CHRISM MASS Pray for us Priests today
Pope John Paul II
On the morning of Holy Thursday, 13 April 1995, the Holy Father celebrated the traditional Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for all the priests living in or visiting Rome. Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s homily, which was given in Italian.

1. "Ave sanctum Chrisma!"

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood, we are gathered here for the morning liturgy of Holy Thursday, usually celebrated only in the Cathedral churches, when the priests who make up the Presbyterate gather round the Bishop of the Diocese. Holy Thursday is the feast of the priesthood , since Christ instituted this sacrament precisely on this day during the Last Supper. This evening I will be celebrating the "Mass of the Lord's Supper" in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome. Now instead, we are gathered here to anticipate, in a certain sense, the evening liturgy and to stress the reality of the priesthood of our numerous Presbyterate, as a sacrament of the ecclesial community of Rome.

2. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me" (Is 61:1)

The words of the Prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first Reading, are also repeated in the Gospel passage (Lk 4:18). Luke recalls the moment when Jesus, having reached the age of 30, went to the synagogue one sabbath and in accordance with tradition, presented himself for the first time to the community to read the word of God. Unrolling the scroll, he found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19). After reading these words, the Evangelist notes, Jesus rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed intently on him. In fact, they were waiting for his explanation, an explanation which in truth, was very brief. He said: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21). The words of Scripture have been fulfilled because amongst you is the Anointed, the Messiah , the One who comes by virtue of the Lord's Spirit: the Anointed and the one sent by God .


3. "Ave sanctum Chrisma!"

On the day of the feast of our priesthood we recall the anointing we received at the moment of our priestly ordination . On that day, the Bishop anointed the palms of our hands with oil, and in Episcopal consecration, our forehead. The anointing signifies the power of the Holy Spirit , which every priest receives in order to celebrate the Eucharist. The Bishop receives the power of the Holy Spirit to preside over the Church of God to watch over the celebration of the Eucharist, to teach and to console, to heal through the sacrament of Reconciliation to build up the Church as a community of love where the Good News is proclaimed and put into practice through the many aspects of ministry. Rightly then the Responsorial Psalm recalls David's consecration with oil. David was not a priest, but a prophet and king. The tradition of anointing prophets and kings was established in the Old Testament, and this custom, with regard to Christian kings, has accompanied the history of Christian nations for a long time.

Christ appears to us in today's liturgy in his triple anointing : as Prophet, Priest and messianic King. We all share in his anointing and for this reason, with profound faith we greet these Holy Oils which will serve to anoint catechumens at Baptism, the baptized on the occasion of their Confirmation, candidates for the priesthood and the Episcopate at the moment of their ordination, and lastly, the infirm in their sickness.

"Ave sanctum Oleum! Ave sanctum Chrisma!"

4. Our greeting is not addressed so much to the holy oils as to the Anointed One himself, Christ the Lord. We know in fact that through the anointing, we have taken part in Christ's priesthood, which in us becomes explicit in the ministerial priesthood. And today, with our gaze fixed on the divine Messiah, we wish to renew the promises made to the Lord on the day of ordination .They must strengthen us on the way chosen through the power of the Holy Spirit; they must rekindle in us the desire for priestly service to the whole People of God, wherever the Holy Spirit may send us to carry out our ministry.

The faithful gathered in this Basilica are waiting for us to renew our promises. After the blessing of the chrism and the holy oils, they want to take them back to their parishes so that they may be used there in the celebration of the holy sacraments. As they listen to us renewing the promises we made in the sacrament of Orders, our brothers and sisters in the faith pray for us priests that we may be faithful to the vocation we have received from Christ for the good of the Church.

5. In this context, the second Reading from the Revelation of St. John acquires particular eloquence. The Apostle addresses us and the whole Church: "Grace to you and peace ... from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth" (Rev 1:4-5). St. John first salutes Christ, the faithful Witness to the mysteries of divinity, and he then turns to him in the perspective of the mysterium altum on whose threshold we stand. He speaks to Christ, who loves us and who has set us free from our sins by his blood; he speaks to Christ who has made us a kingdom and priests for God his Father; he speaks to that Christ who is already in the Father's glory but who is ever present in the history of the Church and of humanity, bringing with him the wounds of the crucifixion: "Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All the peoples of the earth will lament him" (Rev 1:7). The words of St. John thus introduce us to the events of Good Friday, events which are immediately surpassed by the light of the Resurrection. In fact, in the Resurrection Christ will show himself as the Son consubstantial with the Father, the First and the Last, the Firstborn of all creation. He will say: " 'I am the Alpha and the Omega...the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty' " (cf. Rev 1:8).

"Praise to you O Christ, King of Eternal glory!"


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
19 April 1995, page 2

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