Last spring, more than 2,000 people from every corner of the Diocese of Nashville filled Sagrado Corazon Church at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville for the Chrism Mass on the Wednesday of Holy Week.
“It’s a wonderful occasion we’ve already made a diocesan-wide event,” said Bishop J. Mark Spalding.
But it can also be a tiring event, especially for those traveling the farthest to attend, Bishop Spalding said.
To give people and the pastors a bit of a break between the Chrism Mass and the important, lengthy, complex liturgies of the Easter Triduum, the diocese is moving the Chrism Mass in 2020 from the Wednesday of Holy Week to Tuesday, April 7. It again will be celebrated at Sagrado Corazon.
Last year’s event included not only the Mass but tours of the Catholic Pastoral Center beforehand and a reception afterwards.
For those priests and parishioners who are as much as a one-and-a-half hour drive from Nashville, “it puts them back very late at night and walking right into the Triduum,” Bishop Spalding said. “That’s a very tiring challenge.”
Although they don’t have the long drive to and from the Chrism Mass, the bishop and his staff at the Catholic Pastoral Center have the same challenge, he said. The Triduum, beginning the evening of Holy Thursday and ending the evening of Easter Sunday, Bishop Spalding said, features “Three days of the most intensive liturgies I do as a bishop.”
Celebrating the Chrism Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week is something that is common among other dioceses around the country, Bishop Spalding noted.
The oldest tradition is for the Chrism Mass to be celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday. But if it is difficult for the clergy and people to attend at that time, the rubrics for the Chrism Mass allow for it to be celebrated on another day near Easter.
The Chrism Mass is an ancient rite that features two main events. The first is the blessing of the oils used in sacraments and liturgies throughout the year.
The Oil of the Catechumens is used for anointing children and others coming into the Church through Baptism. The Oil of the Infirmed is used in the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The Oil of Chrism is used in the anointing of priests, deacons and confirmands, as well as the altars and walls of a church that is being consecrated.
After the Mass, the oils are divided among the pastors, who bring them back to their parishes to be used in the coming year.
At the Chrism Mass, “all the activity of Prophet, Priest and King in our diocese are before us in the form of the oils,” Bishop Spalding said. “The oils are a constant reminder of the various ministries of service and healing in the diocese.”
The second unique event that occurs during the Chrism Mass is the priests of the diocese renew their priestly promises, first made at their ordinations.
With both the consecration of the oils and the renewal of priestly promises, “We’re rejoicing in the gift of the Diocese of Nashville,” Bishop Spalding said. “It’s a great night.”