This year’s Chrism Mass took place not during Holy Week as usual but on June 30.

The special Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Burlington was rescheduled because churches were closed to the public celebration of the Mass before Holy Week because of the Covid-19 pandemic, a restriction that continued until recently as Vermont began to reopen under safety guidelines.

“This annual Mass traditionally is celebrated late in Lent or during Holy Week as part of the preparations for the Easter Season. This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vatican gave the bishops worldwide permission to reschedule the Chrism Mass for another time of the year when it could be celebrated more fully,” explained Josh Perry, director of worship for the Diocese of Burlington.

Priests from throughout Vermont joined Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne for the Mass at which they renewed their priestly promises. He blessed them and blessed the holy oils that will be used in the sacramental life of the Vermont Church and symbolize the link of the parishes with the bishop in sacramental ministry. The Mass was a sign of the unity of the local Church in Vermont.

The oils blessed were the oil of the sick, oil of catechumens and the chrism oil. To prepare the chrism oil, Bishop Coyne mixed in balsam, the perfume that gives it a rich aroma.

Before saying the Prayer of Consecration, the bishop breathed upon the opening of the vessel of the chrism oil. The chrism is a sign of the Holy Spirit, and this action recalls the Spirit of God “moving over the face of the waters” at creation (Gen 1:12) and Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples in which “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (Jn 20:22).

The oil of the sick is blessed for the healing of body, mind and spirit. The oil of catechumens is blessed for the anointing of those preparing for baptism. “Through this anointing, they are strengthened by Christ to resist the power of evil in all its forms,” Perry said.

The chrism oil was consecrated to anoint infants after baptism, those who are to be confirmed and bishops and priests at their ordination. It also is used to anoint altars and churches at the time of their dedication.

In his homily, Bishop Coyne reflected on words from the first reading which was from Isaiah: The Lord anointed me and sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly … and to give them oil of gladness. …

He encouraged members of the congregation — keeping proper social distancing — to recognize the voices of the prophet Isaiah and of Jesus “that encourage us to go out and do the good things of the Kingdom.”

Bishop Coyne reflected on the pandemic and how it necessitated churches be closed for the public celebration of the sacraments, and he said it was important that the members of the diocesan faith community gather for the Chrism Mass because it had been months since there was such a diocesan-wide gathering and because “things are in such flux” with re-openings nationwide.

The last time the Diocese gathered for the Chrism Mass was 14 months ago: “It’s amazing how in 14 months things could change,” he added.

Though some people have expressed concern that the number of people attending Masses will not reach the levels pre-pandemic, Bishop Coyne cautioned against discouragement. Rather, he emphasized the need to continue to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord as well as the message of salvation and the teachings of the Church.

The faithful from throughout the Diocese were invited to this special liturgy to pray especially for priests and for all who will be anointed by these oils.

After the Mass, parish representatives received oils to bring to their churches.

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