QUAERITUR: disposing of Sacred Chrism

I received the following:

What is/are the proper way/s to dispose of Sacred Chrism.  Is it only to be burned or, like many other things, can it be buried and thus "returned" to the earth?

The very best way would be to burn it. 


It would be a wonderful thing to burn it in an olive oil based lamp, perhaps used as a presence lamp.


Otherwise, it is would be impossibel to burn it in a dignified way, I suppose it would also be possible to pour it into the ground, though I think I would put my effort into finding a way to burn it.

Perhaps there is a cathedral sacristan reading with experience of dealing with large quantities of sacred oils who can chime in.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. It is my practice to burn it, with the other oils, and all of the cotton wool used during the year in the sacraments of baptism and anoining of the sick on the Easter fire.

  2. Seminarian says:

    A few days ago, we buried the holy oils at our cathedral. We had several jugs of it from the past few years and burning would have taken far too long.

  3. Kris says:

    Interesting to burn it in a lamp. We have always thought that it should all be burned at once, in an effort to not have the last year’s sacred oils “laying around” after Easter.

    Where might one find more information on this practice?

  4. sacristan's helper says:

    At our Cathedral, we pour small quantities down the sacrarium when washing the bottles returned by other parishes to be refilled following Chrism Mass. Larger quantities are collected and buried in the cemetery later, along with old vials which could not be adequately cleaned. We have burned the excess oil along with rags and other ‘contaminated’ items as well.
    I like the idea of using the oil in lamp in a chapel.

  5. Kris: You can’t. I just thought it up. It is a way of burning oil, … in a reverent way.

  6. Fr PF says:

    When I was an altar boy in the 1960s, the usual way that the priests disposed of the Holy Oils was by adding them to the oil in the sanctuary lamp.

  7. John says:

    If not possible to use in the sanctuary lamp, then I have used them to soak cotton wool [does that term work in the US as in the UK?] and consumed them in the new Fire at the Easter Vigil.

  8. Fr. Upnorth says:

    I pour out the old oils into cotton balls and sometimes into tissue, put it all in with the wood that will be be burned for the New Fire, and it all burns up very completely at the Easter Vigil.

  9. Ann says:

    Ours are burned in the fire of the Easter Vigil as well.

  10. Fr. David Grondz says:

    In our house chapel we have a hanging sanctuary lamp that is fed with oil, so I burn the old oil there. I have found that because our diocese uses so much balsam in the Chrism that it will only burn if mixed with the other oils and/or unblessed oil…otherwise the wick cannot handle whatever the perfume contains and it goes out in a short time. It is wonderful though, to have the smell of the Chrism in the Chapel as the oil burns; it reminds me of ordination.

    I have also discovered that most 51% sanctuary lights can also be topped with the oil, again observing the mixing mentioned above. The best lights are the ones that have a metal wire running through the wick.

    I usually wrap the old cotton and the paper towel from the drips into newspaper and simply burn it in the fireplace or the fire pit outside…I suppose that the ashes should be put into the Sacrarium, but I have not done that yet.

    Hope this is helpful.

  11. Caeremoniarius says:

    The best authors agree that the leftover Holy Oils are indeed to be burned
    in the sanctuary lamp. I regret I don’t have citations to hand…but
    Fortescue (inter alios) does seem to come to mind…

  12. Larry says:

    Me thinks the padre credits himself a bit much. No Father Z. while you may have just had the idea of burnig the Sacred Oils in Presence Lamp it has been done for years by those who think about what is proper.

    You can get wicks and burneres at a church goods store and I reccomend using double glass. A glass jar smaller inserted into a larger glass lamp for safety. Things get hot and a single glass can shatter sending oil and possibly burning oil over a wide area.

    Here is a source,an Orthodox supply house that has these wicks and burners as well if you can’t find them locally. Eastern Church Supply. http://www.easternchristiansupply.biz

  13. Giles Hawkins says:

    Actually, I think Monsignor (now Bishop) Peter Elliot in his excellent book Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite suggests burning the oil in a lamp. I believe, although I don’t have it in front of me that the Anglican book Ritual Notes suggests the same and that may well have been lifted from Fortescue or O’Connell.

Comments are closed.