A First Nation Liturgy For Consecrating Chrism Oil on Maundy Thursday

R. Matthew Stevens sends for the respectful Lenten use of all people this service of his own for the consecrating of chrism oil honoring the historic and traditional elements of North American First Nations people by infusing the oil with them. Consider how this may be a part of the devotional life of of your faith community

A First Nation Liturgy For Consecrating Chrism Oil on Maundy Thursday

CHRISM is a Koine Greek word literally meaning “an anointing”
MAUNDY is an English form of the Latin word “mandatum” meaning “commandment”.

The overarching theme of Maundy Thursday is Jesus’ new commandment, given on this the eve of his death:
“But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35 CEV)

Throughout all of the Gospels this is the one and only commandment that Jesus ever gave to those who would follow as his disciples. As such it must be the central impetus to our lives if we are sincere in consider ourselves as Christians. Thus it is fitting on this night to intentional rededicate ourselves to loving each other as Jesus first loved us.

As contemporary Christians we recall that Maundy Thursday was the final time that Jesus shared a meal with his brothers and sisters, whom we have come to know as his disciples. In lifting up the bread and the wine as commemorative symbols of his teachings, Jesus established a whole new sacrament in his name.

Finally, Maundy Thursday is also night in which Jesus offered the definitive example of his teachings by willingly assuming a task normally assigned to the least of servants, by washing the feet of his disciples. When he had done so, and had replaced his outer garment, he sat down again and said:
Do you understand what I have done? You call me your teacher and Lord, and you should, because that is who I am. And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other.
I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you. I tell you for certain that servants are not greater than their master, and messengers are not greater than the one who sent them. You know these things, and God will bless you, if you do them. (John 13:12-17 CEV)

Maundy Thursday is also the night of Gethesame, the long night of soul when alone he faced his betrayal and rapidly approaching execution. Different Christian denominations commemorate Maundy Thursday in a variety of ways, in much the same manner as we are doing this evening.

One tradition is to prepare and consecrate the Chrism Oil, or the Holy Oil of Anointing. Throughout the next year this oil will be used in our ministry, both within and beyond this sanctuary, for the purposes of healing, for blessing, for anointing and appointing, and as an essential element in Confirmation and Baptism. Finally, as we achieve the completion of our allotted life-span, in preparing our earthly remains for burial.

It has been the custom of the church dating back to its very early first years to use oil for anointing to bless, to consecrate and to heal. The origins rest deep in Old Testament era, from a time prior to the actual Exodus. It was the symbolic apex in the coronation of a king, the consecration of a high priest, or the ordination of a Levite. Simply stated, it was held in high regard and figured prominently in all the Mosaic ordinances.

Preparing the Chrism Oil:
The scriptural reference may be found in Exodus 30:22-33 for oil and the ingredients used in preparing the original Chrism:
liquid myrrh
sweet-smelling cinnamon ( a kind of cinnamon of the laurel family)
aromatic cane (sweet cane or sugar cane)
cassia (inner bark of cinnamon, a perfume used at Roman funerals)
olive oil

As North American Christians, the symbolic significance of ingredients drawn from Middle-Eastern culture may not be as immediate and compelling .We have the rich Anishinaabek tradition of the Medicine Wheel to draw upon, and so our list of ingredients to add to the olive oil more appropriately include:

Sema (Native Tobacco) representing Blessing, and symbolic of the Waabinong (East). This is the direction of renewal, birth and re-birth, the rising of the sun, peace and light.
Mskodewashk (White Sage) representing Healing, and symbolic of the Epangishmok (West). This is the direction of power, and of life-giving rain.
Giizhik (Cedar) representing Purifying, Healthiness, and symbolic of the Zhaawanong (South). This is the direction of vigour and passion, of warmth
Wiingashk (Sweetgrass) representing Wisdom, Goodness and Warmth, and symbolic of the Kiiwedinong (North). This is the direction of wisdom and fulfilment, of the wind.
Zhiiwitaagan (Salt) representing cleansing, and sanctifying, and symbolic of Shkakaamik kwe (Mother Earth). This is the direction of harmony, bounty, and the holistic system that supports all of creation.

In advance of the ceremony prepare the follow ingredients:
– ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
– clean dry glass container
– Approximately ½ teaspoon of powdered: Tobacco (sema); Sage (Mskodewashk); Cedar fronds (Giizhik); Sweetgrass (Wiingashk); and Salt (Zhiiwitaagan).
– Finely grind the dry ingredients with a mortar and pestle prior, and place each on an individual Petrie dish or similar small plate.
– Once all of the ingredients have been blend together, allow the mixture to stand and settle-out. Over time some of the powdered ingredients will settle to the bottom, however they will still continue to contribute their essence to the blend. Simply decant the mixture whenever you’re refilling the portable Chrism vessel, and leave the powdered remnants in the oil.
– Optionally, prior to Maundy Thursday select five individuals to represent the Medicine Wheel directions, and to bring forward each ingredient. This may be even more significant if those selected are candidates for confirmation at upcoming Easter.

Brothers and sisters, we come together on this Maundy Thursday eve to follow in an ancient tradition much venerated within the universal Christian church, in the preparing and consecrating of our Chrism Oil. (Depending upon the familiarity level of the congregation, the celebrant might wish to include some information from the “Introduction” to better explain the ceremony) This Chrism Oil symbolizes the fulness of sacramental grace, the sweetness of the Christian life, and manifold and diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I now wish to call forth the elements we will blend to create our Chrism Oil from each of the directions contained with the Medicine Wheel.
From the Waabinong (East), the direction signifying renewal, birth/re-birth, the rising of the sun, peace, and light, I invite: _________ to bring forward the Sema (Native Tobacco) representing Blessing.
From the Epangishmok (West), the direction signifying power, and of life-giving rain, I invite: ________ to bring forward the Mskodewashk (White Sage) representing Healing.
From the Zhaawanong (South), the direction signifying vigour, passion, and warmth, I invite: _______ to bring forward the Giizhik (Cedar) representing Purifying Healthiness.
From the Kiiwedinong (North), the direction signifying wisdom, fulfilment, and the wind, I invite: _______________ to bring forward the Wiingashk (Sweetgrass) representing Wisdom, Goodness and Warmth.
From the centre of Shkakaamik kwe (Mother Earth) signifying harmony, bounty, and the holism of creation, I invite: ________________ to bring forward the Zhiiwitaagan (Salt) representing cleansing, and sanctifying.
(Optionally, if communion is planned for later in the service) I should finally like to invite: __________ and __________ to bring forward the elements for our communion feast of forgiveness.

G’zhem-mnidoo, (Gracious Creator of all things) we ask your blessing upon these the elements that will soon be combined in our Chrism Oil for the coming year of ministry. (Signify with the sign of the cross over each ingredient)
Bless this Sema (Native Tobacco) to signify blessing, and remind us of our prayer rising to you.
Bless this Giizhik (Cedar) to signify purification, and remind us of the anointing of our Brother Jesus.
Bless this Mskodewashk (White Sage) to signify healing, and remind us of the innate sweetness and virtue of compassion.
Bless this Wiingashk (Sweetgrass) to signify wisdom, and remind us of the religious and social fervour of our Brother Jesus.
Bless this Zhiiwitaagan (Salt) to signify cleansing, and remind us of the grace granted in forgiveness.
Finally we ask that you bless this olive oil to signify our bonding together as Christians, and remind us of the outpouring of your grace.
We ask that you send the Holy Spirit to consecrate these elements. (Mix the dry ingredients together.)

Gizhe-manidoowiwin, (Divine God) bless this oil into which we now blend these elements, that it might be for us a genuine representation of your blessing to all are united under the sign of the cross upon their brow. May it strengthen us, consecrate us, and preserve us so to resist contagion by the sins of this world, and fill us with the desire to share your grace as disciples and faithful witnesses. May it bless and heal those who are infirm in either body or soul and in need of healing. Finally, may it encourage us in our walk the right path – the path where you walk with us as our Guide – now and forever. AMEN.

(Optional: If Communion is planned for the service this would be the ideal time to move into a somewhat modified Eucharist liturgy)

G’zhem-mnidoo, (Gracious Creator of all things) source of all love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment: To love one another as he had loved them. We pray you write this commandment in our hearts. Help us serve as Jesus served – without fear of offering ourselves for the sake of others. AMEN

May you act with Humility and Respect;
May the words you speak show Truth and Wisdom,
May your thoughts be Honest and Courageous; and;
May everything you think, say, and do,
be wrapped in unconditional Love.
And in so doing know that the peace of the Christ,
the love of the Creator,
and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit
will abide with you. AMEN
Portions of this liturgy are based upon the earlier work of Rev. Richard J. and
Charlene E. Fairchild, © Spirit Networks, Golden, British Columbia, 1999

Matthew adds these notes of background:

Four Traditional Anishinaabe Medicines

Semaa – Tobacco – Wisdom:sema
Tobacco was a gift of the Spirits of the Four Directions (Four Manido). The Anishinaabe adopted the custom and smoked the Pipe of Peace before great councils, after war, and before other ceremonies. Tobacco became part of the Anishinaabek daily life to compose their minds and spirits, banish negative feelings, and promote thoughts that are good or positive. In that regard tobacco gradually assumed the nature of an incense, sweet to the taste and fragrant to smell. No other plant is endowed with such qualities. Native tobacco is known by the botanical name of Nicotiana rustica, and is NOT the same as the commercial grown tobacco found in cigarettes. Cigarette makers mix many chemical ingredients with the type of tobacco used, and it is therefore NOT appropriate to use in a smudge.

Mskodewashk – Sage – Healing:sage-pic
There are several varieties of Sage that are used for smudging. Salvia Officinalis, commonly known as Garden Sage, and Salvia Apiana, commonly known as White Sage. Salvia varieties have long been acknowledged as healing herbs, reflected in the fact that its genus name comes from the Latin root word “salvare”, which is the verb “to heal” or “to save.”

northern-white-cedar-leaf1315842149459Giizhik – Cedar – Purifying:
True cedar is of the Thuja and Libocedrus genii. Cedar is burnt while praying to Creator in meditation, and also to bless a lodging before taking up residency. It works both as a purifier and as a way to attract good energy in your direction, it cleanses and chases away negative energies.


Wiingashk – Sweetgrass – Blessing, Goodness and Warmthsweetgrass
The botanical name for Sweetgrass is Hierochloe Oderata, and used as a general blessing for making a home a warm, inviting place. Sweetgrass is burnt in a smudge to welcome in good influences after the bad had been driven out. Cedar can also be safely be used this way.

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2 Responses to A First Nation Liturgy For Consecrating Chrism Oil on Maundy Thursday

  1. rezrevres says:

    Thanks for posting this liturgy Maren, and I sincerely hope some of your readers find it helpful to their ministry. Needles to say, please feel free to edit appropriate to whatever worship context in which it is used.

  2. Maren says:

    Thank you for being so gracious.

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