Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Chrism Mass: Church of St. Anthony, Nibong Tebal

In all the hype leading to Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, I did not have the opportunity to post any photos of the Penang Diocesan Chrism Mass. In the Chrism Mass, when the priests gather around their Bishop who exercises the fullness of his priesthood, the Church is at its fullest expression. The ideal would be that the Chrism Mass be celebrated in the diocesan Cathedral on Holy Thursday morning, but in the case of the Penang Diocese, and, I would suspect, in most other dioceses as well, the presbyterate can't make the journey and be back in their parishes in 'Mass-celebrating' condition due to the distances involved and the age of the clergy.

Pardon the photo quality. I was seated waaay back.


A view of the crowd before Mass began.


So, the tradition is that the Chrism Mass is alternately celebrated some days earlier in the various diocesan districts to allow all the people to experience this significant event in the life of the local Church. This year, it is the privilege of the people and parishioners of the Church of St. Anthony in Nibong Tebal, a rural town on the mainland to host the clergy recollection and the Chrism Mass for the Penang Diocese. The parish priest, Fr. Francis Xavier, who was just transferred there 10 months ago from my parish, is also administrator of 2 other parishes nearby and the diocesan liturgist.


A busload of about 40 people travelled from my parish to Nibong Tebal for the occasion. The place was packed to the rafters with people coming from all over the diocese to join with the priests as they celebrate the institution of the priesthood.



The entrance procession was accompanied by traditional Indian drums and 'bunga manggar', a kind of processional ornament used for Malay dignitaries. The priests were followed by Msgr. Stephen Liew, the Vicar General and Fr. David Lourdes, the District Senator and the Bishop, vested in gold.


We have only about 30 priests in this diocese. Seen here is the newly ordained deacon, Stanley.




Censing the altar.


And the altar cross.


Part of the priests who attended. (Mark from Ireland, if you would care to name them, it would spare me the trouble.)


The Church is in a rural area and is very simple.


The readings of the day were done in Mandarin and Tamil and the psalm was chanted in Tamil as well before Deacon Stanley proclaimed the Gospel.




The Bishop then gave one of his trademark very very long homilies. Very long.


The priests, trying their darndest to keep awake and look interested.




Then came the moment we're waiting for, the end of the sermon...juts kidding. The blessing of the Holy Oils and the Consecration of the Sacred Chrism. After the homily, the Creed was recited.



The priests, reading from the text and trying not to affirm heresy.




3 priests were chosen to process the oils in, covered by veils with their proper colours. Green for the oil of the catechumens, purple for the oil of the sick and gold for the Sacred Chrism.


That's Fr. Mark, our assistant parish priest in a tense standoff, perhaps arguing with a member of the congregation.




The Bishop, assisted by the deacon blessing the oils.




The Bishop mixed balsam into the oil, and then breathed on it before praying the prayer on consecration.



The priests, stretching their hands over the Chrism during the consecration.



The oils were then processed back to the place of reposition, to be distributed to the priests to be taken back to their parishes.


The collection was taken by charmingly dressed ladies wearing sarees, traditional Indian costumes.


The gifts were then brought forward. The bunga manggar can be seen here, reminiscent of the Papal flabellum.




The offertory.


The Roman Canon was used. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the servers knelt before the altar, incensing the Host.




Hoc est enim Corpus Meum


His est enim calix Sanguinis Mei



The vested main concelebrants, Msgr. Liew and Fr. David Lourdes.



During the Per ipsum, flower girls threw flowers before the Host in a traditional Indian custom of honour.




The Pater Noster.


Exchanging the sign of peace.


Ecce Agnus Dei.

The distribution of Holy Communion took a while as the crowd was quite big.


The seminarians, in cassocks.


The choir.


A view of some of the people seated outside the Church in tents set up to accommodate the crowd.


After the post-Communion prayer was recited, a presentation to honour our priests was played to the soundtrack of Pope John Paul's Abba Pater during which he sang the Pater Noster. I was told only the Bishop and another old priest from China, Fr. Chao, sang along. A pity. [BTW, the presentation was prepared by your humble scribe.]


Another look at the vast crowds who gathered for the Mass.





The Altar Crucifix.

The catechism children the approached the priests to give them special appreciation cards prepared by the children.


The recession.





The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, just recently blessed. Click to open a new window.


After Mass, in traditional Malaysian fashion to celebrate every event with a meal, a sumptuous spread was prepared by the parishioners for all.


Altogether, it was a great day, to celebrate with our priests and appreciate them on their very own day. I haven't attended Chrism Mass in 2 years since they were always held away from the Cathedral in Penang, in St. Michael's Ipoh last year, and I think St. Michael's Alor Star the year before. It was good to experience it again.

How was your Chrism Mass? Did you attend? Was it on Holy Thursday morning? Do tell.


Anonymous said...

Great job on the coverage of the Chrism Mass. I agree that it is a good idea to rotate the venue of this important celebration especially to rural and outlying parishes and not to have everything in the city. I just wonder how the turnup would have been if it was held in the one of the city parishes? I know that during the Easter Vigil my church was not overlly full since the congregation was expecting a really long service due to a large number of people receiving their Sacraments of Initiation.
Another matter do you know of any churches celebrating the Rite of Reception the Holy Oils during the evening mass of the Lord's supper on Holy Thursday? This is a short but meaningful rite which is usually omitted by many parishes.

Andrew said...

Hello Uncle Greg.

Thank you for your comments. I think that perhaps the best case scenario we can get in city parishes would be a higher turnout in terms of numbers perhaps, but not in terms of percentages. There was almost a 100% turnout in Nibong Tebal. Certainly, those who could make did came and none opted to be absent just because the Mass was going to be long.

I am glad that in IC, the turnout for the Vigil Masses and the major feasts like Good Friday are still good, even though they are long.

In my parish, when Fr. Francis Xavier was the parish priest, we did the Rite of Reception of the Holy Oils on Holy Thursday. But not any more.

The Hymn Selector said...

Oh dear, a liturgical faux pas with the diocesan liturgist around (hmm, is that new?). Why is the bishop wearing the mitre during the censing of the altar? It should only be worn during the entrance, recession, homily and when seated.

Andrew said...

Hymn Selector, I would have to say, no, it is not something new. He was my parish priest before transferring here, so I know. But I guess this was the deacon's fault, not his. The deacon is newly minted, ordained on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But he is prayerful, as you can see during the Eucharistic Prayer, and that is hopeful.

Look at the individual posts of the Holy Week celebration in my parish. Click on the titles for the full posts. See anything amiss? =)

The Hymn Selector said...

Err... the lay ministers bringing the reserved hosts from the altar of repose on Good Friday? The priest wearing his stole over the chasuble (instead of under) on Easter vigil? Anyway, I've been attending the Traditional Mass exclusively for many years now, so I might be outdated over "approved practices" of the New Mass ever since. ;)

Have look at our Sacred Triduum pictures on Joyce's blog (the pics and labelling are all jumbled up though):

M@rK said...

I would be delighted to tag the priests, but how do you want me to do that as I do not have access to do that on each individual photo... The turnout I must say when it was held at Holy Spirit cathedral a couple of years back was awful, the church wasnt even filled... oh well... looks like FFX is doing well over there

Andrew said...

Mark, you can post a comment and I'll copy and paste it.

Hymn Selector, the Sacred Heart Chapel has undergone quite a number of upgrades since I last saw it. New decorations on the walls and cornices, the candles are now cut to slope, the picture of St. Theresa and another saint above the stained glass windows are gone,the lights are new and so is the processional cross, the altar of repose looks like what the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe used to be.

Our Lady also looks like she's sporting a new crown. The blessing of the water is now done on the epistle side. Is the blessing of the new fire still done in the corridor outside?

In one of the photos, the veil of the crucifix is white. Why is that?

The Hymn Selector said...

You've been here b4? Or through the picture galleries? The cornices were there for the last 2+ years together with the lights. The processional cross has always been the same. No new crown for Our Lady (not a detachable crown!). The altar of repose has never looked like the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe (it wasn't placed at that location).

The white veil on the crucifix was during Maundy Thursday, that's why. How do you like the new baldachinno fabric?

Andrew said...

Didn't have the pleasure. I seldom travel out of Penang, as any who know me can testify. Love the fabric. I'm a baroque lover. The more ornate, the better, for the greater glory of God. Away with all this noble simplicity.

A couple of questions of satisfy my curiosity. Why was Sg. Buloh chosen? Wouldn't Kuala Lumpur make a better choice? Why is there no centre in Penang? Where do you get your Chrism from?

The Hymn Selector said...

Andrew, I don't think I could answer all of your questions adequately through this comment box. If you use Yahoo IM, I could tell you more. yeeck_my at yahoo dot com