Archbishop Vincent Nichols, celebrated the annual Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Tuesday 30 March 2010 in the presence of over 300 priests and 1,000 people from the Diocese of Westminster.
The Chrism Mass sees the blessing of the three Holy Oils: the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Blessing of the Sick and the Oil of Chrism. These are used during the sacraments. The blessing of the Holy Oils is one of the most ancient ceremonies in the Church. It is always celebrated in the Cathedral by the bishop surrounded by the priests, deacons, religious and lay people from his diocese.
The Archbishop reminded those present of the importance that the chrism oils will play in the lives of Catholics. “Accompanying us go the Holy Oils, soon to be blessed or consecrated to take their place among the effective signs of the presence of the Spirit of the Lord in our lives: at times of initiation, of illness and of dedication and ordination.”
At the Chrism Mass, each year, all priests renew their commitment to priestly service. In his homily, Archbishop Nichols expressed a wish for a renewal of the Church and its priesthood. He said: “Today I not only invite all our priests – and bishops – to seek this renewal, but I also ask all present, and all the faithful of our parishes, to pray for us priests. This has been our intention throughout this Year for Priests. But it is never more needed than at this moment of renewal.”
Archbishop Nichols expressed his thanks to the priests of the diocese, saying, “I salute the priests present here today. I thank you, and all the presbyterate, for your service and your best efforts day by day.”
Noting that priesthood is not an easy vocation to follow, he asked priest to examine themselves, saying, “We are to ‘joyfully sacrifice our own pleasure and ambitions’ Do we do so each day?
We are to serve our people ‘without thinking of our own profit’. Do we do so? Or do we sometimes engage in that calculation of personal profit and loss, such that the personal loss begins to seem too demanding and the personal reward too scant?”
You can listen or read the Archbishop's homily by clicking on the link underneath the photograph.
You can view photos of the Chrism Mass by clicking on the link at the bottom of this webpage.
The full text and Archbishop Nichols message before the Final Blessing follows.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols: Chrism Mass homily, 30 March 2010
The importance of our Mass we celebrate together today is made clear in words which I shall shortly address to all the priests present in the Cathedral:
‘Brothers, today we celebrate the memory of the first Eucharist at which our Lord Jesus Christ shared with His apostles and with us His call to the priestly service of His Church.’
The memories of the first Eucharist and the call to priestly service make this a crucial moment for the life of our diocese, one in which we seek to refresh our entire life in the Lord. Here we come to the well-springs of the life of the Church, the very mysteries which impel us, day by day, to seek above all else to do His will and which enable us to do so.
Today the Church calls on us priests to renew our desire to serve Him, our determination to serve those in our care, our resolve to celebrate the sacraments with reverence, and our daily effort to unite ourselves more closely to Christ.
Today I not only invite all our priests – and bishops – to seek this renewal, but I also ask all present, and all the faithful of our parishes, to pray for us priests. This has been our intention throughout this Year for Priests. But it is never more needed than at this moment of renewal.
Let us be clear. This is not an easy vocation to follow. Indeed the liturgy itself makes that plain. The invitation to the renewal of priestly promises spells out the inevitable cost. It is on this score that we priests must examine ourselves.
Let me quote:
We are to ‘joyfully sacrifice our own pleasure and ambitions’ Do we do so each day?
We are to serve our people ‘without thinking of our own profit’. Do we do so? Or do we sometimes engage in that calculation of personal profit and loss, such that the personal loss begins to seem too demanding and the personal reward too scant?
We priests need the prayers and support of our people. They are so readily given. We need to pray for and support each other, not least when we are in distress or despondency.
Today we are also asked to be precise in the undertakings we renew. We are not simply to be decent individuals, avoiding antagonisms and being generally supportive. Our calling is more specific than that.
Again, let me quote:
We are to act ‘out of love for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church’. That love needs renewing every day. It is a love which some today mock and belittle. They will say: ‘What’s so lovable about the Catholic Church!’ But we can cope with that.
We are ‘to bring peace and love’ to our brothers and sisters, acting ‘solely for the well-being of the people’ we have been sent to serve. Remember the urging of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the anniversary of whose murder in the chapel we have just kept. He said to his priests: ‘Walk with your people.’ He asked them to keep attentive to the reality of their lives, since before God nothing of our human condition is hidden from his loving gaze.
We are ‘to celebrate the Eucharist and the other liturgical services with sincere devotion’. This is easily said but not so easily sustained over the three or four regular weekend Masses, or the frequently required funerals.
I salute the priests present here today. I thank you, and all the presbyterate, for your service and your best efforts day by day.
We make mistakes and we fail. We let people down, in small ways more often than in large. Today we readily express our sorrow for all our offences. We also express our resolve, for we have joyfully received this ministry from the Lord and, at the end of the day, it still fills our hearts with happiness and satisfaction.
Since this celebration is focused so much on the Eucharist itself, permit me a few thoughts on that theme. Our faith is clear: that ‘in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really and substantially contained under the appearances of these perceptible realities’. These words, from the Council of Trent, remind us of the reality we handle. It is the ‘latens Dietas’, the ‘hidden Godhead’ in the phrase of St Thomas Aquinas. This reminds us of the importance of the reverence and sincere devotion which today we promise to maintain.
Pope Benedict draws out one of the consequences of this truth. He recalls the words of St Augustine: no one eats that flesh without first adoring it. He says: ‘Receiving the Eucharist means adoring Him whom we receive…Only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature.’ (Sacramentum Caritatis 66) This is such an important point for us to ponder and indeed to teach. Only in adoration of the Godhead present in the Eucharist will our reception of Christ come to fruition within us.
This is a truth which we must model. Of course we wil