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Healing & Anointing

The Anointing of the Sick is the Sacrament given to seriously ill Christians, and the special graces received unite the sick person to the passion of Christ. The Sacrament consists of the anointing of the forehead and hands of the person with blessed oil, with the priest saying, "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up."

Laying hands on the sick was a common practice in the Early Church. Jesus often laid hands on people before healing them (Mark 6:5; Luke 4:40; 13:13). Paul laid hands on a sick person and he was healed (Acts 28:8). Jesus said concerning His followers, “They will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:18).

Anointing with oil for many different purposes was commonly practiced throughout the Scriptures. The New Testament mentions it specifically in connection with praying for the sick. On one occasion Jesus sent out the twelve disciples on a mission; they “anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:13). In a congregational situation, the usual procedure is for a sick Christian to call for the elders of the church to pray over him and to anoint him with oil (James 5:14-16).

In biblical times oil was commonly used as a healing agent (Luke 10:34). But when used by the early Christians for anointing purposes it was merely a symbolic reminder to God’s healing power.

Origen of Egypt, in his Homilies on Leviticus, described Anointing for healing the sick and forgiveness of sins in the third century. St. Thomas Aquinas stated that Extreme Unction, as the Anointing of the Sick was once called, is “a spiritual remedy, since it avails for the remission of sins, and therefore is a sacrament: (James 5:15). The ecclesial effect of this sacrament is incorporation into the healing Body of Christ, with a spiritual healing of the soul, and at times healing of the body. The sacramental grace helps us to accept sickness by uniting ourselves to the passion and death of Christ (Colossians 1:24) and the grace event to accept death if that is God’s will.

Sacramental oil

The duly blessed oil used in the sacrament is, as laid down in the Apostolic Constitution, pressed from olives or from other plants. It is blessed by the bishop of the diocese at the Chrism Mass he or she celebrates on Holy (Maundy) Thursday or on a day close to it. If oil blessed by the bishop is not available, the priest administering the sacrament may bless the oil, but preferably within the framework of the celebration of The Holy Eucharist.