A while ago, I tried a new recipe that called for coconut oil. It was the first I’d heard of that kind of oil. Over my many years in the kitchen, I’ve expanded my repertoire beyond to Wesson Oil my mother used for cooking and the Crisco my grandmother used for baking. California olive oils are a distinct as its wines. Peanut and grapeseed oils are great for deep frying because of their high smoke points. Sesame oil gives Asian stir fry a particular character.
What types of oils does the church use?
The church also has specialty oils for particular uses. Chrism is both the holiest and most versatile oil, used in multiple sacramental and near-sacramental rituals. We use chrism to anoint in the way Christ is anointed.
The oil of the sick has an obvious single use, but — unlike when I was a child — it can be used multiple times. It used to be reserved for those close to death (“extreme unction”), but it is now used for anyone who suffers from serious, though not necessarily terminal, illness.
The oil of catechumens is perhaps the least familiar of the church’s oils. It might be the “coconut oil” that many of us have not yet heard of.
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