Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Holy Mystery of Chrismation

The Holy Mystery of Chrismation, instituted by Christ, has its origin in the early Church, integrally connected to the laying on of hands, the symbolic gesture of imparting the life of the Holy Spirit by the bishop, Successor to the Apostles. In ancient times Baptism was viewed as beginning this initial relationship in the life of Christ, sealed by the laying on of hands and Chrism (the most sacred of the holy oils) by the bishop, thereby receiving the fullness of the life of the Spirit. The holy mystery of Chrismation historically should follow the reception of holy baptism, since these two sacraments are linked intimately together and allow one to enter into the fullness of the holy Faith. Once one had been baptized and chrismated, he or she was permitted to feast at the Table of the Lord and receive the holy Eucharist. As one professor of Liturgy taught me some time ago "we are washed, rubbed and fed" in the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation. 

In the Eastern Churches, because they have not deviated from the correct historical order of the Sacraments of Initiation, it became obvious that the presence of the bishop was not possible at every baptism and chrismation. Therefore holy Chrism or Myron remains the sign of the laying on of hands, since it is the oil consecrated by the bishop, a "mixture of forty sweet-smelling substances and pure olive oil...with some older Chrism added, in the belief that some trace of the original chrism consecrated by the Apostles is contained therein," [Sokolof, Archpriest Demetrii, (1899) Manual of the Orthodox Church's Divine Services and Gialopsos, Philip G. (1997) The Seven Sacraments of the Greek Orthodox Church, 35].

Priests in the Eastern Churches are universally delegated by their respective Churches to administer the Holy Mystery of Chrismation because of the historical correct order in which it should be received, but more importantly because of its theological significance as the link between holy baptism and the holy Eucharist intiating one into the fullness of the Church's life and Faith. In some traditions, the holy myron, with the antimension, is presented to the priest, demonstrating the unity of the Church through the bishop, Successors to the Apostles, as sign of the continuity existing in the Apostolic Faith as passed down through the ages.

The Administration of the Holy Mystery:

In the Eastern Churches, the priest anoints the recipient of holy chrismation with the holy Chrism/Myron making the sign of the holy cross on the forehead, eyes, ears, nostrils, breasts, back, hands and feet. In each instance he is chanting: "The seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit." 

Holy Chrismation completes, seals, what had begun in baptism. It imparts an increase of special graces and the strengthens one with the Gifts of the All Holy and Life Giving Spirit, thereby deepening the graces granted at baptism.

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
1. Wisdom
2. Understanding
3. Counsel 
4. Fortitude
5. Knowledge
6. Piety
7. Reverential Fear of the Lord

O Heavenly King, Consoler, Spirit of Truth, 
present in all places, and filling all things; 
You are the Treasury of Graces and the Giver of Life, 
come dwell in us, cleanse of all stain, 
and save our souls O good One. 
(Prayer prior to the beginning of the Eastern Divine Liturgy)

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