For the first time since 1992, His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS consecrated Holy Chrism during Holy Week at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery here.
The consecration of Holy Chrism, which is used in the Sacrament of Christmation, is a right reserved to autocephalous churches. Parishes receive supplies of Chrism for local use from the Primate of their respective autocephalous Church. As such, the distribution of Holy Chrism to parish communities offers a visible sign of unity within the Church.
The Rite of Consecration of Holy Chrism began on Holy Monday morning, April 5, as His Eminence, Archbishop HERMAN of Philadelphia sanctified water which he then used to bless the various ingredients used in making Holy Chrism. [Chrism, unlike other Holy Unction and other blessed oils used in Orthodox rites, contains a number of ingredients, including olive oil, white table wine, styrax, benzoin, aromatic incenses extracted in oil, roseoil, basil, balsam, Venetian turpentine, galangal, oils of bergamot, clove, marjoram, thyme and sandalwood, and extracts of ginger root, calamus root, nutmeg, and orris root. The final choice, however, is based on the availability of fragrant oils.]
After blessing the ingredients, Archbishop HERMAN poured a small amount of blessed water into a cooking pot, to which clergy added olive oil and a small amount of wine.
According to the VRev Joseph Martin, Dean of Holy Resurrection Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre, PA, who oversaw the three-day process, “a flame was then lit under the cooking pot, and for the next three days, the mixture was stirred continually by priests and deacons. Throughout the process, other priests read the Gospels continuously, breaking only during liturgical services.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, small amounts of wine were again added to the cooking Chrism. Finally, at 4:00 p.m. on Holy Wednesday, the Chrism was set aside to cool. After blending aromatic essences into the mixture, the Chrism was poured into storage containers and placed on a table near the Table of Oblation in the monastery’s main church.
Metropolitan Theodosius Officiates
On Holy Thursday morning, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS presided at the Vesperal Divine Liturgy during which the Holy Chrism is consecrated.
“During the Great Entrance, the vessel of Holy Chrism was carried together with the bread and wine to be offered in the Eucharist,” Fr Martin explains. “Before receiving the chalice and diskos, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS accepted the vessel of Chrism and placed it on the altar. After the consecration of the Holy Gifts, the Holy Chrism was consecrated with the recitation of two brief prayers.”
“After the Liturgy, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS poured a few drops of the old Holy Chrism into the vessel and poured new Chrism into the container of old Chrism,” Fr Martin added.
In addition to many area faithful who had the opportunity to witness this rare ritual, priests from throughout the northeastern region of the US traveled to Saint Tikhon’s during the first three days of Holy Week to participate in the rite and to assist in the continual stirring of the sacred mixture.
Containers of Holy Chrism will be distributed to all diocesan hierarchs for distribution to their respective parishes.