Praying 10 Minutes a Day: Holy Week/ Tuesday

In Holy Week, in every diocese, the bishop blesses and consecrates the holy oils to be used for the sacraments of initiation (baptism and confirmation) at the Easter Vigil and for the celebration of the sacraments through the year until next Easter. The oils are pictured here in vessels bearing the initials of their titles, in Latin:

Oleum Catechumenorum - OC - Oil of Catechumens
for anointing those who are preparing for baptism

Sacra Chrisma - SC - Sacred Chrism
for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders

Oleum Infirmorum - OI - Oil of the sick
for anointing those who are seriously ill


Anointing with oil is something done in many faiths for many reasons.  Of course, we anoint ourselves all the time, even if not always for religious purposes.

We coat ourselves in suntan lotion for protection from the sun's rays..  We apply creams and slaves to soothe a burn or rash.  We anoint ourselves with perfumes and aftershave to make ourselves smell good and pleasing.  Royalty are anointed to their identity as king or queen.  It's not all that unusual, then, that religious practices should take hold of such anointings and appropriate them for ritual purposes.

The oil of catechumens anoints those to be baptized to make them strong in the struggle against evil.  Sacred chrism identifies us as a priestly people, confirms the baptismal life within us through the Spirit's gifts and orders some among us for service as priests at the altar - all the while making those anointed sweet and pleasing with its dark fragrance.  The oil of the sick heals through strengthening those who are weak in body and spirit.

Some who read these words might be anointed this week in preparation for baptism at the Vigil on Saturday night -- when they will be anointed with chrism to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Today I have an appointment to anoint a parishioner who's illness has required hospitalization.

Today my bishop will bless the oils my parish will use for celebrating the sacraments between this Holy Week and Easter 2013.

It's likely that you have been (and will be) anointed with these oils in your life as a Christian.  Although these oils are used for the celebration of the sacraments, we often find ourselves in need of the Spirit's anointing...

As I go to pray today, I might reflect on these thoughts...

Has my spiritual life become dry, even withered?  
Is my spirit in need of anointing
to soften what has become leathery,
to smooth what has become rough?

Do I need anointing to protect me 
lest I become chafed or burned
by the heat of each day's concerns? 
each night's worries? 

Do I need to inhale an aroma
strong enough, gentle enough,
to waken me to the fragrance of God's presence
all around me?

Do I need an anointing 
to strengthen my limbs for reaching out to others?
to penetrate muscles sore from carrying my heart's burdens?
to empower my soul to be more faithful?

Have I forgotten who I am as God's child?
as God's beloved? as the apple of God's eye?
Have I forgotten that I'm anointed as the Lord's own,
as a member of his body,
of his priestly people anointed for Gospel service?

What in my life, today, needs the anointing of God's Spirit?
What weakness needs to be strengthened in me, today?
What roughness needs to be smoothed in me, today?
What vulnerability in my heart needs protection, today?
What confusion in my mind needs the anointing of God's wisdom, today?
What old hurt or sin needs the anointing of God's mercy, today?

What in the lives of those around me
needs the anointing of my word, my hand, my love,

Be still... and know that God's anointing breath is upon you...
Be still... and soak in the anointing peace of God's presence...
Be still... and be softened by the anointing power of God's strength...

Are you new to "Praying 10 Minutes a Day in Lent" - or are you having trouble getting started?  The first installment offers some thoughts on getting started, as do the subsequent posts in the series.  So take a look and join us!   


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