This is one of those times when we are reminded that Christianity was not a new religion begun by Jesus. At sundown this evening Passover begins and we are reminded that Jesus lived his entire earthly life as a Jew.
As a part of the preparation, all chametz (leavened food) must be out of the house, sold or burned by midday today. This would have meant a thorough cleaning of the house.
We carry this Passover tradition forward in our churches. When we gather for the evening mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday the tabernacle is to be completely empty. We will have also bought by now our new paschal candle. And at some time this week the bishop will bless new oils: the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and he will consecrate new chrism ( the oil used in baptism,confirmation, and ordination).
It is also at the Chrism mass that the priests are invited to renew their priestly promises. The rite is slightly misnamed because the priests do not repeat the promises made at ordination. Like marriage vows the original promises do not expire and do therefore not need to be renewed. If you look at the actual words the priests resolve to be more closely united to Christ( a lifelong process), and to carry out faithfully the promises made at ordination.
While the missal calls for this mass to be celebrated on Thursday morning, it can be moved to enable the priests of the diocese to be present. Here in Richmond, the Chrism Mass is this evening at 6:00 PM at the Cathedral.
It is the one mass each year when we are called to come together as one diocese. The oils that are blessed and consecrated are taken from the cathedral out to the furthest ends of the diocese and throughout the year serve as a constant reminder of our unity, as the one holy catholic and apostolic church.
As we celebrate the Chrism mass our Jewish brothers and sisters here in Richmond will light the candles of Passover (7:25 PM). This evening our two traditions reunite in prayer to the one God. As we continue our celebration of Holy Week, let us pray that the unity that is ours this evening in prayer may spread throughout our world.