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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(chrismale). In the Roman Church the priest puts on the baptized person after the Chrism a white robe, saying, "Receive this white garment, which mayest thou carry unstained, etc." In the baptism of infants a white kerchief is given instead of the garment, with the same words.

By a constitution of Edmund, archbishop of Canterbury, A.D. 736, the chrisomes, after having served the purposes of baptism, were to be made use of only for the making or mending of surplices, etc., or for the wrapping of chalices. A "chrisome child," in old English usage, was a child in its chrisome cloth. Thus Jeremy Taylor: "This day is mine and yours, but ye know not what shall be on the morrow; and every morning creeps out of a dark cloud, leaving behind it an ignorance and silence deep as midnight, and undiscerned as are the phantasms that make a chrisome child to smile" (Holy Dying, chap. 1, sec. 2).

The first Common Prayer-book of King Edward orders that the woman shall offer the chrisome when she comes to be churched; but, if the child happens to die before her churching, she was excused from offering it; and it was customary to use it as a shroud, and to wrap the child in it when it was buried. Hence, by an abuse of words, the term is now used in England not to denote children who die, between the time of their baptism and the churching of the mother, but to denote children who die before they are baptized, and so are incapable of Christian burial. Catechism of Trent (Bait. ed.), p. 136; Hook, Church Dictionary, s.v.; Procter, On Common Prayer, 373.

Chrism (or Holy Oil): ADDENDUM

We present the following additional particulars on this subject:

"By the Council of Melde, the priest, on Maundy-Thursday, had three cruets brought to him, in which were the Consecrated oil of the catechumens, chrism, and oil of the sick. There were two kinds of holy oil.

(1) Chrism, or myron, called principal, a compound of oil and balsam, with which candidates for baptism were anointed upon the head and for confirmation on the forehead; and clerks to be ordained received unction with it.

(2) Simple the pure oil of olives; also consecrated by a bishop for the anointing of the sick and energumens, and of catechumens on the breast, shoulders, and forehead. Chrism, at first, was made only of oil, by both Latins and Greeks. In the 6th century, balm brought from Judaea was mixed with it; and this kind was in use in the West until the 16th century, when the Spaniards, by permission of Paul III and Pins IV, adopted balm from India. The Greeks use, instead of balm, forty different kinds of aromatic spices. Unction was regarded as the spiritual preparation of Christians to wrestle against the devil, and in memory of the anointing of Christ to his burial. A bishop is anointed on the head and hands. The baptized was anointed previously with oil on the breast and between the shoulders, and after baptism with chrism on the head and brow. In allusion to 1 John 2:17; 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Peter 3:9, kings at their consecration, altars and churches at dedication, are anointed. The baptismal unction is mentioned by pope Sylvester in 324. Priests anointed the breast, and bishops the forehead of candidates. Chrism is called myrrh by the ancient writers; it was symbolical of the sweet savor of Christ, also of the anointing of Christians by the Holy Spirit to he a peculiar people - a reval priesthood (Exodus 30:25-30; Numbers 3:3 : 1 Samuel 24:6; Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38 : 2 Corinthians 1:21 : 1 Peter 2:9).

Consecration of chrism was reserved to bishops only, who distributed it to the parish priests. In the 5th century this ceremonial was fixed to Maundy-Thursday, and during the second of the three masses celebrated on that day, which, in consequence, was called the Mass of Chrism. However, in France, the Council of Meaux, in 845, permitted consecration on any day, as in primitive times; and the Greeks, although regarding Maundy-Thursday as the principal occasion, still follow the same practice, but reserve it to the patriarchs, who perform the of-rice with great pomp. The vase for keeping chrism, from its shape, was called the chrism-paten. In the 10th century it was brought by the priest before Easter, or by a deacon or subdeacon in the 13th century. All that remained over from the last year was carefully consumed by fire. By the Council of Orange, in 441, chrism was used once 'for all in baptism. The chrism and holy oil were kept under lock and key, to provide against any abuse for purposes of sorcery and witchcraft, m the 13th century. In 1549 children were still anointed with chrism on the forehead in England. In lieu of this ceremony, the grace of the Holy (]host is now invoked. Bale says that the chrism was kept in alabaster boxes."

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Chrisome'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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