Chrism (n) a consecrated oil, usually mixed with balsam or balsam and spices, used in the rite of Baptism.
Cake (n) a sweet baked food made with butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and soda, often frosted with icing of powdered sugar, butter and vanilla.
One would think these two things, chrism and cake, have nothing in common, but mix them together and you’ve got a little slice of heaven on earth! Both are pleasing to the senses. Both are pleasing to the mind. Both are pleasing to the soul. I have never been one to shy away from a little extra church or cake. Have a little reception after church and my day is made! How is it that an oil and a smash cake can bring such bliss?
Last week, our grandson was baptized. Fitting for the sacramental gift, all four of his grandparents and one of his great-grandmothers were present. It was a beautiful, small gathering of family and the deacon. Hudson took it all in~ his white outfit signifying purity, his big, curious eyes taking in all the beauty of the stained glass, his features delighted in the sweet chrism as he was anointed, the serene smile as the deacon poured water on his head and offered the prayer of baptism…ok, maybe that last was a stretch, but it just might have been a cry of spiritual joy he let out at that point.. In any case, his senses took all these graces in and radiated Love outward.
Chrism is a beautiful word but even more exquisite in French; chrism is chrême. Doesn’t that just sound like a decadent dessert? Chrême. “I’ll have the chrême avec café, s’il vous plaît.” In fact, I’ll have a double helping of chrême. In our Catholic faith, we believe the chrême seals the Holy Spirit, signifying the full dispersion of grace. A delectable gift from God, interiorly and exteriorly.
Later that afternoon, we celebrated Hudson’s first birthday. The fragrance of chrism still entwined in his hair, he was full of wonder and joy! The gathering of family and friends, the swimming, the balloons, the candles, the cake…especially the cake! Hudson is much like his grandmother and is not one to say no thank you to a sweet, especially one that was made especially for him to smash and devour. This little cherubic guy was so excited about eating frosting for the first time that he practically shivered in excitement! He started very tentatively swiping at the frosting with his pointer finger and putting it in his mouth, and quickly escalated to the full hand swipe and facial massage, apparently saving some icing for later. If only people didn’t look askance at anyone over the age of one doing that…but I digress.
As the excitement settled, the guests departed and all that was left was to sit with family and reminisce about the bounteous day. Amidst the crumpled wrapping paper, the discarded paper goods and a pile of shiny new toys, Hudson cuddled up in my husband’s lap, both of them harmoniously settling in to splendid contentment. As our future little saint fell asleep, Wade looked up over his head and whispered, “He smells like chrism and cake.” To me, nothing could be sweeter!
God’s gifts are like this. Genuine. Comforting. Delectable. This sacramental gift representing life was celebrated and enjoyed with a little confectionery delight which brought joy to all, most especially Hudson. I hope that I always remember that the One who gave so freely for us to have life here and everlasting, also is the One who gives us little bonbons of reminders in even the simplest things like chrême…and cake.