Chrism Mass: A Model for Diocesan Liturgies

As we continue the Easter Season I want to repeat my encouragement for all of us to focus on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary during these days which lead to Pentecost.  The Resurrection of the Lord, the Ascension of the Lord, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary and the Crowning of Mary all touch on very basic elements of our Catholic faith that are celebrated in some way in every Mass.

At the Chrism Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week I spoke of a “transcendent celebration” and I thought it would be helpful to all who read these reflections to join with me in pondering what that phrase means.  The directives of the Roman Missal for the Chrism Mass call for a renewal of priestly commitment for all the priests of the diocese, and I experienced the beauty of that at our Mass on March 31.  I believe this renewal on the part of the priests enhances the gift of Holy Orders for bishops, priests, deacons and all the royal priestly people of God.  As the liturgy focuses on priests it reminds all of us, ordained, vowed religious and baptized, of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ and His resplendent beauty.  

As I mentioned in my homily that evening, part of the transcendence that I experienced was in the music of the liturgy.  I have always loved singing our hymns of faith and the various elements of the Mass and hearing the entire community raising their voices in English, Spanish and Latin was truly transcendent for me.  This annual liturgy warrants a greater solemnity than a daily Mass or even a Sunday Mass in ordinary time, and I experienced it as offering a good balance.  I know that throughout the diocese we encounter a significant diversity in regard to priestly styles, musical capacity, community make up and available resources.  I hope we can continue down a path of greater devotion and solemnity in our liturgies while respecting this rich diversity.  I encourage all of our priests to be loving fathers and gentle shepherds, especially when it comes to celebrating the Mass, and I ask them to help me seek the same tone as I guide them.  The Mass should always be our greatest point of unity as we seek to pray the sacred rites that Christ offers us through His Church.

I can also say that part of the transcendent nature of the Chrism Mass as I experienced it was the number of priests, deacons, religious and faithful gathered.  When the liturgy is celebrated in a full church it seems that the Holy Spirit is powerfully present.  Certainly at one level this is simply a feeling because whenever “two or three are gathered” in His Name the Lord is present, but there is a special blessing when so many are present and actively engaged in the prayer of the Church.  Although you could say that the Chrism Mass is focused on the ordained priesthood, the presence of so many expresses the Church’s love for her priests and their role in the mystical body.  

Finally, I believe that my description of the Chrism Mass as transcendent touches on the reality that it can be a model for all of our liturgies throughout the diocese.  This points more to the tone of the gathering than any specific language, style or musical setting.  We gathered for this liturgy in a spirit of love for the Lord and His Church and a desire to pray the liturgy the way the Church calls us to.  I suppose this desire to be faithful to the liturgy which is outlined in the documents of the Church is at the core of what made it transcendent for me.  When we humbly seek to follow the Lord’s command and “do this in memory” of Him, setting aside personal preferences in service to the Church and her people, then we open the door to the transcendent and allow the grace of God to powerfully touch our lives.

This reflection from Bishop Strickland appears in the May 2015 issue of the Catholic East Texas.

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