RDCA II, 63-65: Anointing

Today, let’s look at the use of oil:

63. Then the bishop, removing the chasuble if necessary and putting on a linen gremial, goes to the altar with the deacons and other ministers, one of whom carries the vessel of chrism. The bishop proceeds to anoint the altar and the walls of the church, as described below, no. 64.

If the bishop wishes to associate some of the priests with him in the anointing of the walls, after the anointing of the altar he hands them vessels of sacred chrism and goes with them to complete the anointings.

However, the bishop may give that task of anointing the walls to the priests alone; in that case, he hands the vessel of sacred chrism to them after he has anointed the altar.

64.  The Bishop, standing before the altar, says:

We now anoint this altar and this building.
May God in his power make them holy,
visible signs of the mystery of Christ and his Church.

Then he pours the sacred chrism on the middle of the altar and on each of its four corners, and it is recommended that he anoint the entire table of the altar with this.

When the altar has been anointed, the bishop anoints the walls of the church, signing with chrism the suitably distributed twelve or four crosses. He may have the assistance of two or four priests.

If the anointing of the walls is given to the priests, after the bishop has anointed the altar, they anoint the walls of the church signing the crosses with chrism.

Meanwhile, one of the following antiphons is sung with Psalm 84:

See the place where God lives among his people; there the spirit of God will make his home among you; the temple of God is holy and you are that temple (alleluia).

Holy is the temple of the Lord, it is God’s handiwork, his dwelling place

Or another appropriate liturgical song is sung.

65. When the altar and the walls have been anointed, the bishop returns to the chair, sits, and washes his hands. Then the Bishop takes off the gremial and puts on the chasuble. The priest also wash their hands after they have anointed the walls.


The 2003 draft makes a few changes to the language of the rubrics, but nothing to the instructions. The antiphons in number 64 are changed a bit more in language. Option one is a mouthful; option two is probably better for a one-time only setting of Psalm 84. This is one possible area for a specially commissioned composition, preferably something the people might return to sing on other occasions: the dedication anniversaries and the patronal feast, not to mention other more ordinary occasions. Psalm 84 is one of my favorites in the Psalter; it’s probably a significant lack that there’s not a ready piece or two in the Catholic repertoire with a more widespread appeal.

“Two or four priests.” Do we take that literally?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to RDCA II, 63-65: Anointing

  1. Such beautiful symbolism in this act. The anointing of the walls of the church made up of the living stones, recalling baptism and the anointing of the altar, symbolizing Christ the head.

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