My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
CHRIST IS THE PHYSICIAN OF OUR SOULS AND BODIES –
THE MYSTERION OF THE HOLY OIL (EFCHELAION)
"Is any one of you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church
and let them pray over him, ANOINTING HIM WITH OIL IN THE NAME
OF THE LORD. And the power of faith will save the sick, and the Lord
will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, HE WILL BE
FORGIVEN" (Saint James 5:14-15).
THE PRAYER OF ANOINTING:
"O Lord Almighty, Healer of our souls and bodies, Who puts down and
raises up, Who chastises and heals also, visit now in Thy mercy our
brother or sister (Name) who is ill. Stretch forth Thy arm that is full of
healing and health, and raise (him, or her) up from this bed and cure this
illness. Put away the spirit of disease and every malady and pain and
fever. And if (he, or she) has committed sins and transgressions, grant
remission and forgiveness, because Thou loves mankind."
We, Orthodox Christian believers pray neither commanding the Almighty God to heal, nor doubting His power to heal, but pleading for His promised mercy upon all who are ill. Our Holy Church has a special divine service and Mysterion (Sacrament) of healing, which may be conducted at any time at church or at home.
The Holy Apostles did this even during the time when our Lord was still on earth. They anointed the sick with oil and healed them. Whenever some illness comes upon a person, he should hurry to the church. Let him receive the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Christ, be anointed by his priest with CONSECRATED OIL (EFCHELAION OR HOLY UNCTION) and to pray over him.
Blessed Augustine wrote, "The Lord Himself sets an example for us in this also. For if He Who neither has, nor had, nor will have any sin prays for our sins, how much more ought we to pray for each other’s sins! And if He for Whom we have nothing to forgive FORGIVES US, HOW MUCH MORE SHOULD WE FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER, KNOWING THAT WE CANNOT LIVE ON EARTH WITHOUT SINNING." Saint Paul writes, "And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He Himself IS THE PROPITIATION FOR OUR SINS AND NOT FOR OURS ONLY, BUT ALSO FOR THE WHOLE WORLD" (St. John 2:1-2).
"The Mystery or Sacrament of "Efchelaion" (Holy Unction) is a sacred action to which, while the body is anointed with holy oil, THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH HEALS INFIRMITIES OF SOUL AND BODY, IS CALLED DOWN UPON A SICK PERSON. It is performed by ideally SEVEN PRIESTS in number, however, it can be performed by a lesser number and even by a single priest."
"Even in Old Testament times, oil signified GRACE, JOY, A SOFTENING, and A BRINGING TO LIFE. We know that the Holy Apostles themselves anointed the sick, as we read in the Gospel of Saint Mark 6:13) : "They anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." However, the Holy Apostles DID NOT introduce anything of themselves. THEY TAUGHT ONLY WHAT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HAD COMMANDED THEM, AND WHAT THE HOLY SPIRIT HAD INSPIRED IN THEM, AND THEY CALLED THEMSELVES NOT THE THE "INSTITUTORS" OF THE MYSTERIES (SACRAMENTS) OF GOD, BUT ONLY THE "STEWARDS" OF THE MYSTERIES AND THE "SERVANTS OF CHRIST." Consequently, Holy Unction also, which is commanded here by the Holy Apostle James (Iakovos), has a Divine institution."
The contemporary scientific community focuses on the physical aspect of illness. The Holy Church forcuses on the WHOLE PERSON’S body and soul. The Church understands illness and healing within the context of sin and salvation. Holy Scripture treats healing, as mentioned by Saint Mark 6:12-13, "So they (Holy Apostles) went out and preached THAT PEOPLE SHOULD REPENT. They cast out many demons, AND ANOINTED WITH OIL MANY WHO WERE SICK, AND HEALED THEM." Also, the Holy Apostle James said (Iakovos) 5:14-15, "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders (presbyters or priests) of the church, and let them pray over him, ANOINTING HIM WITH OIL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. THE PRAYER OF FAITH WILL SAVE THE SICK AND THE LORD WILL RAISE HIM UP. IF HE HAS COMMITTED SINS, HE WILL BE FORGIVEN."
As you can see in both the scriptureal passages mentioned, one very important thing that is essential IS REPENTANCE (METANOIA). Another truth revealed, is that sin and illness are closely connected issues, and therefore they share a common cure. With certainty, the power to cure all illness is the Divine power of the Risen Christ God. The Grace of God is bestowed upon the person suffering from infirmities only through our Holy Orthodox Church. Let us not neglect to mention the absolute necessity of PERSONAL FAITH IN OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. Nothing happens without our own personal sincere faith. "Jesus said to him, ‘IF YOU CAN BELIEVE, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE TO HIM WHO BELIEVES" (St. Mark 9:23).
The Orthodox Christian is not someone who is uninvolved in his salvation, forgiveness, or healing. Instead, he or she understands that everything requires a synergy with the Almighty God. Our Lord treats us as individual souls and holds us responsible for all of our actions, for our sins, for our disobedience of His commandments, for our lack of compassion for our neighbor, and for our lack of repentance. A genuine repentance consists of the admition and acknowledgment of one’s wrongs committed and seeking God’s mercy and forgivenes. Nothing happens magically without any effort and faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ honors whatever faith we have and will increase faith when we sincerly desire Him.
Currently, there seems to be fear and doubt when an Orthodox Christian approaches the SACRAMENT OF EFCHELAION (HOLY OIL). Perhaps there is even a lack of faith that the grace of God is present and will bestow healing of soul and body through the anointing with the holy oil. This sacrament of our Holy Church, as I have brought to your attention, dates as far back as Christ and His Holy Apostles. If anyone fears that through the CONSECRATED OIl, CONSECRATED BY THE GRACE OF GOD, that a virus will be trasmitted to them, why receive it? There is no room for doubting! There should be no concern to any of the Christian believers present at the Sacrament when the priest uses the same instrument to anoint everyone! It is the same when the priest uses one communion spoon to administer Holy Communion. We are speaking here not just about an ancient ritualistic act, but the Grace of God the Holy Spirit. Those who spread seeds of doubt about the Sacraments of the Church are in danger of commiting, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, an unforgivable sin according to our Lord Christ.
It is appropriate for those Orthodox Christians who have been anointed on Holy and Great Wednesday, and who by the grace of God received healing of soul and body, attend the Divine Liturgy on Holy and Great Thursday morning to receive Holy Communion on the day that the "Mysterion" was instituted by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George