Argyll & the Isles celebrated their Chrism Mass on 9th April with a warm and beautiful liturgy in St. Columba’s Cathedral. Bishop Joseph Toal was joined by priests from across the diocese, members of religious communities and parishioners from a wide number of parishes. The music for the liturgy was provided by members of the Diocesan choir, who had also come from far and wide to give their support, with Fr. Michael Hutson as organist.
The opening procession of clergy to the sanctuary was accompanied by the singing of Newman’s great hymn “Praise to the Holiest”. After Bishop Toal’s welcome to all who had made the effort to be present, the plainsong Kyrie from the Missa Orbis Factor was sung. The sense of joyful celebration was marked by the sung Gloria (Schutte). The Responsorial Psalm (Marty Haugen’s setting of Ps.62) was sung by seminarian Emmanuel Onyekachi Alagbaoso from Nigeria.
As the oils were brought up to the altar for blessing by the Bishop, the choir led the congregation in singing what was probably for most of them a new but very appropriate hymn – “Sunlight makes the olive fruitful” (by Brian Luckner), sung to the tune of “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus”.
The music for the Communion Rite was a mix of the new (Lord, I give my life to You) and the old (Soul of my Saviour). Bishop Toal sang the final blessing dialogue with enthusiastic responses from the congregation, before the Mass ended with the uplifting sound of “Hail, Redeemer, King Divine”, and the congregation made its way to the Cathedral hall for a refreshing cup of tea and a bite to eat, to set them up for their return journeys.
In his homily this year, Bishop Toal drew attention to the fact that all of the Mass speaks of the anointing of Jesus as the Christ, and the readings of the Mass resonated with references to anointings. We honour the Lord because he has washed away our sins and put us in a right relationship with God. It is tremendous to share in these days of Lent and Holy Week and we should use them to express our love for the Lord.
The Holy Oils, brought to the altar for blessing before their use in the sacraments, in turn speak to us of the Lord’s goodness. The ministry of the priest, the Bishop reminded the congregation, is essential for the sacraments, and each year the priests come to the Chrism Mass to ask the Lord that they may become more conformed to his likeness, and able to give themselves for the joy of the Gospel. It is a difficult commitment, and Bishop Toal asked the congregation to pray for their priests and support them. It was good to come together this year and every year – Bishop, priests and people – for this celebration of the Eucharist and to pray for each other.