On Saturday 1 April, faithful from across the Archdiocese of Melbourne gathered at St Patrick’s Cathedral for one of the most significant liturgical events of the year. The Chrism Mass, though typically celebrated during Holy Week, was moved to the Saturday before so more lay people could participate in an event that has a special importance for all the faithful.

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli was joined by the priests of the Archdiocese and many laity to bless the oils for the sacraments in the year ahead.

The three oils that were blessed were:

  • the oil of catechumens (also known as the oil of exorcism, used in Baptism)
  • the oil of the infirm (used in the Anointing of the Sick)
  • the oil of holy chrism (used in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders).

The oil of holy chrism is particularly important since it is used in the sacraments that anoint with the Holy Spirit. It is a mixture of olive oil and basalm, an aromatic resin reminding us that as Christians we are called to give off the ‘fragrance’ of Jesus Christ, ‘the smell of life leading to life’ (2 Corinthian 2:14, 16).

In his homily, Archbishop Comensoli reflected on the symbolism of him breathing on the oils before blessing them, ‘a gesture reproducing the “Holy Breath” poured out at the beginning of creation’.

‘We participate today in the original creative act of God that was reproduced in his Son, so that the fullness of the Holy Spirit might come into the life of God’s pilgrim people,’ he said. ‘The outpouring of the gift of life at creation was the first and primordial gift of God.

In a way, it is the one and only grace of God, re-created in the saving life, death and resurrection of Christ in the Paschal Mystery. It is then constantly reproduced in the life of the Church—the ecclesia, the ‘calling into’ of God’s people—from the outpouring of life at Pentecost.

The grace we receive from the sacraments—from being blessed with the oils—is far more than symbolism. It imparts something real, something of God’s own life.

‘Those anointed with this oil—us who have been baptised and confirmed, and us who have been ordained priests—along with those sacred things signed with it, are thereby enlivened with the fullness of God’s life,’ he said.

‘At the threshold of the Great Week of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, we, the whole assembly of the local Church, have intentionally assembled for this Chrism Mass. Here, we are renewed in the fulness of Christ, called together to witness to the One who is the Alpha and Omega, to participate in his forever-youthful life.’