One of the Church’s sacred rites during Holy Week is the annual Chrism Mass, during which two important priestly actions take place. First, the priests of a diocese join their bishop to offer Mass together and renew their priestly promises. This renewal takes place after the homily. Also, just after the renewal of promises, the bishop blesses the three oils used throughout his diocese for use in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. These three oils are the Oil of Catechumens (Baptism), the Oil of the Sick (Anoining), and Sacred Chrism (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and also the consecration of churches and altars). After Mass, the priests collect these three oils and bring them to their parishes.
It is fitting that this “priestly” Mass takes place on Holy Thursday morning. It complements the evening commemoration of the Last Supper, that sacred meal during which Christ instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood. Allowance is given, however, for the Chrism Mass to be celebrated earlier in Holy Week. The Chrism Mass for the Archdiocese of New York was held on Tuesday evening.
Of course, the faithful are encouraged to attend the Chrism Mass to pray with and for their priests. All baptized and confirmed Christians share in the anointing of Christ as the Messiah, the priest and king who takes away the sins of the world. To attend the Mass during which the instruments of Christian anointing are blessed can offer all the faithful an opportunity to deepen their baptismal promises with a view to uniting themselves more closely to Christ and his Church. In these holy days when we seek to follow Christ all the way to Calvary, the graces of the Chrism Mass can supply us special strength and consolation.