Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday: Oil of Chrism, feet to wash, people to serve

The great story of the Easter Triduum – the Great Three Days – begins once again.

Tonight is Maundy Thursday, and we have feet to wash, the Holy Eucharist to celebrate, and people to serve.

For me, Maundy Thursday began with a one-hour car ride with Father Nik to to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Culpeper, where Bishop Shannon Johnston led the assembled clergy in renewing our ordination vows.

I’ve spent much of the week with Fr. Nik, and we’ve shared a few laughs, a few stories, and a fair amount of coffee. We have celebrated together the Holy Eucharist each day since Palm Sunday. We didn’t plan it this way; it just happened to work out that way. But that is one of the graces of Holy Week – not everything is planned.

At the service in Culpeper, Bishop Shannon blessed a container of olive oil, as is the custom each year on Maundy Thursday. The Holy Oil, or “Oil of Chrism,” was then put into small bottles for us to take back to our churches (photo above).  Later, I will be scenting the oil with a few drops of nard oil – the type of oil used to anoint Jesus before he died on the Cross.

We will use the oil to bless people at their baptism, and to bless the sick and dying. And we will use the oil every Sunday in the chapel for healing prayers during the 10 am worship service. We use a lot of Holy Oil at St. Paul’s.

The oil is a reminder of the connection we share with each other through the blessing of our bishop, and a reminder that we share our ancient faith with millions of people who have come before us. The Holy Oil is especially a reminder of the real presence of the Risen Christ who is within us, holding us up, and walking with us in all of our joys and sorrows.

Bishop Shannon gave a short homily for the assembled clergy. He reminded us that  “something happened to you at your ordination.” We were changed, made into something new.  He reminded us that like Holy Oil, our ordination is a living remembrance of the Risen Christ within us, holding us up, and walking with us. “Your ordination is God’s accomplishment,” he said.

Tonight we have feet to wash, the Holy Eucharist to celebrate, and people to serve. Blessed be the One Holy and Living God.

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

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