The Chrism

Yesterday it was the Chrism Mass in St Mary’s. This is a service at which clergy gather from all around the diocese. It is, like many a football game, a service of two halves, and I much prefer the second half to the first.

In the first half, the clergy are encouraged to renew their ordination vows. I’ve a feeling that this is a fairly late addition to the Holy Week ceremonies. Certainly, its not something that I’ve ever felt comfortable with. I struggle a bit with the renewal of vows (except where vows have been very obviously broken and need some kind of public affirmation again). I tend to think that clergy renew their vows every day when they get up and do what they do. There are all kinds of anomalies about the service too. I have a strong sense of being a deacon as well as a priest and I don’t understand why the question to the deacons does not seem to be addressed towards me during the service. When the Chrism is celebrated in the Cathedral, I turn up and listen attentively and don’t cause a fuss. (It is my way, you know). Yesterday, we did get the bonus of a thoughtful reflection on clerical ministry from the Primus. I’ve no idea what it felt like to listen to that as a lay person, but I appreciated hearing what he had to say, and hope he puts it online.

In the second half of the Chrism Mass, the oils are blessed for the year ahead. We bless oil for different things – healing, anointing (eg at baptism), last rites, ordination etc. It is this oil that is used up and down the diocese during the year that is to come. I’ve always rather liked this bit of holy week. The image of a blessing from God oozing its way throughout the diocese and marking so many significant moments in people’s lives is an incredibly potent one and worth reflecting on as an image of how a diocese should function. If we could bolt that image onto the way we think of diocesan committees and synods, we might well find that great goodness might well oil the wheels of all kinds of decision making in the church.

Holy Oil is used in some parts of the church to dedicate altars and set up new worshipping communities.

Here is a video of how that’s done in Egypt. As Pope Shenouda pours out the oil and the altar is bathed in it, I’m reminded of that reading the other week we had in church of Martha of Bethany pouring perfume on Jesus’s feet.


  1. Kelvin – Over the years I have observed the Chrism Mass at St Mary’s one sticks out as it was in 2002. It was the first service in the building after 18 months at Lansdowne. If memory serves me correctly it was 2 March (the following day was Mothering Sunday).

  2. A football reference indeed! Am delighted with your blog’s new, butch direction ;-). Cool video too!

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