In his article last week, Fr. Alford reflected on the use of the Sacred Chrism in the three of the sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. When I was ordained a priest in June, Bishop Paprocki smeared the Sacred Chrism on the palms of my hands to set them apart for the ministerial priesthood of Jesus, making them holy to consecrate the Eucharist and forgive sins. The Sacred Chrism carries a distinctly beautiful smell, which can often be smelled on a newly baptized baby’s head for the rest of the day after his or her baptism! Unfortunately for me and my classmates, we had to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before distributing Communion at our ordination Mass, so the smell of Chrism was gone before Mass was even over. But the important part is that our hands were consecrated, and we were ordained priests! There is a tradition that after receiving a priest’s first blessing, the one receiving the blessing kisses the palms of the new priest’s hands. Covid mostly prevented that tradition this time around, but once again, I am grateful to have been ordained a priest even during a pandemic.
Whenever I have the privilege of receiving a new child into the Church through baptism, I anoint the baby on the top of the head with this same Sacred Chrism which was used at my priestly ordination. The smell of the Chrism on my thumb reminds me of my ordination, and I hope it always does. The distinct smell comes from the sweet-smelling balsam perfume which is added to olive or vegetable oil when it is consecrated by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass the week before Easter. It is interesting that this annual Mass, an ancient Christian tradition, draws its name from the Chrism itself. This shows just how important this sacred oil is in the life of the Church. This Mass is the occasion for all the priests of the diocese to renew their promises to the bishop, and the unity of the diocese under one bishop is strengthened and reaffirmed. I’m looking forward to my first Chrism Mass as a priest, which I hope to attend during Holy Week of 2021.
The scent of Chrism has even worked its way into other parts of our society. It is common to find candles, essential oils, and even beard balm that have been scented with the sweet balsam commonly used for the Sacred Chrism. The Church, in her wisdom, knows how to use beautiful things for the glory of God, even something simple like a sweet perfume. This sweetness signifies the love that God has for each one of us, his children!