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Holy Myrrh: The 57 Rare Ingredients of the Sanctified Orthodox Oil

Holy Myrrh
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew inspects the preparation of Holy Myrrh, a process that takes place every ten years. Credit: AMNA

The Holy Myrrh, or Holy Myron, the oil with the highest level of sanctification in the Christian Church, was prepared during the Holy Week at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul to be distributed throughout the Orthodox world.

The sacred liquid is the result of mixing oil and another 57 types of aromatic oils, herbs and medicinal plants found in Greece, as well as in several Asian and African countries.

It is made about every 10 years at the Ecumenical Patriarchate and then sent to the Orthodox churches to be used in the anointing mystery.

Preparations for the Sanctification of the Holy Myrrh commenced Monday at the Phanar in Istanbul following the blessing by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

The Holy Myrrh was prepared by nine scientist volunteers and two aides over three days. Bartholomew presided over the ceremony for a fourth time, placing the materials in boilers and lighting up the fire.

Pharmacist Giorgos Savvich, with several decades of experience in the Holy Myrrh preparation told AMNA that this year, the official recipe from 1890 was used.

“There are 57 ingredients in this formulation, mostly drugs. Medicines are components from various plant tissues. These may be roots, flowers, bark, seeds, bulbs, roots, gums, resins, and various other components derived from plants or shrubs, trees, or flowers. Preparations for this year started around the beginning of March with the ordering of the ingredients to be used,” Savvich said.

Holy Myrrh Ingredients
Holy Myrrh. Credit: Jonathunder , CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

Ingredients of the Holy Myrrh

Among the 57 excellent quality ingredients mentioned in the official Patriarchal catalog are the following:

  • pure olive oil
  • wine
  • rose water
  • citrus flower water
  • pure mastic
  • fragrant gum
  • long pepper
  • Czech angelica
  • cinnamon
  • amber
  • saffron
  • cardamom
  • ginger
  • lavender
  • laurel
  • rosemary oils

According to Savvich, not all of these ingredients can be found in a single area or even in a single country; therefore, they are shipped from various parts of the world.

“There are some ingredients that can’t be found because they don’t exist. For example, one substance that we will not be able to find this year but that we will use from the stock left over from the previous baking in 2012 is ambergris. For future baking, and if this ingredient cannot be found, a substitute of the same quality can be used.”

Another rare material that Savvich was unable to attain this year was musk, which is obtained from the gland of a deer species that lives in Tibet and is apparently endangered.

“I happened to meet a dealer in this substance who sold it for $250 per gram. About 50 grams of musk is used for holy peace,” Savic said.

The abundance of the elements that make up the world symbolizes the diversity of Christian virtues.

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