Thursday, April 1, 2010

Preparation and Consecration of the Great Myrrh

During Great and Holy Week, Great Myrrh is consecrated on Holy Thursday.  In Orthodox Churches the consecration occurs in the context of the Liturgy of St. Basil.  Unlike the Holy Chrism of the Roman Church, which is consecrated on Holy Thursday each year in each episcopal see, the preparation and consecration of Holy Myrrhon in Orthodox Churches is canonically reserved to Patriarchial Churches with the full participation of the synod of bishops.

The image above is from this year's preparations for today's consecration in the Patriarchial Church of Romania.

The oil is called Myrrhon because myrrh is the foundational essential oil for the Myrrhon.  The original formula contains myrrh, cinnamon, aromatic cane, cassia, and olive oil and was give to Moses:

 22The LORD said to Moses, 23"Take the(A) finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of(B) aromatic cane, 24and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a(C) hin[a] of olive oil. 25And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the(D) perfumer; it shall be a(E) holy anointing oil. 26(F) With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the(G) basin and its stand. 29You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy.(H) Whatever touches them will become holy. 30(I) You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31And you shall say to the people of Israel, 'This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition.(J) It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33(K) Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.'"

Footnotes: A hin was about 4 quarts or 3.5 liters
    In contemporary times the formula for Great Myrrhon can contain as many as fifty-seven essential oils in an olive oil base and may include many of the following ingredients:

    pure olive oil, red wine, flower extract, rose extract, pure mastic, almond resin, primula flowers, aloe of Barbades, pepper(long), nutmeg, malabathrum, angelica herb, extract of styrax, pure myrrh, pepper (black), fragrant snap ring, balsam resin, sweet calamus, Florentine lily, saffron, aristoloche, fruit of the balsam tree. cyperus rotundus. sweet bay, Celtic nard (valerian), black cassia,. pressed nut oil, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, wild nard, fragrant mace, Venetian terebinth, white resin, pure nut oil, marjoram, ladanum, Indian nard, incense of Lebanon, white ginger (of Ceylon), zerneb, fenugreek, helenium, oil cinnamon of Ceylon, oil of clove, congealed oil of nutmeg, balsam of Mecca, rose oil, mace oil, lemon oil, oil of balsam fruit, oil of marjoram, oil of bay-tree, oil of rosemary, oil of lavender, Indian musk, true amber

    Myrrhon is made, very approximately, about every seven years.  Archimandrite Paul Menevisoglu tells us, in The Holy Myrrhon in the Eastern Orthodox Church, (published in 1972 by the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies in Thessaloniki), that during the consecration of Holy Myrrhon, the one who consecrates the oil breathes over the oil in order to make the symbolic and real connection between the acts of breathining and annointing:  “In the first breathing, God filled Adam with the breath of life. In the second breathing, our Lord Jesus Christ filled His Disciples with the Divine Breath of God—the Holy Spirit Himself! Through this miraculous in-breathing, Jesus showed that He is the Source of Eternal Life and the Mediator of the Holy Spirit to the world.” 

    Photos below are from the 2008 Blessing of Holy Muron in the Armenian Church:


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