The Use Of Oils In Sacraments Essay

, Research Paper

Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Many of the sacraments that are celebrated today involve the use of oil. Baptism and confirmation are the two principle sacraments involving oils. In the Church liturgies, the actual significance of oil is often not known (or at least not fully) to the members of the parish faith community. This paper will examine the meaning of oil, the sacraments in which it is used, and prayers associated with it.

There are three oils that are used in various sacraments: Chrism, Oil of Infirm, and the Oil of the Sick. The three oils are all equally important; however, an emphasis of sorts has been placed on the Sacred Chrism and the Oil of Infirm.

The first sacrament, which will be examined, is baptism. The sacrament of baptism is most commonly associated with newborn children. The newborns (or adults) are new members of the Church, and new members of the Body of Christ. As with any sacrament, there is a standard procedure to follow when the sacrament is administered. Oil is not introduced in the Rite of Baptism until after the general intercessions, to introduce either the anointing with the oil of catechumens, or the laying on of hands. The oil is one of the most significant items used in the celebration of the Rite. Jesus, himself, particularly encouraged children to be baptized, Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

During the time of Jesus, oil was used primarily used to show royalty; at this point in time, kings were the only anointed ones . The completion of the sacrament consists, first, of the anointing with chrism, which signifies the royal priesthood of the baptized and enrollment into the company of the people of God . Clearly, Chrism has a very powerful meaning in the celebration of baptism. Two thousand years ago, the Chrism was a sign of royalty and the tradition has carried on to today, where the royalty are still anointed.

The Church encourages that baptism be celebrated before the entire faith community. Baptisms usually take place during the Sunday liturgy. During the actual anointing of the candidates the celebrant says: we anoint you with the oil of salvation in the name of Christ our Savior; may he strengthen you with his power, who lives and reign forever and ever. Following this prayer, the celebrant anoints each child on the breast with the oil of catechumens. After the child has actually been baptized, there is another anointing where the celebrants says:

The God of power and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation, so that, united with his people, you may remain for ever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet, and King.

Proceeding this prayer, the white garment and lighted candle are presented. The conclusion of the rite is the next and final step in the celebration of the sacrament.

Oil is not only used in baptism; it is also used in confirmation. The body is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated, the body is signed, that the soul too may be fortified In earlier times when an individual was anointed with oil, it symbolized fortification. It was commonly used to prepare warriors for battle, amongst other things. The chrism prepares Christians for the battle against evil that they will face in their everyday lives. Pope Innocent III wrote: The anointing of the forehead with chrism signifies the laying on of the hand, the other name for which is confirmation, since through it the Holy Spirit is given for growth and strength. Oil has always held a rich place in the history of the Catholic Church. Early in Church history, oil was available only to royalty, and was by no means easy to come across. According to the Church, chrism is made of olive oil and balsam. Two simple oils comprise the richest oil in the Church.

The oils, in and of it self, is sacred. What makes the sacrament of confirmation so special, is not only the chrism, but the words associated with it. The anointing varies from rite to rite. Pope Benedict, for example, said the following:

Therefore let this be said, which is beyond dispute: in the Latin Church the sacrament of confirmation is conferred by using the sacred chrism or olive oil mixed with balsam and blessed by the bishop, and by the sacramental minister s tracing the sign of the cross on the forehead of the recipient, while the minister pronounces the words from form.

The rite s vary, as do the their origins. The first records of confirmation in the East appeared in the fourth or fifth centuries.

Today s confirmation is not much different from past ones. The anointing with chrism comes after the laying on of hands . While anointing the individual with the chrism, the bishop simply says the individual s confirmation name, followed by be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

The focal point of the celebration of the sacrament of confirmation is unchanged. Its purpose is to invoke the Holy Spirit into the individual, and to prepare them for their life as a Christian, as a member of the Church, and as a member of the Body of Christ.

Aside from baptism and confirmation, sacred oils are also used in the sacrament of holy orders. Both priests and deacons are ordained servants of God. Priests are, however, anointed; deacons are not. At a point during the ordination, the new priest is invested with a stole and chasuble. Immediately proceeding the investiture, the newly ordained has their hands anointed. The anointing, while very significant, is not as elaborate as in baptism and confirmation. While anointing the hands of the new priest, the celebrant (a bishop) says the following words: The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God. There is a tremendous symbolization present with this anointing. By the bishop anointing the hands of the priest, he makes holy all of the priests works and deeds.

Baptism, confirmation, and holy orders all entail the use of holy oils in the celebrations. One more sacrament requires the use of oils, that sacrament is anointing of the sick. Anointing of the sick dates back to biblical times. The first words official statement made by the Church regarding anointing, is found in doctrines from the Council of Trent.

This reality is in fact the grace of the Holy Spirit, whose anointing takes away sins, if any still remain, and the remnants of sin; this anointing also raises up and strengthens the soul of the sick person, arousing a great confidence in the divine mercy; thus sustained, the sick person may more easily bear the trials and hardships of sickness, more easily resist the temptations of the devil lying in wait for his heel (Gen 3:15), and sometimes regain bodily health, if this is expedient for the health of the soul.

The liturgy of anointing involves several components. The liturgy begins with a litany, followed by the laying on of hands. The celebrant then blesses the oils, and begins the anointing. As the celebrant anoints the ill person s forehead, he says: May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. There are several different prayers that the celebrant may say, following the anointing. The prayers vary, depending on why the person was anointed. Reasons for anointing include general, terminal illness, advanced age, prior to surgery, for a child, or for a young person. The liturgy of anointing then concludes with the recitation of The Lord s Prayer.

Although baptism, confirmation, holy orders, and anointing of the sick are separate and unique sacraments, there are two common components to each. An imposition (or laying on) of hands and the anointing with sacred oil (usually chrism) are the two primary commonalties.

Throughout Church history, there has been some form of anointing. The anointing is always to fortify the recipient. Anointing also solidifies the body and soul, which are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Works Cited

Benedict XIV, Ep. Ex quo primum tempore 52: Benedicti XIV Bullarium, v. 3 (Prati, 1847) 320.

Bouley, Adam, Catholic Rites Today Abridged Texts For Students.

Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press 1992, 164.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. 18, 33: PG 33, 1056.

Epistolae Pontificae ad Concilium Florentinum spectantes, G. Hoffman, ed., Concilium Florentinum v. 1, ser. A, part 2 (Rome, 1944) 128.

Mark 10:14

Sacramentary – Anointing Outside the Mass, Anointing, 124

Sacramentary A, Order Of A Baptism Celebrated By the Minister, 17

Sacramentary A, Structure of the Rite of Baptizing Children, 3

Sacramentary B, Prayer of Exorcism and Anointing Before Baptism, 50

Sacramentary – Rite of Confirmation Within the Mass, The Anointing With Chrism, 27

Sacramentary – Ordination of a Priest, Anointing of Hands, 24

Sacramentary – Anointing Outside the Mass, Anointing, 124

Tertullian, De resurrectione mortuorum 8, 3:CCL 2, 931.

Trent, Unctione, ch. 2: Denz-Schon 1696


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