MASS OF CHRISM
Holy Thursday, April 9, 1998
INTRODUCTION BY CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
Today we thank God for the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders which Christ gave to his Church on this day. We priests come to renew our own dedication to Christ as priests of his new covenant. In this Mass we consecrate the Holy Chrism and bless the oils which will be used throughout the length and breadth of the diocese during the coming year in the administration of the sacraments.
It is good to see so many priests and laity gather here in the Cathedral for this ceremony and the young people who will receive the sacrament of Confirmation later this year are particularly welcome to be present as the Chrism is consecrated with which they will be signed on their foreheads in the Confirmation ceremony.
On the day before he died, Christ promised the help of the Holy Spirit and he said:
“Peace is what I leave with you.
It is my own peace that I give you”.
Today we ask the help of the Holy Spirit for the peacemakers that they may have the wisdom to see the way forward and the courage to make the decisions which will lead to lasting peace.
To prepare ourselves then to do all of this we call to mind our sins and ask God’s pardon.
ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
Holy Thursday, April 9, 1998
HOMILY BY MOST REVEREND SEAN BRADY
ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH
The Chrism Mass shows forth in a very wonderful way the fact that the priests and bishops of the diocese are united in the same task of building up, sanctifying, and guiding the people of God entrusted to their care.
So I welcome and thank all of you for coming to this Mass.
From this cathedral to every one of the parishes of the Archdiocese the Holy Chrism will be brought. There it will be used to anoint the newly baptised. It will be used to trace the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the boys and girls who will receive the sacrament of Confirmation. It will be used to anoint the hands of the our Deacon, Garrett Campbell, in his priestly ordination in his native parish of Lordship next June. The oil of the Sick will be used to anoint those who are ill and the dying, to give them strength and comfort in their time of need.
The consecrated Chrism and Holy Oils will be carried by you, back to the parishes of the diocese. They will be brought to various scenes, scenes of great joy and hope, such as Baptism and Confirmation and Ordination. But they will also go to places of sadness and despair, such as hospital wards or to the scenes of accidents. They will go to places of peace and places of tension. Wherever they go they will be accompanied by a priest. People will be anointed by your hands and that anointing will be a sign of God’s love and care for all his people in all their moments, in their moments of happiness and desolation, in their moments of joy and despair, in their moments of peace and tension.
Those being baptised will be anointed on the breast, near the heart, the traditional seat of the emotions so that those emotions may develop in a wholesome and mature fashion.
At Confirmation the anointing takes place on the forehead, the seat of the memory and the judgement and the intellect so that people may judge things well, understand correctly. But it is the hands of the priests which are anointed at his ordination. Those hands are used to welcome, to bless, to absolve, to anoint, to bid farewell, to take and to break and to give. So through sacred Chrism, these Holy Oils, are symbols of the pastoral care which God, in His wisdom and goodness, provides for His people at all times through the work of His priests.
We ordained priests, gratefully recognise that Jesus has chosen us to share his sacred work in a special way. We are humbled when we realise that he has appointed us to celebrate Mass. We are challenged to lead his people in holiness. We are to nourish them with his word. We have been appointed to strengthen them in holiness by administering them the sacraments. Today we renew our dedication to Christ. We recall that we accepted responsibilities out of love for him. Today then we gladly renew our dedication to serve the people ever more faithfully. We place our diocesan gathering of next October before the Lord and ask a special blessing on it.
I have many happy memories of ceremonies in St. Peter Basilica in Rome but probably the most impressive one of the whole year was the Mass of Chrism. Then, literally thousands of priests, from every continent of the world, religious and secular, gathered to renew their priestly vows along with the Vicar of Christ. Pope John Paul has spoken many wonderful words of encouragement to us priests. “Your priesthood is absolutely vital”, he said on one occasion. “There is no substitute for it. You carry the main burden of priestly ministry through your day to day service of the faithful. You are ministers of the Eucharist and ministers of God’s mercy in the sacrament of Penance. It is you who bring comfort to people and guide them in difficult moments in their lives. We acknowledge your work and thank you once again, urging you to continue on your chosen path, willingly and joyfully. No one should be discouraged as we are doing God’s work. The same God who calls us, sends us, and remains with us, every day of our lives. We are ambassadors of Christ”.
In his message to priests on this Holy Thursday, Pope John Paul says he wants to “join us in invoking the Spirit of the Lord to whom we dedicate the second stage of the spiritual journey of preparation for the Holy Year of 2000”. The Pope goes on to say that “an intimate bond unites our priesthood to the Holy Spirit. For on the day of our priestly ordination, by virtue of an unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ accomplished again, in each one of us, what he accomplished in his disciples on the evening of Easter. The Holy Spirit sent us out into the world as those who continue the mission of Christ. His gift of the Spirit is the source of the special task of evangelisation and of sanctification which is entrusted to us”. He asks us to contemplate the work of the Holy Spirit in us. On the evening of Easter the Risen Jesus said to the Apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He sent them out on the roads of the world, entrusted with the salvation of their brothers and sisters.
Our work is to bring the Good News and to help people grow in holiness and as these oils are brought to various places and are poured forth on people in various circumstances of anointing, whether it is the young person being confirmed or the person dying on the hospital ward, it will be our challenge to find the words of Good News to evoke faith in those people who receive the sacraments. It is our challenge, by our words and our prayers, to help them grow in holiness.
Pope John Paul tells us: the Holy Spirit gently guides everyone of the baptised. However, it is consoling to know that the Spirit reserves a special attention for those who have received Holy Orders. With the gift of wisdom, the Spirit leads the priest to weigh up all things in the light of the Gospel. The Spirit helps us to read correctly the signs of the times which are sometimes so confusing and difficult to discern. The Spirit helps us to see the hand of God in all that happens to each one of us and to recognise the loving plan of God the Father in what is going on in the Church. “For those who love God all things work together unto good”.
The gift of understanding helps us to get a deeper insight into what God is saying to us in His Revelations, in the Scriptures and in the tradition of the Church. With a truer and deeper understanding of God’s Word we will be able to preach the Good News with power and conviction. The gift of counsel is important in our decision-making, in our decision-making about what kind of activities we should engage in, the kind of pastoral activities for example that are appropriate and relevant to the needs of the times. This gift of counsel ensures that we act always according to the mind of Christ and do not allow ourselves to be swayed by the judgement of the world.
The Holy Spirit offers us the gift of strength to sustain us in the hardship of our work. It provides the boldness that is necessary to preach the Gospel fully and faithfully.
Of course it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the sacrifice of Christ and Calvary is entrusted to the Apostles as the most blessed sacrament of the Church. That is why we pray at Mass, “Father we bring you these gifts, we ask you to make them holy by the power of your Holy Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.” So without the power of God’s Spirit, Pope John Paul asks: “How could human lips ever make of bread and wine the body and blood of the Lord”. Eucharist and Orders are the fruits of the same Spirit. We thank God for them today and everyday but especially today.