Anointing of the Sick. In times of grave illness, a Christian is strengthened with Gods’ grace through the prayer of a priest and the sacramental anointing of holy oil. The person is given the grace to share more fully in the Passion of Christ and to receive either spiritual or even physical healing.
As the name indicates, this Sacrament (one of seven) is “FOR THE SICK.” It is a Sacrament that is intended for those who suffer illness, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Thus, it is a Sacrament of healing and recovery to good health. If someone is diagnosed with an illness, or scheduled for an operation, or if someone is physically ill and taken to hospital, or if someone is suffering any kind of emotional or mental illness – then this Sacrament is intended for them! In the Book of Sirach, it is written:
“When you are ill, do not delay, but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you. Give up your faults and direct your hands rightly, and cleanse your heart from all sin. Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice… Then give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; do not let him leave you, for you need him. There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians, for they too pray to the Lord that He grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life” (Sirach 38:9-14).
According to Scripture, medical treatment needs to be combined with prayer: personal prayer, the offering of the Divine Liturgy, and the Anointing of the Sick. As St. James advises:
“If one of you is ill, he should send for the presbyters (priests) of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him” (James 5:14).
In the Mystery of the Anointing of Sick, it is Jesus Himself who touches the person who is ill. There are several things that Jesus may choose to do: heal the person physically, heal the person spiritually (forgiving sins, or resolves past memories that are obstacles), to heal past memories and hurts, to unite the suffering of the person to His own suffering on the cross, or give meaning to the suffering of the person, making it redemptive for the salvation of souls. In the Universal Catholic Church, there is no such thing as the Sacrament of “Last Rites.” In the Byzantine Tradition, there is no such thing as “Last Rites.” If you look at the Book of Needs, which the Eastern Catholic priest uses for every situation and need, there is no section or prayer titled “Last Rites.” The idea of “Last Rites” is totally foreign in the tradition of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Sacraments and Prayers of the Church are always intend for those who are living and alive in Christ (even those who have fallen asleep are alive in Christ). They are always intended for healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, growth, cleansing, sanctification, holiness and ETERNAL LIFE. Do not wait to the last minute! Always appeal to prayer and God’s grace not at the final moments before death, but at the first onset of illness.
“The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you; the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully” (James 5:25-26).
– Fr. Peter