9 April 2009

Chrismatic Communio

In antiquity, the Bishop of Rome used to send a fragment of the Host, each Sunday, to each of the presbyters of the Roman title churches as a sign of his Communio with them ... and of his own Eucharistic presidency. It was commingled with the chalice at the Fraction; the origin, in fact, of the Commixture which has bravely survived Bugnini and still exists even in the Ordinary Form.

A little while ago, Bishop Andrew reminded us that it is not good enough just to have any old validly consecrated Chrism around; the Chrism in fact functions now as a expression and diagnostic of Communio. The C of E never has had proper incardination; the Tudor Establishment preserved the old medieval bureaucratic legalities (Gregory Dix liked to point out that the Church of England is riddled with more unreformed medievalisms than any other body in Christendom). But whose oils one uses in the radically liminal rites of Initiation shows which Bishop one is a presbyter of.

Sometimes our Traditionalist English bishops refer to their clergy as "Clergy who look to me". Perhaps a crisper, more theological, more sacramental, formula would be "Clergy who receive my Chrism".

I think it's a good point. 'Whose Chrism' is so much better an indication of a presbyter's ecclesial location than legal pieces of paper like licences. Chrism, after all, is not about lawyers but about the sacramental structure of Christ's Church.

Bishop Andrew, it seems, will have had about 150ish priests at his Chrism Masses. These PEVdoms seem to compare very favourably with the size of dioceses in some parts of the anglican Communion.


William said...

What a very useful criterion. Catholic Anglican clergy being awkward blighters who hate being pigeon-holed, it seems to me that a consistent weakness of the constituency is the inability to determine unambiguously who, when the chips are down, is "on board" and who isn't. Resolutions A, B and/or C? Member of FiF, or SSC? On the PEV's mailing list? Attend one of the "alternative" chapters? Go to the PEV's Chrism mass (but also attend the diocesan one)? Mention the PEV in the Canon (again, sometimes along with the Diocesan)? These and all sorts of other possible criteria will always produce anomalies. But "Whose Chrism do you receive?" can only have one answer, and will reveal a priest's sacramental and ecclesiological position more clearly than anything else (more clearly, perhaps, than he himself knows).

123 said...

Within Orthodoxy this is definitely the case. Unlike an antimension or other even required 'things' for proper service as Church, oil runs out sooner or later and must be replaced. In Orthodoxy, only a head of a local church (and not all of them, even) can consecrate Holy Chrism. In reunions, who consecrates the chrism says a great deal about who is in charge - it can be a difficult thing for one to cease consecrating one's own chrism and to start receiving it.

"While any bishop is empowered to Consecrate the Chrism, so long as he adds to the existing stock; in practice the Consecration is reserved to the Primates who preside over the local autocephalous churches. Traditionally, the Consecration of Chrism occurs during Holy Week. The preparation of the Chrism begins on Great Monday, using a recipe based upon the Anointing Oil consecrated by Moses (Exodus 30:22) Then, on Great Thursday the Patriarch or Metropolitan will consecrate the Chrism. Chrism is not consecrated every year, but only according to need. The Patriarch or Metropolitan will normally make a formal announcement beforehand when there is going to be a Consecration of Chrism." (Wikipedia, "Consecration")

Here is an article from the Greek Archdiocese:


Chris said...

How big are these vessels, if they supply the entire Greek Orthodox church for a decade or so?

123 said...

Not that much chrism is used when it is used, and there aren't all that many Orthodox under the jurisdiction of Constantinople anymore. Russia is itself larger a church than all the other churches combined, for instance, and the Patriarch of Moscow consecrates his own chrism. I'm not sure who does and does not consecrate their own chrism rather than receiving it from others. I think Alexandria gets it from the EP, for instance.

I was trying to find a link to a photo of a consecration of chrism in the Orthodox Church, but can't. I remember them looking like the sort of baptismal fonts you find in the Orthodox Church (big enough to immerse a baby in) to the size of the sort of water jars one sees in drawings of the Wedding at Cana.

There is also mention made of new chrism being added to old chrism. Not sure if that is just as the Patriarch consecrates it or in the parishes. If in the parishes, they could be adding a small amount of chrism to more of another oil thus making the chrism 'go further'. This is similar to the 'dilution' that happens at the Orthodox Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts when a small portion of dried, intincted bread is added to unconsecrated wine and hot water for the communion during the week, during Great Lent - no 'new' bread or wine is consecrated into the Body and Blood of Christ.