V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
As Christians, we bear Christ’s name. We also bear the honor of being anointed. Jesus was recognized by His name, Christ, meaning “the anointed one.” This is how people in Judea understood that He was the promised Savior. While we are not the Christ, we are anointed in the sense that we are the inheritors of salvation and God’s Kingdom. The Sacrament of Holy Chrismation bestows upon us the honor of being anointed. It immediately follows the Sacrament of the Holy Baptism. We will delve into the spirituality behind Chrismation in the Armenian Church tradition.
Immediately after immersion in the baptismal font, the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation starts with a chant from the Canon of Pentecost, asking the Holy Spirit to have mercy and to work through the sacrament. These types of liturgies are called sacraments because the service is performed by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit acts through the sacrament to elevate something from an earthly nature to a sanctified state. The priests are “tools” that allow the Holy Spirit to work through the prayers and liturgical movements.
The celebrant pours Holy Chrism (Myuron) in his hand and anoints nine parts of the child or the catechumen. He recites a beautiful prayer at each of the nine points. Each prayer follows:
- The Forehead: May this sweet oil which is poured upon your forehead in the name of Jesus Christ be a seal of incorruptible heavenly gifts.
- The Eyes: May this seal in the name of Jesus Christ enlighten your eyes so that you may never sleep unto death.
- The Ears: May this holy anointing open your ears so you can hear the divine commandments of God.
- The Nostrils: May this seal in the name of Jesus Christ bring you the sweet aroma of eternal life.
- The Mouth: May this seal in the name of Jesus Christ defend your mouth and be a strong door over your lips.
- The Hands: May this seal in the name of Jesus Christ be a cause for benevolence and for all virtuous deeds and behavior.
- The Heart: May this divine seal cleanse your heart and establish an upright spirit within you.
- The Back: May this seal in the name of Jesus Christ be an armor of strength so that you may quell the fierce arrows of evil.
- The Feet: May this divine seal direct your journey toward eternal life so that you may not be shaken.
After these anointments, the priest pours the rest of the chrism on the child’s head and recites the following: “Peace unto you, redeemed one of God. Peace unto you anointed one of God.” The newly baptized is first addressed as redeemed. The child is anointed and has received the grace of salvation, victorious and redeemed by Christ. We do not receive a higher honor than the gift of salvation through the sacrament of the Chrismation. The Holy Spirit bestows this eternal gift.
When the first beings on earth fell into the slavery of sin and death, Adam and Eve hid themselves because they were naked. (Genesis 3:8) We should not understand this to mean that God cannot be there when we are naked, but rather that they were emptied of their grace-filled and divine state and, therefore, unable to stand before God. Through the Sacrament of Chrismation, the Holy Spirit bestows a new “cloth” of salvation upon us, again allowing us to stand before God. Jesus describes this in the parable of the prodigal son when the father puts new clothes on his returned son. (Luke 15:11-32) Accordingly, after the hymn, the priest praises God with the following prayer: “Blessed are You, God, who has clothed Your servant/handmaiden with the garment of salvation and robe of joy. You crowned his/her head with the helmet of salvation and crown of grace, thereby arming this child with an invincible weapon against all forms of evil…” The Holy Chrism is the cloth that covers our fallen nature and makes us worthy to enter our Father’s Kingdom victoriously. In order to clothe us in this glorious cloth, our Lord Jesus Christ gave his garment into the hands of His persecutors and dyed it with His sacrificial blood.
At the end of the service, the priest carries the newly baptized child upon the bema and presents her/him to the Holy Altar, symbolizing the return of fallen humanity to the Holy of Holies, the home of creation. In this place, we will communicate directly with God. At this point in the service, the newly baptized receives the Holy Eucharist for the first time.
The grace of the Holy Spirit is a divine seed planted in the newly baptized. It cannot be taken away by anyone. However, it can only thrive through our good deeds, thoughts, and words. The Godparents and the community around the newly baptized Christian are responsible for helping the seed thrive and grow into a branch of the glorious Tree of Life, Jesus Christ. The Kingdom is given to us through salvation, and we are called to inherit it and proclaim it to the world around us.