You think I’m kidding around right? Rite of the Turkey Basters? What the heck is that?
Well, that’s not it’s official name, but there is a special mass that the laity rarely get to attend that happens this week, usually on Thursday morning, but it often moves around. It is the Chrism Mass.
Now it’s not that the laity aren’t invited, it’s just that it is usually inconvenient because it is held at the cathedral. I don’t know about you, but most mornings, I’m personally not excited to drive 6 hours to my cathedral for Mass, how about you? It is however, a very important Mass, and very much tied to Holy Week.
Now as I said, it’s proper place is Holy Thursday Morning. So as we think about the Mass and walk through it, we need to keep it in the context of Holy Thursday, even if it is celebrated on a different day. Why? Because The Chrism Mass is not about Chrism.
I know, this is just not making any sense, but hang on there.
The Chrism Mass is a lot like Midnight Mass at Christmas time in that it has it’s name because of an incidental thing that happens at this Mass. We don’t celebrate “midnight” at Midnight Mass, we celebrate the birth of our savior. It just happens at midnight, so we call it Midnight Mass. Same thing here. This is the Mass where the Holy Oils are blessed, so we call it the Chrism Mass. (Chrism is one of the oils.)
What is really going on here is something much bigger. This is the Mass of unity. This is the Mass where every priest in the diocese once again rededicates himself to Christ through obedience to his bishop. This is the Mass where the priest is empowered by their bishop to go out and serve you. We must remember that all the gifts a priest is given are given through their shepherd, this Mass is where those gifts are dispersed. This is why the Mass must be understood in the context of Holy Thursday, as Holy Thursday is the day we celebrate the institution of the priesthood. (As a side note, the footwashing thing is also tied to the priesthood, but I’ll get to that another day.)
This is the Mass that ties us to our apostle. How cool is that? It is just not enough to get a phone call and have a piece of paper hanging on the wall telling us we are united with the greater Church. We have to have real unity, and that unity is celebrated at this Mass.
This is also the Chrism Mass though, so we should talk about oils. All of the oils we used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Healing of the Sick, and Holy Orders must be blessed by the bishop. They are also only good for one year. (Unity theme again!) So every year, the bishop blesses the oils at the Chrism Mass, and all the priests take it back home to their parishes with them. Pretty cool huh?!
There is one rite we are missing here. When the bishop blesses the oils, they are in three huge vats, so they have to be separated before the priests can take their oils back home.
So immediately after the Mass begins the Rite of the Turkey Basters, where all the helpers gather together to distribute the oils, usually while trading jokes and funny stories from their parishes. So imagine a bunch of really oily people laughing and in a rush to get home, and you will have the right picture of the day. Tons of fun, and an incredible Mass to attend if you ever have the opportunity.