Holy Thursday Chrism Mass
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 Fathers homily, which was given in Italian.
1. "Ave sanctum Chrisma!"
Dear Brothers in the Priesthood, we are gathered here for the morningliturgy of Holy Thursday, usually celebrated only in the Cathedralchurches, when the priests who make up the Presbyterate gather roundthe Bishop of the Diocese. Holy Thursday is the feast of the priesthood , since Christ instituted this sacrament precisely on thisday during the Last Supper. This evening I will be celebrating the"Mass of the Lord's Supper" in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, theCathedral church of the Bishop of Rome. Now instead, we are gatheredhere to anticipate, in a certain sense, the evening liturgy and tostress the reality of the priesthood of our numerous Presbyterate, asa 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 themoment when Jesus, having reached the age of 30, went to thesynagogue one sabbath and in accordance with tradition, presentedhimself for the first time to the community to read the word of God.Unrolling the scroll, he found the passage where it was written: "TheSpirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bringglad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty tocaptives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed gofree, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19).After reading these words, the Evangelist notes, Jesus rolled up thescroll, handed it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of allin the synagogue were fixed intently on him. In fact, they werewaiting for his explanation, an explanation which in truth, was verybrief. He said: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in yourhearing" (Lk 4:21). The words of Scripture have been fulfilledbecause amongst you is the Anointed, the Messiah , the One who comesby 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 Episcopalconsecration, our forehead. The anointing signifies the power of the Holy Spirit , which every priest receives in order to celebrate theEucharist. The Bishop receives the power of the Holy Spirit topreside over the Church of God to watch over the celebration of theEucharist, to teach and to console, to heal through the sacrament ofReconciliation to build up the Church as a community of love wherethe Good News is proclaimed and put into practice through the manyaspects of ministry. Rightly then the Responsorial Psalm recallsDavid's consecration with oil. David was not a priest, but a prophetand king. The tradition of anointing prophets and kings wasestablished in the Old Testament, and this custom, with regard toChristian kings, has accompanied the history of Christian nations fora long time.
Christ appears to us in today's liturgy in his triple anointing : asProphet, Priest and messianic King. We all share in his anointing andfor this reason, with profound faith we greet these Holy Oils whichwill serve to anoint catechumens at Baptism, the baptized on theoccasion of their Confirmation, candidates for the priesthood and theEpiscopate at the moment of their ordination, and lastly, the infirmin their sickness.
"Ave sanctum Oleum! Ave sanctum Chrisma!"
4. Our greeting is not addressed so much to the holy oils as to theAnointed One himself, Christ the Lord. We know in fact that throughthe anointing, we have taken part in Christ's priesthood, which in usbecomes explicit in the ministerial priesthood. And today, with ourgaze 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 theway chosen through the power of the Holy Spirit; they must rekindlein 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 renewour promises. After the blessing of the chrism and the holy oils,they want to take them back to their parishes so that they may beused there in the celebration of the holy sacraments. As they listento us renewing the promises we made in the sacrament of Orders, ourbrothers and sisters in the faith pray for us priests that we may be faithful to the vocation we have received from Christ for the goodof the Church.
5. In this context, the second Reading from the Revelation of St.John acquires particular eloquence. The Apostle addresses us and thewhole 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 faithfulWitness to the mysteries of divinity, and he then turns to him in theperspective of the mysterium altum on whose threshold we stand. Hespeaks to Christ, who loves us and who has set us free from our sinsby his blood; he speaks to Christ who has made us a kingdom andpriests for God his Father; he speaks to that Christ who is alreadyin the Father's glory but who is ever present in the history of theChurch and of humanity, bringing with him the wounds of thecrucifixion: "Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. Allthe 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 areimmediately surpassed by the light of the Resurrection. In fact, inthe Resurrection Christ will show himself as the Son consubstantialwith the Father, the First and the Last, the Firstborn of allcreation. 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!"
Weekly Edition in English
19 April 1995, page 2
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