What is Chrism Mass?


The Chrism Mass is a Service held annually on Maundy Thursday. In our Book of Common Prayer (CPWI page 417) it is entitled ‘A Liturgy for the Renewal of Vows and the Blessing of oils’.

The Service derives its name from the oil of Chrism, one of three oils blessed by the Bishop.  It is used at baptism, confirmation, ordination, the coronation of monarchs and on some objects set apart for worship, for example, the altar. The other two oils blessed are the oil of Catechumen used for anointing the Catechumens (converts to Christianity under instruction in preparation for baptism); and the oil used for the sick which is used to anoint them as we pray for their healing. All three oils are olive oil with the Chrism being scented with perfume oil, traditionally balsam. 

The word ‘chrism’ comes from the Greek, ‘chrisa’ which means ‘anoint’. ‘Messiah’ from the Hebrew and ‘Christ’ from the Greek both mean ‘the anointed one’. Jesus Christ is the anointed one of God and Christians are the anointed people.

Traditionally, the Chrism Mass is held at the Cathedral with the Bishop and priests of the Diocese gathered around the altar to symbolize their unity and shared ministry. The renewal of priestly vows recalls the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood on Maundy Thursday, at Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples.