Archbishop Peter A Comensoli preached this homily at the Chrism Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday 1 April 2023.
In this morning’s prayer for the consecration of the Sacred Chrism, we will hear these words:
O God, … when your Son, our Lord,
Had saved the human race through the Paschal Mystery,
He filled your Church with the Holy Spirit…
It is an evocative image: the filling of the Church with the Holy Spirit, from the saving work of Christ on the cross, bringing about the sacrament of God’s blessing.
This being filled—this abundant overflowing of grace, if you will—is symbolically enacted in the consecrating of the oil mixed with perfume, having first been breathed over in 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. As Jesus spoke to his family and neighbours in the Synagogue at Nazareth, so today he speaks to us: this is being fulfilled—being made full—even in our listening.
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 outpouring of the life-giving Spirit into the perfumed oil is a continuation of the original outpouring at creation and from Christ’s side. This is why the prayer of consecration speaks of it as a sacrament, a visible sign of the invisible grace. Life will find a way.
Our own participation in this grace comes to us as a sacramental blessing from God. Our lives have life through God; our lives receive eternal life in Christ; our lives give life to others from the Holy Spirit. This is blessing, indeed.
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.
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.
At this blessed moment of God’s creative choosing, we are being anointed with the Holy Spirit. This is the favourable, the acceptable time of the Lord for us, his Church. May it be fulfilled in our listening.