The Chrism Mass best confirms that
the church, the Body of Christ,
is the sacrament of salvation for the world
when the anointing of the Holy Spirit
empowers all the baptized to live out
their vocation as collaborators in the
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Earlier this week the Chrism Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle, approximately two months later than the normal Holy Week time frame. Most of our cherished traditions have been radically altered, postponed or canceled in the wake of the world-wide pandemic. Rather than a full Cathedral with representation from every corner of the Diocese of Jackson, the limitations of social distancing allowed for only 50 to 60 priests. A far less festive gathering, but the reality of who we are can never be diminished because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
The Preface from the Chrism Mass distinctly proclaims our identity, established through faith, baptism and the path of those called to Holy Orders. “For by the anointing of the Holy Spirit you made your Only Begotten Son High Priest of the new and eternal covenant, and by your wondrous design were pleased to decree that his one Priesthood should continue in the church. For Christ not only adorns with a royal priesthood the people he has made his own, but with a brother’s kindness he also chooses men to become sharers in his sacred ministry through the laying on of hands. They are to renew in his name the sacrifice of human redemption, to set before your children the paschal banquet, to lead your holy people in charity, to nourish them with the word and strengthen them with the sacraments. As they give up their lives for you and for the salvation of their brothers and sisters, they strive to be conformed to the image of Christ himself and offer you a constant witness of faith and love.”
The first letter of Peter in the New Testament declares this lofty image for those who are members of the Body of Christ. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1Peter 2:9)
Along with the renewal of priestly vows and the affirming prayer of all in attendance and those who are there in spirit, the blessing of the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and the consecration of the Oil of Chrism occur in the sanctuary. The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick empower the Christian faithful to embrace the way of life begun with Jesus the Christ, the “Anointed One,” he who is the Way and the Truth and the Life.
The Chrism Mass best confirms that the church, the Body of Christ, is the sacrament of salvation for the world when the anointing of the Holy Spirit empowers all the baptized to live out their vocation as collaborators in the Lord’s vineyard. Over the past three months there has been considerable collaboration and communication to make the best decisions regarding public gatherings on behalf of the common good. There have been weekly conference calls, and daily conversations that put into action the unity that is celebrated in the Chrism Mass. Likewise, the principle of subsidiarity shaped what should be or could be done on the local level across the expanse of our diocese as we gradually opened. Subsidiarity is manifest when all in attendance at the Chrism Mass return to their homes and ministries with the Holy Oils in hand to serve the People of God for another year in their particular circumstances.
Although our Chrism Mass was restricted this year by a once in a century viral tsunami, I saw a church filled to capacity with a cloud of witnesses from around the Diocese with whom we were united in prayer and purpose. I thank all of the leadership in our diocese, ordained and lay, who have redoubled their efforts in these worrisome times to serve the Lord in unanticipated ways. I ask your prayers for our priests, young and older, who like yourselves, are feeling the pain of separation from the people they love. Finally, may you share my joy with the forthcoming celebration of Holy Orders on June 27 when I will anoint Deacon César Sánchez and Deacon Andrew Nguyen with the Oil of Chrism, the beginning of their priesthood in the Diocese of Jackson.