Oil has a lot of significance in the Bible. It’s used to anoint kings, in sacrifices, to pray for the sick, and to signify joy and abundance.
So it’s no wonder that the Catholic Church also holds oil in high regard. Blessed or consecrated oil is used in various sacraments including baptism, confirmation and Anointing of the Sick.
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The Three Oils Used In The Catholic Church?
The Catholic Church only uses olive oil in various sacraments. But, depending on the occasion and what the oil is intended for, there are three different types of olive oil.
- Oil of the Catechumens
- Holy Chrism oil
- Oil of the sick
Oil of the Catechumens
The Oil of the Catechumens is used during the rite and sacrament of baptism. It is applied to both adults and children before they undergo the sacrament.
The Oil of the Catechumens strengthens the spirits of those to be baptized, helping them ward off evil attacks that might prevent you from seeking salvation and committing to the Church.
When anointing someone with the Oil of Catechumens (by making the sign of the cross on their forehead), the priest will utter the following words:
We anoint you with the oil of salvation in the name of Christ our Savior; may He strengthen you with His power, who lives and reigns forever and ever.
For infants and children, the priest applies the oil just before they are immersed into the water or sprinkled with water.
Adults are usually anointed with the Oil of the Catechumens a little longer before the baptism, during the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults or RCIA.
They can also be anointed with the oil again just before baptism.
The Oil of Catechumens consists of pure olive oil that has been blessed by the Bishop during the Chrism mass.
Holy Chrism Oil
Holy Chrism Oil is used in three different sacraments.
It is used during baptism alongside the Oil of Catechumens. But while the Oil of Catechumens is used before baptism, the priest anoints adults and infants with the Holy Chrism oil after baptism.
The priest will make the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead using the oil and say these words:
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints with the Chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of His Body, sharing everlasting life. Amen
The Holy Chrism Oil signifies the acceptance of salvation and the Holy Spirit. It marks you as a believer.
Here are other instances when the Holy Chrism Oil is used.
- During the rite of confirmation, the priest will anoint the person with the Chrism oil and say these words: Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
- The other sacrament where the Holy Chrism Oil is used is Holy Orders. This is the ordination of a clergy. The bishop will anoint the priest’s hands with the oil or the head if it’s a bishop getting ordained.
- Holy Chrism Oil is also used during the dedication of a church. It is applied on the walls and altar.
Holy Chrism Oil consists of olive oil mixed with aromatic resin (balsam). It is consecrated by the Bishop during the Chrism mass.
Oil Of The Sick
The last oil used in the catholic church is the Oil of the Sick.
As the name suggests, this oil is used in only one sacrament – the anointing of the sick. This is in keeping with what the Apostles and early church did.
James 5:14: Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
During the sacrament, the priest anoints the sick person with the oil and says special prayers to give them strength and bring them healing.
Oil of the sick consists of pure olive oil that’s been blessed.
What Is The Chrism Mass?
The oils used in the Catholic church are not just any oils. They’ve been blessed or consecrated by a bishop.
This happens during the Chrism mass, which is usually held on Holy Thursday.
During this mass, all the oil to be used in different churches and institutions is brought before the bishop.
The bishop blesses the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens, and concentrates the Holy Chrism Oil.
It’s actually during the consecration that olive oil is mixed with balsam to make the fragrant Chrism oil.
The oils are then distributed to parishes, churches, and other places where they are used in sacraments throughout the year.
Why Does The Catholic Church Use Oil?
The use of oil goes all the way back to the new testament. It’s used in many rituals to purify, sanctify, dedicate, and anoint.
For example, it was common for kings to be anointed with oil before they assumed power. Here’s 1 Kings 1:39.
Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!”
Oil was also used to cleanse and dedicate inanimate objects like Jacob did after he’d seen the stairway to heaven in his dream.
Genesis 28:18: Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.
Olive oil was also commonly added to sacrifices brought before the Lord.
In the new Testament, oil is used when praying for the sick.
Oil is also a powerful symbol in the Bible. Multiple verses used the word to signify abundance, the Holy Spirit, joy and dedication.
In today’s church, oil serves the same purposes. It is a continuation of the practice of anointing, dedicating, and cleansing people and objects with oil.
It’s also a symbol of God’s presence, good health, joy, salvation, strength, and righteousness.
Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about these oils.
CCC 1294: The pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of catechumens signifies cleansing and strengthening; the anointing of the sick expresses healing and comfort. The post-baptismal anointing with sacred chrism in Confirmation and ordination is the sign of consecration.