1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chrism

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CHRISM (through Lat. chrisma, from Gr. χρῖσμα, an anointing substance, χρίειν, to anoint; through a Romanic form cresma comes the Fr. crême, and Eng. “cream”), a mixture of olive oil and balm, used for anointing in the Roman Catholic church in baptism, confirmation and ordination, and in the consecrating and blessing of altars, chalices, baptismal water, &c. The consecration of the “chrism” is performed by a bishop, and since the 5th century has taken place on Maundy Thursday. In the Orthodox Church the chrism contains, besides olive oil, many precious spices and perfumes, and is known as “muron” or “myron.” The word is sometimes used loosely for the unmixed olive oil used in the sacrament of extreme unction. The “Chrisom” or “chrysom,” a variant of “chrism,” lengthened through pronunciation, is a white cloth with which the head of a newly baptized child was covered to prevent the holy oil from being rubbed off. If the baby died within a month of its baptism, it was shrouded in its chrisom; otherwise the cloth or its value was given to the church as an offering by the mother at her churching. Children dying within the month were called “chrisom-children” or “chrisoms,” and up to 1726 such entries occur in bills of mortality. The word was also used generally for a very young and innocent child, thus Shakespeare, Henry V., ii. 3, says of Falstaff: “A’ made a finer end and went away an it had been any Chrisom Child.”