Blessing of the Holy Chrism


From the time of the first Catholicos of All Armenians, St. Gregory the Illuminator, the right to bless the Holy Chrism (or Muron) has been reserved solely for the consecrated head of the Church, the Catholicos of All Armenians.

From the sacred bema of the holy site of the Descent of the Only Begotten, the Armenian Pontiff appeals for the actions of God on the Chrism which is being blessed, so that the Holy Spirit will bring to life the sweet scented oil, and transform it to the fountain from where the graces are granted from God. And beneath the joyful ringing of bells symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit, the old Chrism is combined with the new, as is the tradition of the continuous apostolic chain and foundation of our Church.

The Holy Chrism has been established by God. When God spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai, he said:

"Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, two hundred and fifty, and of aromatic cane two hundred and fifty, and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin; and you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; a holy anointing oil it shall be. And you shall anoint with it the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the laver and its base; you shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them will become holy. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. And you shall say to the people of Israel, 'This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be poured upon the bodies of ordinary men, and you shall make no other like it in composition; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you." (Exodus 30:22-33)

The ingredients for the Holy Chrism symbolize the perfection of virtues whose fullness and sacramental unity is our Lord Jesus Christ.

The main element which makes up the foundation of the Holy Chrism is pure, virgin olive oil, to which are combined balsam, and 40 kinds of fragrant incense, flowers, sweet aromatic plants, roots and floral extracts, as well as different oil and leaf extracts.

The ingredients for the Holy Chrism each have their designated and precise quantities and measurements. The majority of which are brought to Armenia from countries in the East.

The chosen amounts are crushed, ground and mixed with the olive oil, white wine, rose water, and other floral essences by the members of the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin, with their offerings of prayer and incense. Before it is cooked, the Catholicos of All Armenians blesses all of the ingredients for the Holy Chrism.

So as to protect the sweet scents of the combined ingredients, the lid of the cauldron is sealed with uncooked dough, and the entire assemblage is boiled in water in yet another larger cauldron.

With prayers and hymns, the cauldron containing the mixture is heated and steamed for three days and nights. This is all conducted in an atmosphere of prayerful, humble and reverent participation of the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Forty days prior to the blessing of the Holy Chrism, the covered cauldron is placed on the Main Altar of the Mother Cathedral, so it can receive the prayers, psalms and hymns of everyday life.

Upon the day of the blessing, the Bishops of the Church elevate to the Altar the Armenian Church’s traditional holy relics: the Geghart - the lance that pierced the side of Christ, the relic from the life giving Cross of Christ, and the Holy Right hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator, with which the newly blessed Chrism is sanctified, and with which the gathered faithful masses are blessed.

Hymns dedicated to the blessing of the Holy Chrism are sung.

The ranks of Bishops next read from the Holy Bible, the daily readings, and lections dedicated to God: "Our Lord and our God - Hear the pleas of your servants and send your mercy to the fruit of the olive tree, which you gave for our benefit and the salvation of your people. And grant that within us dwells the graces of your Holy and beneficent Spirit, for the workings and fullness of your holy sacraments and rituals, which we are conducting for your Glory. O God who loves mankind, send your Holy Spirit to your earthly Holy See and to this oil which is before us, so it may be sanctified and used in Your name, and the name of Your Only Begotten Son."

Upon completion of the readings, the caldron is unsealed, and the Catholicos of All Armenians adds the Holy Chrism from the previous ceremony; old adding to the new, continuing the unbroken chain of Holy Chrism from the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator. The mixture is then blessed and stirred with the traditional holy relics, with prayers, blessings and hymns sung with each one in succession. Upon completion of the ceremony the faithful come forward to kiss and to touch the cauldron with cloth.

The grace bestowing sweet-scented oil is received by all the dioceses and churches from the Pontificate of All Armenians. From ancient times, this has served to preserve the authority of the Catholicosate of All Armenians, as an exceptional covenant with the Armenian faithful. The Holy Chrism is used during the Sacrament of Baptism and Chrismation, Ordination of Clergy, Consecration of Bishops, Final Rites of Clergyman, Blessing of the Water Service, and Consecration of new Churches.