As we approach Easter, we are exposed to a rich variety of symbols that have a long tradition in the Catholic Church. An important symbol used in various ceremonies is oil. Each year, on the Thursday before Holy Week, the bishop gathers with his priests and representatives of all the parish communities of the diocese for a Mass with the blessing of the oils which will be used in the sacraments for the coming year. These blessed oils (of which there are three different uses) is taken back by each community ready for use in the sacred rites of our church. These oils will be presented to the local parish at the beginning of our Mass on the evening of Holy Thursday.
THE OIL OF THE CATECHUMENS. This oil is used to anoint people before they are baptized; it is a physical prayer that God will protect and strengthen the one to be baptized to enable them to live as good Christians… (we trust and pray that God will shield them from harm)…….anything bad in life will slip off them…. Unable to grab hold…. “ When the priest uses this oil he prays: “May Christ strengthen you with his power.”
THE OIL OF THE SICK. Blessed and used just as it was said in the letter of St James in the Scriptures: …. “are there any sick among you, then call for the priests who will pray over them and anoint them with oil…” …When this oil is used, the priest prays that “through this holy anointing, may God in his love an mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord save you, and raise you up.”
THE OIL OF CHRISM.,…. Symbol of royalty……..used to anoint the heads of Kings and Queens at their coronation… and priests hands at their ordination… This beautiful perfumed oil is also used in the baptismal rite and most importantly… is used to anoint the foreheads of those receiving Confirmation……Those anointed will remain “forever a member of Christ, who is Priest, Prophet and King. “
An important liturgical principle is to ensure that any symbols we use in our worship are strong. That is, if we use a symbol at all, it should be clear and unambiguous and strong. One sees this particularly in the Baptism ceremony. The symbols of Baptism are Oil of Catechumenate, Water, Candle, Baptismal Robe and Oil of Chrism. One could be forgiven, however, for remembering only the pouring of the water and not noticing the anointing of the chest and head with oil. This is because these other symbols are often featured so slightly as to go unnoticed. The minister of baptism may have a small container of oil and swiftly daub a slight amount on the person to be baptized. Why do something at all if one is not to do it strongly and clearly? So, in our parish, we have large, worthy containers for the oil, and we take a goodly amount of the oil and anoint with a sense of purpose.