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Chrismal (Chrismatory)

Formerly used to designate the sheath, or cloth-covering (theca) in which relics were wrapped up

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Chrismal, Chrismatory, were formerly used to designate the sheath, or cloth-covering (theca) in which relics were wrapped up. The Latin chrismale was also applied (a) to the pall or corporal, (b) to the vessel for the Blessed Eucharist, (c) to the cere-cloth covering the table of the altar (see Altar-cloths), and (d) sometimes to the long white-hooded robes in which the newly-baptized were clothed (cf. Roman Ritual, II, cap. ii, n. 24), and which they wore from Holy Saturday evening till Low Sunday—called consequently Dominica in Albis (cf. Du Cange, Glossar. infimae et mediae Latinitatis). This garment, however, was more commonly known as the chrisome (cf. Pugin, Glossary), and resembled in shape the modern alb, except that it had a kind of hood for the head. Its representative is now the vestis candida still used at baptism. In present-day usage the words chrismal and chrismatory are taken indiscriminately and almost universally to refer to the vessels that are employed to hold the oils that are solemnly consecrated by the bishop on Holy Thursday, viz., oil of catechumens, oil of the sick, and chrism. It is the last mentioned that has given its name to these receptacles. Two kinds of these vessels are in service. One set is employed to reserve the yearly supply and is kept in the sacristy of the cathedral, while the other contains what is required for daily use and is kept in the parochial church. Both kinds should be made either of gold, silver, or at least of tin and pewter (stannum), and should have sheaths or cases. They cannot be made of any substance that is likely to become oxidized. In shape the longer ones resemble little jars, while the smaller sort are like small cylindrical boxes and are commonly jointed together. As the vessels for each oil are similar in appearance, they should be stamped with distinctive marks to discriminate one from the other. The letters I (or INF.), CAT., and CHR. are usually engraved on the outside to designate respectively oil of the sick, oil of catechumens, and chrism. Many interesting specimens of these vessels have come down from the Middle Ages and are still preserved in the treasuries of English and continental cathedrals. These vessels are not blessed, but when containing the oils they may not be handled or carried by lay persons except in cases of necessity (Cong. of Rites).


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