March 25, 2015
By Father William Muench
One of the Lenten celebrations I find truly meaningful and I must say enjoyable is the Chrism Mass when all the priests of the diocese join with the Bishop at the Cathedral.
As the name indicates, this Chrism Mass is the Mass at which the Bishop blesses the sacred oils that will be sent to all the parishes of the diocese for use in the sacraments that will be conferred during this year.
Also during this Mass, the priests are asked to renew their priestly promises. The Chrism Mass is usually celebrated on Holy Thursday (or a day near it – but always associated with Holy Thursday.) On Holy Thursday, the Church remembers the Last Supper when Jesus ordained his apostles as the first priests.
So this Chrism Mass each year is an anniversary of each priest’s ordination – a perfect occasion for the renewal of priestly promises.
At the Chrism Mass, the Bishop invites the priests to renew their promises by asking them three questions. The
Bishop stands before the priests as the chosen and properly ordained leader of a diocese. This emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the Bishop and his priests. In this moment, the Bishop makes clear his expectations of them and the Church’s expectations of them. The words of the ritual give the Bishop an excellent opportunity of reminding the priests the promises that they made at their ordination.
So I would like to take a moment to share with you the questions of this renewal of their priestly promises. In the first question, the Bishop reminds the priests of what this renewal is all about. He says: “Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood in his apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?”
This renewal is not a simple internal spiritual renewal. This is meant to be very public renewal before the Bishop and the people of the diocese. The priest are asked to promise to remain faithful to their ordination as a priest.
The priests are asked if they are resolved to “deny themselves and confirm those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church.” They are encouraged to reaffirm their love and pledge they made on the day of their priestly ordination.
Then, in the next question, the Bishop asks the priests about their resolution in carrying out their ministry – he mentions their constant stewardship of the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites.
Further on, they are asked to reaffirm their readiness to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the Head and Shepherd. Then, he adds, “not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls.” After each question the priests are to say, “I am.” The Bishop then turns to the people in the congregation seeking their prayers and support for their priests. He then goes on to ask for prayers for himself. He says, “And pray also for me, that I may be faithful to the apostolic office entrusted to me in my lowliness and that in your midst I may be made day by day a living and more perfect image of Christ, the priest, the Good Shepherd, the Teacher and the Servant of all.”
So, the Chrism Mass is truly a celebration of a diocese as the priests and many of the people of the diocese join together at the Cathedral Church with their Bishop to pray together and to bless and prepare the sacred oils for the sacraments at each of the parish Churches of the diocese.
This is truly a magnificent celebration and recognition of the unity of the Church in our diocese.