The Chrism Mass in the Archdiocese of Glasgow was celebrated in St. Andrew’s Cathedral on Holy Thursday by Archbishop Conti, together with a large number of diocesan priests and an encouragingly strong congregation for a weekday service even in Holy Week.
The short rehearsal before the Mass was followed by choir music – ‘You alone are holy’ with its verse from Psalm 70, Palestrina’s O Bone Jesu and the old Scots favourite ‘Brother James’ Air’ – to help create a prayerful atmosphere.
The service began with the St. Mungo Singers leading the congregation in the singing of Noel Donnelly’s Song of Healing whose words are particularly appropriate for this Mass at which the various Oils used in the sacraments are blessed, and the priests of the Archdiocese renew their promises:-
“Bless us with your oil of gladness
Seal us with your fragrant balm
Make us whole. Strengthen our faith
Anoint us with oil for your service, Lord
Kings, priests and prophets to serve you, Lord.”
The music of the Mass reflected this theme of consecration, both of the Oils and of the faithful, priests and laity. The psalm for the day was Psalm 88, in the new setting by Fr. Gerry Fitzpatrick, with its reference to the anointing of David with holy oil. As the oils were brought to the sanctuary, the processional hymn “Veni, veni” reflected on the actions of the Holy Spirit throughout the history of salvation and continuing today. The recessional hymn ‘Go, Spread my Word’ invited all present to go forth and witness to the Gospel.
In his homily, Archbishop Conti made reference to the recent Poverty Truth Commission meeting in Glasgow, an occasion which had caused him to reflect on the poverty which is a social and cultural reality in Glasgow. Some of those taking part in the event had visited Malawi and seen for themselves the great material poverty there but had been struck by the joy of those communities in spite of their poverty. They came away with the realisation that this was because the people supported each other. This was quite different from the culture in the affluent West where an aggressive individualism was leading to so many problems.
While the Church pursues a heavenly kingdom, it still must do this by engaging with and preaching in the secular world, and it must be light for the world. For the laity, their rights and duties as Christians and as citizens are different, but they must strive to harmonise them in conscience in a secular society which provides no values for the individual. For the priest, his purpose can be said to be set out in the readings of the Chrism Mass.