“Christ and chrism are conjoined; the secret with the visible is mingled: the chrism anoints visibly, Christ seals secretly. … The chrism of Christ separates, the sons of the mystery from strangers; and by it they that are within are separated, and known from them that are without.
“The oil which Elijah multiplied, might be tasted with the mouth; for the cruse was that of the widow, it was not that of the chrism. The oil of our Lord that is in the chrism, it is not food for the mouth. …The chrism of the meek and lowly one changes the stubborn to be like its Lord. The Gentiles were wolves and feared the severe rod of Moses. Lo! the chrism seals them and makes a flock of sheep out of the wolves!” ~St. Ephraim the Syrian
Christ and Chrism
What St. Ephraim means when he says that Christ and chrism are “conjoined” is that chrism represents Christ in an allegorical sense, and when one is anointed with chrism, it symbolizes that the person has become one with Christ, or at least has been accepted by Christ. But this may be confusing because here “Christ” does not refer to Jesus, or any other person, but to that eternal spirit which existed long before it d welled for a time in the man, Jesus.
When Ephraim says the chrism of Christ separates “the sons of mystery from strangers” he means those who are true followers of the teaching of Jesus Christ, rather than those who simply worship Him while ignoring what he taught, from the general public. This separation may or may not be true on a physical level, as with the Essenes who lived in their own little communities, but more importantly, it means spiritually, they are not in the same group, the same class. This does not mean that one group is better than another, only that they have reached a higher level of spiritual development.
The online dictionaries define “chrism” as “a consecrated oil, usually mixed with balsam, or balsam and spices.” Another, more generalized variation, is that it is a mixture of oil and a scenting agent such as spices or exotic flower oils. It is blessed, typically by a Bishop or high official of a church. It may be used to bless certain people at marriages, baptisms, Confirmation and Ordinations. It is probably it’s use at ordinations that St. Ephraim is talking about.
The chrism is symbolic of Christ, but if made properly, it is functional as well. The scent of a good chrism vibrates at a high level that can help raise the frequencies of the person blessed with it, as well as anyone else present who smells it. You might think of it as being like a liquid incense in that way. But Ephraim is saying, I believe, that the symbolic blessing with the chrism is not as important as the blessing by Christ that goes with it.
Ordinary Oil and Chrism
The ordinary oil “which Elijah multiplied” is, Ephraim tells us, not the same as the oil in chrism. Yes, olive oil is the oil most often used in chrism, but the difference is that it has been blessed to make it something other than ordinary olive oil used for food.
Power of Chrism
St. Ephraim says the chrism can change the stubborn to be like the Lord and the wolves to be like sheep. This would not be something many people today would look forward to, but the symbolism used in Ephraim’s time is different than today. By “stubborn” he means those who are difficult to convert, to awaken to their true spiritual nature. Ephraim says chrism can help with that, much as today many people use crystals and music as aids to awakening. When he says wolves become sheep, he does not mean that the strong and powerful will become meek and helpless. He is using “wolves” to mean the aggressive type, the violent people, and “sheep” to mean the peaceful, the calm, the loving and tolerant. So he is saying that the chrism has the power to make the violent and aggressive into peaceful, loving people. Actually, it doesn’t, at least not of it’s own. It is an indirect thing. The chrism is an aid to awakening the spiritual faculties, and those who have fully awakened spirits and souls are loving and peaceful. It doesn’t matter how they are awakened, but they must be awakened to bring about peace in the world. So the next time you are at a ceremony where chrism is used, take a deep whiff and rise.