top of page

Blessing and use of oils for anointing

Traditionally there are three types of oils:

Oil of Chrism – used in confirmation and ordination

Oil of the Catechumens – used in baptism

Oil of the Sick – used for anointing those who are sick


In the Bible, anointing with special oil was used to sanctify, that is, to set a person or object apart as holy.  Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed, as well as the equipment used in the Tabernacle.  The recipe for anointing oil can be found at Exodus 30: 22-25.  The Letter of James (James 5:14-15) instructs the elders of the church to lay hands on the sick and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.


Blessing at the Chrism Mass

The oils are blessed (each with a particular prayer) at the Chrism Mass which takes place during Holy Week (traditionally on Maundy Thursday).  The word “chrism” means anointing.  This is also the service at which clergy renew their ordination vows.  It is presided over by the Bishop, and the blessing of oils is one of the functions that are reserved to bishops.


After the Chrism Mass, these oils are distributed to every ministry unit (parish or chaplaincy) in the diocese.  This is also a way in which the connection between the bishop and the various ministry units is renewed and strengthened.  It demonstrates the unity of the church.  This is particularly so in Waiapu, where clergy from this diocese and our corresponding Hui Amorangi gather together under one of the bishops for Chrism Masses in Hawkes Bay, Tairawhiti, and the Bay of Plenty.


Use in ministry – types of occasions

Baptism:  When someone (whether child or adult) is baptised, they are anointed with the Oil of the Catechumens.  This happens at the words “we sign you with the cross, the sign of Christ.”  (ANZPB p 386).  This makes visible the connection with Christ that baptism confers.  St Augustine of Hippo said that all Christians are “Christs” because of the sacramental anointing that happens at baptism, just as all are “priests” since they are members of the one Priest. (City of God, XX.10)


Confirmation and Ordination: when a person is confirmed and when someone is ordained they are anointed with the Oil of Chrism.  This oil is reserved for the use of bishops, just as the sacramental actions of confirmation and ordination are reserved for bishops.  The Oil of Chrism is also used for the consecration of church buildings and the blessing of altars – functions which are also reserved to bishops.


Healing: When someone is in need of healing, whether of body, mind, or spirit, they are anointed using the Oil of the Sick.  This can also be used with the dying.  The anointing provides a vivid, sacramental expression of God’s love in time of sickness.


The service used in the case of anointing for healing is “The Ministry of Healing,” ANZPB pp738-746.  This ministry could take place in a special healing service, in a home communion, or be offered to people in a time of prayer ministry which happens during communion in a regular Sunday or midweek Eucharist.


Who is given authority to use these oils and in what setting

Anointing at Baptism – priests and deacons who officiate at the baptism

Anointing at Confirmation and Ordination – bishops

Anointing for Healing – this may be carried out by a priest, or deacon, or by a layperson duly authorised by the bishop – i.e. a licensed lay minister whose licence specifically covers anointing.  (This is one of the possible ministries which come under a licence for pastoral care.)


Authorised lay people must use the oil blessed by the bishop and given to their parish (via the parish clergy) each year at Holy Week.  This oil is kept in a central place in the parish.   


Only the oils blessed by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass are to be used.  As noted above, these oils are made using the biblical recipe and blessed using the appropriate prayers.  (If any parish runs out of oil, they should check whether their neighbouring parishes have any to spare before requesting extra via the Bishop’s office.)


How unused oils are to be disposed of each Holy Week

Fresh oil is blessed at each Holy Week, and given to clergy at one of the Chrism Masses.  Oil that has been blessed in previous years should be disposed of reverently and appropriately at that time, so that the new oil is used from then on.   Oil is disposed of by burning or it may be poured into the ground near the church building (this is similar to the way excess ash from Ash Wednesday is disposed of).  One useful option is to soak the oil into cotton or paper and place it in the New Fire which is lit at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night.  Some clergy may choose to dispose of holy oil by burning it with the palm crosses to make the Ash Wednesday ash.  It can also be buried by digging a hole in the ground near the church and pouring the oils in.




106 views0 comments


bottom of page