The act of consecrating any person or thing by the pouring on of oil. The ceremony of anointing was emblematical of a particular sanctification to a holy and sacred use. As such it was practiced by both the Egyptians and the Jews, and many representations are to be seen among the former of the performance of this holy Rite. Wilkinson informs us, in his Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians (iv, 280), that with the Egyptians the investiture to any sacred office was confirmed by this external sign; and that priests and kings at the time of their consecration were, after they had been attired in their full robes, anointed by the pouring of oil upon the head. The Jewish Scriptures mention several instances in which unction was administered, as in the consecration of Aaron as high priest, and of Saul and David, of Solomon and Joash, as kings. The process of anointing Aaron is fully described in Exodus (xxix, 7).
After he had been clothed in all his robes, with the miter and crown upon his head, it is said, "then shalt thou take the anointing oil and pour it upon his head, and anoint him."
The use of oil in the service of the Churches is also worthy of note. In the ceremony of confirmation there is usually employed a chrism, an anointing fluid sometimes compounded of olive oil and a balm of balsam made from the terebinth tree of the East.
The olive oil is symbolic of strength, for it was used by the ancient athletes as an ointment to increase the bodily vigor; of light, because possible of use in lamps; of health, because practicable for food and medicine, while the balm means freedom from corruption and having the sweet savor of virtue.
The ceremony is still used in some of the high degrees of Freemasonry, and is always recognized as a symbol of sanctification, or the designation of the person so anointed to a sacred use, or to the performance of a particular function. Hence, it forms an important part of the ceremony of installation of a High Priest in the Order of High Priesthood as practiced in America. As to the form in which the anointing oil was poured, John Buxtorf, in the Lexicon Chaldaicum, Talmudicum et Rabbinicum (page 267), quotes the Rabbinical tradition that in the anointment of kings the oil was poured on the head in the form of a crown, that is, in a circle around the head ; while in the anointment of the priests it was poured in the form of the Greek letter X, that is, on ahe top of the head, in the pattern of a Saint Andrew's cross.
Important as the anointing ceremony was to persons, we also see plainly that in Bible times the use of the consecrating oil was deemed necessary to the house of worship, to the furniture therein, and to the pillars or other memorials of man's religious relation to God. Now as then we follow the same tendency in our Masonic consecration ceremonies of official corner stone laying, and of Temple and Lodge-room authorized dedication to Masonic usefulness.
See the Old Testament for the anointing of memorial stones (Genesis xxviii, 18, 22; xxai, 13, and xxxv, 14), and compare these references with the modern Masonic treatment of a corner stone, and for some comparison of the present day consecration of Lodge rooms with the ceremonies of old read Exodus (xxx, 23-9, and xl, 9), where we find an account of the sanctifying of the Tabernacle and its furniture "and it shall be holy."
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