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An introuction from Bishop John:
Welcome to this Chrism Eucharist and thank you for making time to come at a very busy period. One of the reasons why we gather today is precisely because it is a busy time. My appointment as Lord High Almoner means that we meet on the Monday of Holy Week rather than on Maundy Thursday. Reports from other dioceses suggest that people have found it helpful to come and be refreshed and renewed in their calling near the beginning of Holy Week. I hope very much that this will be everyone’s experience here.
The events of Holy Week are central to the Christian faith. At the eucharist of the Last Supper and right through until Easter Day, nearly all of us will, in our different ways, whether clergy or laity, be leading our churches through the celebration of these holy days. We shall be giving of ourselves, whether we are churchwardens welcoming at the door or readers preaching or clergy leading worship. We come this morning not principally to give but to receive. My prayer is that we shall all be refreshed and fed, and so strengthened to go back to fulfil our various ministries this week.
At the heart of this morning’s service lie two special elements. First, the rededication of all those in ministry to their calling, and the reaffirmation of their ordination vows by the three orders of clergy – deacons, priests and bishops. On Maundy Thursday, Jesus offered what we often call his ‘high priestly prayer’ and, like a deacon, washed his disciples’ feet. As we prepare for Maundy Thursday, we renew our commitment to ministry. Second, we bless the holy oils. We do it on this day so that their first use may be with candidates for baptism and confirmation at Easter. The three oils blessed today are
the oil for use at the signing with the cross before baptism, sometimes called the oil of catechumens, which is pure olive oil, reflecting the practice of athletes preparing for a contest;
the oil of healing – olive oil for use at anointing at a key moment in illness or in a process of restoring wholeness;
the oil of chrism, which is oil mixed with fragrant spices, expressing the blessings of Christ and the richness of the Holy Spirit, used to accompany the prayer after baptism, or with the laying on of hands at confirmation, in ordination and in commissioning for new ministry.
God bless you in your particular witness and ministry during Holy Week and may the joy of the risen Christ be yours this Easter.