Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

“Hail, Holy Chrism”

Today is Maundy Thursday and the day in which the the Holy Oils are blessed or, in the case of the Chrism, consecrated.

Last year I came across the following blog post from 2018 on Modern Medievalism about the history and evolution of the Chrism Mass both in the traditional form and in the 1955 revision of the Triduum. It is, I think, very well worth taking time to read and to share:

"Hail, holy chrism": on the Chrism Mass and the stuff that ... - Modern Medievalism

The only point where I would dissent is at the very end and would be to recommend watching film of the actual Coronation in 1953 rather than a very dubious Netflix re-enactment like “The Crown”...

I have, I think, attended four Chrism Masses.

The first was in 1997 when I went along to the Oxford Oratory to observe the celebration of a Chrism Mass for this part of his diocese by Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville of Birmingham early in Holy Week.  Amongst the concelebrating priests was the supervisor of my research Fr Norman Tanner SJ and the fairly recently conditionally ordained Fr Graham Leonard - by an unconscious irony he was standing next to the Archbishop’s crosier. I noted in particular on that occasion the coloured veils or coenopia over the three receptacles for the oils.

Bishop ( now Mgr) Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet celebrated his Chrism Mass at Pusey House in 2003 in what was very much a ‘big production’ for the House. Preparations were extensive with the Sacristan rearranging all the seating in the main chapel to accommodate the Ebbsfleet clergy in a ‘choir’ and the Principal, Fr Jonathan Baker, going off to buy balsam and describing sampling ingredients and their scent with the help of a shop assistant here in Oxford. I think I served as thurifer on the actual day. I remember at the liturgy the Sacristan having to go and tell the Bishop to stop exchanging the sign of peace with his clergy and to get on with the fraction....

On two occasions I travelled up to the 

Ordinariate Chrism Mass celebrated at St James Spanish Place by the Papal Nuncio, although on both occasions I was too far back in the congregation to to see much of the detail of the rite.

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