The sight of a packed church, with people standing in the aisles, and full sanctuary at this service gave a visible witness of the Church and Diocese united in prayer and worship as we began the Triduum. The St Mungo Singers and Dr. Noel Donnelly had set the atmosphere as the congregation gathered with welcoming music including Catherine Walker’s lovely Come now to me, my child, the Quinn/Joncas anthem This Day God Gives me and two classic pieces, Handel’s Lord, I Trust Thee and Bach’s O Sacred Head. It was good to see groups from primary and secondary schools in the Diocese among the congregation. Then as Archbishop Tartaglia and Archbishop Emeritus Conti led in the priests of the diocese, the congregation joined in singing Stephen Smyth’s setting of the Canticle from the Letter to the Colossians.
Archbishop Tartaglia welcomed everyone with evident pleasure, particularly the school students. For those of the students who had not previously been at the Chrism Mass, he highlighted two aspects of the service. The first was the large number of priests present. This, he said, was because priests are the core of the service: Holy Thursday was when the priesthood was conferred on the apostles by Christ, and priests are invited at the Chrism Mass to renew their priestly promises which in fact they do every day in their service of their communities.
For them, he said, Holy Thursday is a solemn and emotional day when they remember the day of their ordination. They thank God for being chosen as ministers of his love and mercy, they ask pardon for their human failings and they (and we) pray for more vocations. It was good, said the Archbishop, to be able to welcome two new priests in the Archdiocese since last year.
The second aspect Archbishop Tartaglia highlighted was the blessing of the oils which would take place during the Mass. These oils are used in the sacraments and it is fitting that their blessing takes place in Holy Week when we remember the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord, for it is from the cross that all graces and sacraments flow. The cross is a profound mystery which is at the core of our faith. We need to recapture a sense of mystery, wonder, glory and beauty.
For priests, it is a privilege, responsibility and joy to celebrate the sacraments. They are not priests for themselves but for Christ, his church and their brothers and sisters in faith. They are ordained to be like the Lord, and the Archbishop invited all present to pray for them.
As the Mass continued, there was a tangible feeling of wholehearted participation by the congregation and clergy as they prayed and sang, and it was a great preparation for their Holy Thursday Masses in their own parishes that evening.