Four thousand priests renew their vows in the heart of the Church.
We’re at the rock.
Over the bones in whom He started it all over 2000 years ago, is where this Triduum retreat begins.
Curls of incense, rustles of cassocks, hands in prayer, faces smiling, pensive, praying, wondering, hoping.
It’s the Chrism mass at St Peter’s Basilica.
Over four thousand priests process up the aisle, soon to renew their vows. Great silver vases filled with oil – of catechumens, infirm and holy chrism – are escorted by deacons.
Great shafts of light beam through the age old windows, illuminating the gold tipped altar.
The altar is incensed by Francis, and the mass begins; a sea of faithful faces joined before Christ.
In the gospel Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah…
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
He tells them in the Synagogue: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."
It’s a "priceless treasure" he exclaims. "Not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God: that faithful people from which he is called to be anointed and which he, in turn, is sent to anoint."
This priestly joy which anoints is "imperishable", "missionary" and "guarded", he says. "One guarded by the flock but also guarded by three sisters who surround it, tend it and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience."
He prays for the zeal of all priests, young and old.
Then priestly vows are renewed and the oils are blessed.
Today amidst marble arches, scenes and saints of old, Bernini’s altar, Michelangelo’s dome, St Joseph’s chapel, Peter’s bones, the priest has renewed his promise. He’s said ‘yes’ to joy, ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to Him.
One "I am" is professed by hundreds and thousands of voices in unison throughout the world, breathing new life into the Church.
The consecration arrives. 4,000 priests lift their hands as one.
Here for Francis. Here for the cardinals and bishops. Here for the priests and the deacons. And here for all of us.
On Holy Thursday, as we prepare to enter the upper room, we give thanks to God for the sacramental oils and thanks to God for our Priests!