The Catholic University of America

Final Examination of

Rev. Seth Nater Arwo-Doqu

for the degree of

Doctor of Sacred Theology

Monday , November 12, 2012

1 p.m., Caldwell Room 125




The Missa Chrismatis: A Liturgical Theology


Director: Rev. Msgr. Kevin W. Irwin, S.T.D.


The Missa Chrismatis (“Chrism Mass”), the annual ritual Mass that celebrates the blessing of the sacramental oils ordinarily held on Holy Thursday morning, was revised in accordance with the decrees of Vatican II and promulgated by the authority of Pope Paul VI and inserted in the newly promulgated Missale Romanum in 1970. Also revised, in tandem with the Missa Chrismatis, is the Ordo Benedicendi Oleum Catechumenorum et Infirmorum et Conficiendi Chrisma (Ordo), and promulgated editio typica on December 3, 1970. Based upon the scholarly consensus of liturgical theologians that liturgical events are acts of theology, this study seeks to delineate the liturgical theology of the Missa Chrismatis by applying the method of liturgical theology proposed by Kevin Irwin in Context and Text.  A critical study of the prayers, both ancient and new, for the consecration of Chrism and the blessing of the oils of the sick and of catechumens reveals rich theological data. In general it can be said that the fundamental theological principle of the Missa Chrismatis is initiatory and consecratory.


The study delves into the history of the chrismal liturgy from its earliest foundations as a Mass in the Gelasianum Vetus, including the chrismal consecration and blessing of the oils during the missa in cena domini, recorded in the Hadrianum, Ordines Romani, and Pontificalis Romani of the middle ages, through the reforms of 1955-56, 1965 and, finally, 1970. The entire liturgy is analyzed, with special focus on the euchology of the current Ordo. In this ritual order, one finds substantial material that has been retained from the ancient documents, with revisions of their terminology and expansions of their scope that go beyond mere preservation of older forms.  Among the main theological emphases found in the revised rite includes the communal celebration of the bishop with representatives from the whole diocese (not just that of ordained presbyters). The theology of the texts emphasize in turn the process of entering the Church (oil of catechumens), the theology of suffering as redeemed in Christ (oil of the sick) and the theology of baptism and confirmation that impart the Holy Spirit, grounding the Christian into the paschal mystery of Christ, sharing in his royal and prophetic priesthood (the chrism).