Unction and Chrism

Unction and Chrism

That’s one of the great things about hymns – unction & chrism.

I say this because our choir practiced a new hymn from the hymnal supplement the other night titled: “Holy Spirit, the Dove Sent from Heaven” (CWS 732).  After singing our way through the song, we all kind of had a quizzical look on our faces then someone finally asked the question that was on all our minds: “what does unction & chrism mean?”  They are actually words used in the song lyrics.  Not one of us knew the answer so our choir director hopped over to the church library and grabbed a dictionary.  Here’s what they mean:


1 : the act of anointing as a rite of consecration or healing

2 : something used for anointing : ointment, unguent

3 a : religious or spiritual fervor or the expression of such fervor

b : exaggerated, assumed, or superficial earnestness of language or manner : unctuousness


consecrated oil used in Greek and Latin churches especially in baptism, chrismation, confirmation, and ordination

Now here’s my point – hymns teach.   They do contain many words and phrases that we do not know the meaning of.  Some think of this as a detriment to hymns.  I do not.  I see it as a way of getting smarter and that’s one thing that our music is supposed to do.  It says in Colossians 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

May your Pentecost services be unctuous.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of International Bible Society