The Holy Oils
In Hebrew the word is Messiah; in Greek it is Christos. Translated into English, both words mean "the Anointed One". At the beginning of his public ministry, in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, Jesus read publicly the words of the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings . . .". Then, as the Gospel of Luke tells us, while "the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him, he said to them, 'Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing"' (see Luke 4:16-21).
Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One: this title of our Lord anticipates the continual outpouring of God's mercy through the the sacramental anointing with oil in the liturgies of the Church. Every year in every Catholic diocese these sacred oils are newly prepared, blessed by the bishop, and distributed to the churches during Holy Week. This takes place at the Chrism Mass.
The anointing with sacred oils plays a part in the celebration in four of the seven sacraments and with several other rites of the Church. There are three kinds of holy oils.
The Oil of the Catechumens . .
Catechumens may be anointed with this oil several times during their preparation for baptism. It is also used when an infant is presented for baptism. This is the oil with which the priest is anointed at his ordination. It is used also at the consecration of a church, and for the blessing of an altar.
The Oil of the Sick . . .
During a serious illness, before surgery, and in preparing to meet death, the faithful receive the Sacrament of Anointing for physical and spiritual healing.
The Oil of Holy Chrism . . .
Not simply blessed by the bishop, but consecrated, the Oil of Chrism is an integral part of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination, because it is named after Christ (the word chrism means "Christ-ing") and bestows a share in Jesus's own anointing with the Holy Spirit. Just following the washing in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the baptized are anointed on the crown of the head, signifying the royal dignity, the prophetic vocation, and the call to holiness of all the baptized. Latex the confirmand will be anointed on the forehead as the Bishop says, "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit". When a bishop ordains a man to the priesthood, following the laying on of hands and the prayer o consecration, he anoints the hands of the priest with the Chrism Oil, saying: "The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifices to God."
On several up-coming Sunday masses, we will have the joy of celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism. As each one us renews our baptismal promises, let us not forget our anointing, our "Christing" as we strive to live the dignity conferred, the vocation assigned, and the call to holiness that is ours.