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May 31, 2010

About the Mystery of Holy Unction (Anointing)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"...and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" (Mark 6:13).

The holy apostles did this and it is commanded that we do the same. The Apostle James writes to us: "Is there any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:14-15). You should not call anyone except the priests, the elders of the church; you should not anoint him in any other name except the Name of the Lord, so that it will not appear as witchcraft. No one will be able to raise him except the Lord Himself nor can any other forgive his sins except the One Lord.

Why oil and not something else? Because it is commanded and so that we may show obedience and faith. Why is it commanded that we baptize with water and anoint [chrismate] with oil [myron] and communicate with bread and wine? That is God's choice and God's prudence and ours is to believe and to obey. Various elements are used in the different Mysteries [Sacraments], but the Grace of God is one as our Lord is one and everything is from the Lord.

Why does our Lord need some materials in order to pour out His Grace upon us? The Lord does not need the material but we do as long as we are material, we need material. Condescending to our weakness, the Lord uses matter. To the incorporeal angels, He gives Grace in an incorporeal manner.

Oil alone is helpless of itself as every other material is helpless of itself, but the Grace of God is All-powerful. Through oil, the Lord gives the Grace of His Holy Spirit and that Grace heals the sick, raises the infirm and restores sanity to the insane.

O my brethren, how inexpressible is God's goodness! What did not God do for us? And what more could we possibly desire? He knew all of our needs beforehand and, for all of them, He foresaw the cures in advance. He only seeks from us that we believe in Him and fulfill His prescriptions. Is it not insolent and shameful that we more often conscientiously follow the instructions of physicians, mortal men such as we are, and neglect the prescriptions of the Immortal God?

O All-good Lord, melt our stony hearts by the power of Your Grace so that before the hour of our death, we may show indebted thanksgiving toward You: toward You O our All-good and our All-wise God! To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.