by Father Steven Voytovich, Dean of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary
During Holy Week 2017, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, celebrated the Rite of Consecration of Holy Chrism at the Monastery Church of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, South Canaan, PA. The Consecration of Holy Chrism, which is used to receive those who are newly baptized and those being received into the Orthodox Faith, is a rite reserved for the Primates of autocephalous Churches. [See related story.]
In glimpsing God’s hand present in the preparation of Holy Chrism, a most significant group of witnesses and participants were present. Our first Orthodox Christians in the new land from Alaska were represented at the consecration by Archpriest Peter Chris from Saint Innocent Cathedral, Anchorage, AK and Priest Vasily Fisher from Saint James Church, Napaskiak, AK. Among the clergy who stirred the Chrism during the week were descendants of Orthodox Christian immigrants to America and converts to the Orthodox Faith. Finally, we were blessed by the presence of Archimandrite Philip [Mugadizi], Deputy Dean of the Patriarchal Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya, from the Patriarchate of Alexandria, who came to observe and participate in the preparation of Holy Chrism.
Archpriest Joseph Martin has led the work of preparing Holy Chrism, under the Metropolitan’s oversight, since at least 1999. He shared that over 50 clergy came to assist in the preparation of the Holy Chrism this year. Among them were clergy from Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary and Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, OCA hierarchs, and clergy from across the Church. As is evident from the photos, one priest read the Gospels continuously while the other stirred the mixture of olive oil, wine, and many oils and essences that is heated over a burner. During services, one priest continually stirred the mixture. When the essences and oils were added, the church was filled with the fragrance of the Holy Chrism!
The preparation began on the morning of Great and Holy Monday as Metropolitan Tikhon blessed the ingredients. Priest Basil Ferguson, a third-year Saint Tikhon’s seminarian, assisted Father Joseph during the course of the days of preparation. Additions were made periodically as the preparation continued to cook, concluding on Great and Holy Wednesday afternoon, when the mixture was allowed to rest. Later that evening, the Holy Chrism was poured into a number of jars.
The process of preparation was completed during the Vesperal Liturgy of Great and Holy Thursday concelebrated by Metropolitan Tikhon and His Eminence, Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey, Rector of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary. Archpriest Eric Tosi, OCA Secretary, and Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak, Secretary to the Metropolitan, were among the concelebrating clergy. At the Great Entrance, clergy carried the jars of newly prepared Holy Chrism, led by Father Joseph, who carried an historic jar of Holy Chrism given by the Russian Orthodox Church when autocephaly was conferred. The jars were then placed on the altar table.
Later on during the Liturgy, the lids were removed from the jars. Before the Litany preceding the Lord’s Prayer, Metropolitan Tikhon blessed the contents of each jar three times. At the end of the Liturgy, the process was completed. A few drops of the historic Holy Chrism were placed in each jar of the new Holy Chrism, after which a few drops from each of the jars were replaced in the historic jar.
This Holy Chrism will be used to receive all those being baptized into the Orthodox Faith in the Orthodox Church in America in the coming years, along with those being received in like manner into the Orthodox Faith. This Holy Chrism has been lovingly and prayerfully prepared by the hands of many in our Church. Thank you to all who assisted in this most holy action of our Church, and thank God for the blessing of being able to participate in this essential effort during Holy Week.
- Holy Chrism Prepared by Primate of the Orthodox Church in America
- Vesperal Divine Liturgy includes completion of Holy Chrism preparation