments processed into the cathedral, kissed the altar and took their seats. After the homily, they renewed their priestly promises in front of the bishop and congregation. Bishop Burbidge thanked them for their service and their brotherly affection toward him.

“Perhaps the most important promise you make today and the best gift you give to those entrusted to your care is your commitment to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to Him,” he told them. 

The priests were joined by Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde, deacons, seminarians, religious men and women, members of the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Peter Claver and other groups as well as the laity. As they have for several years, many parishioners of St. Paul Chung Church in Fairfax came to the Mass, some wearing traditional Korean garb.

“We have a new bishop and we just want to celebrate with him,” said parishioner Agnes Suk. “We’re happy to be here.”

Yseth Laboy, a parishioner of All Saints Church in Manassas, brought her two young daughters to the Chrism Mass. On Sundays, Laboy and her husband produce a show on RadioMaria, but she is glad she has flexibility during the week to take her children to Mass, including the Chrism Mass.

“It's a real privilege to see all our priests of the diocese renew their vows,” she said. “Thanks to our priests, every single day we have the Eucharist and I’m so grateful for that.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017