April 24, 2019

The Mystery of Holy Unction

By Fr. Andrew Agathokleous

The Orthodox Church is a hospital, where the faithful can be cured of their psychosomatic illnesses. Illness is a terrible situation for people, and it is due to the sin that came into the world after the fall of Adam and Eve.

God did not create people to be sick, but to live with a healthy soul and body. However all of us, as descendants of Adam and Eve, suffer from small or great, short or long, curable or incurable illnesses, because our human nature is ill.

The Church as a mother has a special interest in her children, whatever that may be. By various means she tries to cure them, so that they may have joy and glorify their Lord. One of the ways healing is offered, is through the Mystery of Unction or Anointing with Oil.

This Mystery is mentioned in the New Testament by James the Brother of God, who wrote:

"Is anyone among you sick? Let them call for the presbyters of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven." (Jam. 5:14-15)

The Mystery of Unction is done by priests for the sick who suffer from a long-standing problem and they seek healing from God. This Mystery can be performed either in a house or in a church, and any day of the year, but it is always done in church on Holy Wednesday, primarily to prepare the faithful to a greater degree for Holy Thursday which is a significant day, because it is then that the Divine Eucharist was given to the world by Christ during the Secret Supper.

All people are psychosomatic beings, which is why the sicknesses of the soul affect the body and the sicknesses of the body affect the soul, although there are cases where the body suffers since it is mortal and perishable while the soul is healthy. This is why the Church with the Mystery of Unction, as well as the other Mysteries, heals the entire person, body and soul. Sin, as a sickness, refers to both the soul and the body.

We must approach the Mystery of Unction with a disposition of repentance, so that the grace of God acts towards our healing. We should feel the wrongs in our life, namely in the way we live, which differs from the way the Lord calls us to live, and how this is the cause for the illnesses of our body and soul. The willingness to change from this wrong sinful way to living in accordance with the commandments of God is the beginning of our healing. The Mysteries, such as the Mystery of Unction, act with their sanctifying and healing grace if we contribute. Without the submission of our will, which is expressed through action, grace remains inactive.

The forgiveness of sins, which is provided through the Mystery of Unction, does not refer to the sins we know but have not confessed, but instead to the small forgotten ones we may be ignorant of. No Mystery of the Church takes the place of another, but they compliment one another, even the great Mystery of the Church, which is the Body and Blood of the living Lord Jesus Christ.

The love of our great God, which was expressed especially through the sacrifice of His Son on behalf of the life and salvation of the world, is revealed also with the Mystery of Holy Unction. It enables us to be healed of the sicknesses of our soul and body, inviting us to live as children of a new life, of the Cross and the Resurrection.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.