Holy oils unite Catholics across 138,000-square-mile archdiocese

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The annual Chrism Mass will be celebrated on April 6, 7 p.m., at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage. Archbishop Paul Etienne will lead this sacred liturgy, during which he will bless the sacramental oils to be used throughout the year across the Anchorage Archdiocese.

Dozens of priests from around the 138,000-square-mile archdiocese will join their archbishop for the Mass, along with religious and hundreds of lay faithful.

During the Mass, clergy will renew their commitment to the priesthood and obedience to the archbishop — an integral part of the ancient liturgy.

The purpose of the Mass is to consecrate the three holy oils — Chrism, Oil of the Catechumens and Oil of the Infirm. Together these three sacramental oils are used in parishes throughout the year during the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders, as well as the consecration of churches, altars, chalices and other sacred items. They are also used to anoint the sick and dying. The oils sacramentally designate a profound change in the relationship of a person with the faith community. Early church councils set chrism apart for sacred purposes and for the sanctification of humanity.

Traditionally, the Chrism Mass includes a solemn procession, as members of the archdiocese present large silver vessels containing olive oil to the archbishop and formally request his blessing as a successor of Christ’s apostles.

The oil for the Holy Chrism is the last to be presented. Here, Archbishop Etienne will mix the oil with essence of balsam, which preserves it from corruption. He then breathes over the open vessel containing the sacred oil. Its fragrance is supposed to recall the innate sweetness of Christian virtue and the outpouring of sacramental grace.

Following this liturgy the oils, blessed and consecrated in time for Easter celebrations, are distributed to all 23 parishes and six missions across the archdiocese.

The Chrism Mass is symbolic of the whole local church coming together to celebrate its unity.

'Holy oils unite Catholics across 138,000-square-mile archdiocese'
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