Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sacramental Oils

Each year, bishops in the Catholic church bless oils that will be used by every parish in their diocese throughout the year for the various sacraments. There is the Oil of the Catechumen, Oil of the Sick, and Sacred Chrism. These oils are used in many of the Church's sacraments, including baptism & confirmation, annointing of the sick, and calling to Holy Orders. (If you're interested in reading more about the Chrism Mass and/or the oils, check out these two links: Chrism Mass Bulletin Insert; Chrism Wikipedia Article.) Though different Christian denominations may not practice blessing or use of oils in the same way, scriptural references to "annointing" should not be foreign - and it is easy to understand (even for those who don't practice it) a Christian community reflecting practices of annointing due to its prominent place in the Old and New Testaments.

But - I digress. (Who? Me? Digress? NO WAY!!!)

Because the Chrism Mass is celebrated each year, a replenished supply of sacramental oils is provided by the ministry of the Church through the Bishop each year, and unused oils from previous years are to be consumed - typically by fire. I don't know the theology of it - but somewhere inside it seems to resonate with the idea of trusting God today for what we need today. We are not a people that need to hoard - God will provide. (But - as I said, I don't know that for a fact....)

Anyway, while Fr. Wil has been away on vacation, he asked me to consume the previous year's holy oils. Looking for guidance online, I discovered ways to burn the oil - but it didn't seem right to me to just light the fire, like I was burning trash. *shrug* Just me, I guess. Anyway, I wrote the following prayer that I said each time as I lit the fire to consume the oils - it felt more appropriate to me to offer some sort of prayer, and the exercise in considering what might be included in this prayer deepened my appreciation for what God is doing in the sacramental life of the Church and the person when the oils are used. (That may be a lesson for the future - if I need to deepen my experience of something, I could try to write an appropriate prayer related to it... hrm....)

Anyway - here's the prayer I wrote:

Father, for love of Your people, You give the Church sacraments to strengthen us in our journey toward You. Through the ministry of Your bishops, you transform everyday oils into Holy matter through which Your priests welcome us, Your children, into Your Church, confirm Your calling in our lives, strengthen us through illness, and guide us always to You. We praise and thank You for such provident care.

Each year, You provide for our family of faith a renewed store of these Holy oils as our local Church celebrates Your continuing care for us, and seeks the blessing of the Holy Spirit on the ministry offered through these sacramental oils. Today, we celebrate this continual care for us as we consume oils from previous years with fire – confident that we will never be lacking in what we need for our journeys.

Accept this as an offering of praise for this care. As we return these oils to You by fire, we ask the same Holy Spirit that once came in fire to anoint your Church at Pentecost to strengthen all those who have been blessed through the imposition of these oils in times past. Bring them all, and us, into the light of Your presence.

We pray this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reins with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful(!), Appropriate (!) prayer, Alan. Thank you for using these provisions (the blessed oils)in a service of praise.