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St Patrick’s Cathedral was today the venue for Archbishop Peter Comensoli to concelebrate his first annual Chrism Mass, or the Mass of the Holy Oils, inside Melbourne’s minor basilica. An integral element of Holy Week, the Mass sees the blessing of the oils that are used for anointing the newly baptised, to seal candidates for confirmation and those ordained to the priesthood.
As part of the liturgy, the occasion also marked the Archbishop’s opportunity to invite the priests of the diocese to renew their vows and encourage the congregation inside the cathedral to pray for their priests.
After welcoming those in attendance, Archbishop Comensoli's introductory address offered an emotional reflection on the fire that had engulfed Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Soon after, the Archbishop’s homily fittingly resonated the theme of rebuilding from the ashes as he explored the ashes of abuse and how ‘these oils, like liquid promises, are for us…’ and can strengthen and bind the Church.
‘Those among us whose daily existence is marked by the scourge of abuse in its many forms, but especially where that abuse – and its unbelief – has been inflicted within the Body of Christ, know only too well what it means for your lives to be turned to as,’ said Archbishop Comensoli.
‘Abuse is an entirely destructive force; it consumes people and families and communities in its wake. It deprives those of you whom it inflicts of the oxygen you need to breathe in the loveliness of life. And when life is stripped of its loveliness, we take on an ashen complexion.’
‘It seems to me, dear friends in Christ, that, living in this ashen time, the mourning robe of grief has wrapped itself tightly around us. Wherever you turn there are wounds being inflicted upon you, God’s beloved. You carry these wounds with such an ache in your heart, for it is your own flesh and blood that receives the sting. A spiritual and existential grief has gripped us, and it can feel unrelenting,’ he continued.
Archbishop Comensoli’s homily then asked his fellow clergy how they might move forward during such trying times. ‘Ashen; grieving; despondent’, posited the Archbishop, ‘these seem apt words for our time and circumstances.’
‘Yet, it is precisely into the midst of these debilitating realities that Jesus was anointed and sent: to show a path to life to those wandering the valley of death, to recover a reason for joy in those consumed by grief, to offer a word of encouragement to those for whom hope has waned,’ he said.
‘The way of the Lord whom we seek to follow – whether as laity, religious, or ordained – is a “from-to” path: from ash to garland; from grief to gladness; from despondency to praise … It is these three ways that Jesus is offering us today. They are appropriately symbolised in the oils to be blessed and used throughout our local Church in Melbourne in the coming year,’ said Archbishop Comensoli, proudly.
‘So, may our broken hearts find mending in faithful joy; may our loss of energy be reinvigorated by gospel boldness; and may our ashen complexions come to shine with divine loveliness. In faith, with hope and from love, God is inviting us to share in the promise of life in his Son. This is not an unrealistic invitation, for it comes from the heart of the One who made us for loveliness, gladness, and praise,’ he concluded.
With Mass continuing following the blessing of the oils, the focus of those filling the pews turned to communion while the oils were carefully transported to the rear of the cathedral to a team of Archdiocesan employees who delicately bottled the oils for parishes throughout the Archdiocese.