Today many of the priests of the Diocese of Allentown gathered in the presence of our Bishop to rejoice in the gift of Priesthood and Eucharist. A major practical and spiritual purpose of the Mass was the consecration of the oils to be used in the sacramental ministrations of the diocese (i.e. Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick). In the blessing of the oils, the "Power of the Keys" is most evident when the Bishop blesses Sacred Chrism: after stirring the fragrant balsam into the vats of oil, he breathes upon them just as the Lord breathed the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on the night of the Resurrection--specifically conferring the power of the forgiveness of sins (cf. John 20:22). Then the co-operation of bishop and presbytery shines forth when, as the Bishop prays the consecratory prayer over the Chrism, the priests extend their hands toward the oil, not unlike the procedure during the consecration of the Eucharistic Elements. Neat stuff.
Before the consecration of the oils the Bishop and his priests renew their commitment to priestly service. We priests were reminded of the promises we made at our ordination:
"Are you resolved
to unite yourselves more closely to Christ
and to try to become more like him by joyfully sacrificng your own pleasure and ambition
to bring his peace and love to your brothers and sisters?
Are you resolved
to be faithful ministers of God,
to celebrate the Eucharist and the other liturgical services with sincere devotion?
Are you resolved to imitate Jesus Christ, the head and shepherd of the Church,
by teaching the Christian faith without thinking of your own profit,
solely for the well-being of the people you were sent to serve?"
Then the Bishop begs the prayers of the faithful gathered behind us:
"Ask the Lord to bless [your priests] with the fullness of his love,
to help them be faithful ministers of Christ the High Priest,
so that they will be able to lead you to him, the fountain of your salvation....
Pray also for me that despite my own unworthiness
I may faithfully fulfill the office of apostle which Jesus Christ entrusted to me.
Pray that I may become more like our High Priest and Good Shepherd,
the teacher and servant of all,
and so be a genuine sign of Christ's loving presence among you."
You had to be there. In fact, you can be there next year if you like. The Mass of the Oils is a real shot in the arm for clergy, religious, and laity alike. It leads us into the saving events of the Triduum, which make possible the unity experienced in the Mass of the Oils and in every liturgical action in every place and time. Jesus' Passion, Death, and Resurrection--the Paschal Mystery--extend His Incarnation into every proclamation of the Gospel, every celebration of the Sacraments, and every corporal and spiritual work of mercy.