The Church of Saint Peter
Anointing for Healing
What is it?
The Anointing for Healing is a “lesser” sacrament of the Church. A sacrament is a way in which God chooses a physical way to reconnect with his people, such as the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist. In the sacrament of healing, sacred oil is traced with the Sign of the Cross on the forehead of the person seeking healing in body, mind or soul. As we are anointed with holy oil, prayers are said for God’s love and power to surround and uphold the person. The anointing and prayers may be accompanied by the Laying on of Hands. The Church inherited the ancient custom of the Laying on of Hands from the Jewish tradition. This prayerful gesture invokes the healing power of God’s Spirit and recalls the healing touch of Jesus’ and the apostles’ hands.
Healing was central to Jesus’ own ministry on earth. John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus if he was the Messiah (“The Anointed One”). Jesus responded, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:4,5). Note how present healing is in Jesus’ description of his own ministry. When Jesus commissioned his disciples to go out to announce that God`s Kingdom was among them, healing was part of their work. “He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. “…So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:7, 12-13). The Apostolic Church invited all who needed physical or spiritual healing; “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (James 5:13-16). Jesus Christ continues to bring people healing and wholeness today through the ministry of his Church.
The Nature of Healing
Christianity understands human beings in a holistic way, that is, our bodies, minds, emotional life, and our souls are all integral and intimately related parts that make up the whole person. Christianity’s understanding of healing is holistic as well. The whole person cannot be well if a part of us is unwell, be it our emotional, physical or spiritual health. We can come to the rite of healing not only to seek God’s healing grace for our bodies, but we can also come to be anointed to heal wounds and bruises that cannot be seen. Many people have emotional injuries from their past and need to heal a hurting memory or experience. Addiction, psychological or emotional trauma can be aided with prayer and healing. The heavy burdens of our guilt, anger and resentments that we carry and eat away within us can also begin the healing process through the sacrament of anointing.
Healing, Cure and Wholeness
Healing in this Christian holistic sense should not be confused with a cure. Our bodies, over time or due to disease or injury, will break down and fail us. This is the natural process of the universe and our world of which we are a part. The Anointing for Healing is not the Church’s magical miracle cure nor is it a form of charismatic “faith healing”. In Anointing we ask that God’s grace will be our strength in our human frailty. We pray that Jesus’ hand will be upon us to lift us up and that he will be with us in our time of spiritual, emotional or physical weakness. We call upon the Holy Spirit that the Spirit will fill our hearts with courage and wisdom to face the difficult days ahead. What the sacrament of Anointing offers is not a fix or a cure. Rather, Anointing offers healing and wholeness.
As our bodies can have many ailments, our souls may also suffer from spiritual sickness. Our sin, human weakness, pride or arrogance can cut us off from God’s presence. Our guilt can be so strong that we feel we are not worthy to approach or talk to God or enter a church. Perhaps long periods of spiritual neglect in prayer and worship have left our hearts and our spiritual lives dry and cold.
If we’re physically ill we go to the hospital to see a doctor who will use his or her skill, knowledge and medical science to remedy our illness. If we are struggling with emotional or relationship issues we may seek the professional help of a therapist or councillor. If our spiritual health is suffering and we are in need of spiritual healing, the obvious person to seek is Jesus, the “Great Physician” and “Healer of Souls” as the Church Fathers called him. Jesus is the source of the Church’s healing ministry and like modern multidisciplinary medical therapies, the Church has many ways in its own “medicine cabinet” to restore spiritual wholeness. In addition to Anointing, the Church offers The Reconciliation of a Penitent, commonly known as Confession, which liberates a person from the weight of sin and guilt. Confession heals the broken connection between a person, God and the community. Regular spiritual direction is also offered to anyone at any time by the clergy or those qualified to guide people with their struggles on the Christian journey. Good physical health is dependent on a diet of nutritious food which gives the body vitality. The sacred food of the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist is what nourishes God’s people. It brings Jesus’ life-giving and healing presence into our midst. The Holy Eucharist re-unites us intimately to Christ and restores the brokenness of the community as a whole. St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. AD 50-117) described the Eucharist as “the medicine of immortality, and the antidote which prevents us from [spiritually] dying but is the source of eternal life in Jesus Christ.”
The Holy Oil
The Church primarily uses two sacred oils. Chrism is the oil used to anoint those preparing for Baptism, at the Baptisms, at Confirmation and at some other rites. Oil of the Infirm is the sacred oil used for anointing for healing. Sacred oils are consecrated (made holy) by a bishop usually on or close to Maundy Thursday. Although anointing for healing will frequently be done privately (e.g. in the home or hospital), the consecration of the oil by a bishop, who represents the Universal Church, ensures that wherever a person is anointed the whole Church is present praying for its member; “If one member suffers, all suffer together with them; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with them.” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Olive oil is used for holy oils. Olive oil has an ancient, rich history and symbolism in the Bible. Olive trees take years of tender care before they can bear fruit. Cultivating olive trees can only be done with the right climate and rain and in times of peace and stability and so the olive tree became a symbol of God’s goodness. Olives and its oil were one of the most important necessities in the ancient Mediterranean. The olive fruit was a staple in their diet. Olive oil provided fuel for lamps, oil for baking, cooking and seasoning food. It was in used cosmetics, ink, soaps, and medicine and so it was associated with health. Olive oil played an important role in many religious rituals such as the anointing of sacred objects and buildings as well as for anointing kings and prophets. Recall that Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean God’s “Anointed One”. The pouring of oil over God’s people symbolized the abundant outpouring of God’s Spirit of power and grace upon the people.
Some Final Thoughts on Suffering and Healing
Humanity has always struggled to find reason and meaning in suffering. For most of us most of the time, the reasons for our suffering, illness and inner agony are a mystery. Some answers to the question of suffering are simply wrong as we sometimes hear, “God causes suffering as a punishment for sin.” That response has no place with a God of love. It is to the God of love made known to us in Jesus that we can turn to enter into the mystery of suffering. Jesus never promised to remove all illness and suffering. Jesus did promise that he would be with us always on every part of our journey. Jesus promises us that we do not suffer alone. He is always with us. God in Christ chose to enter, share and experience every human frailty and struggle that we experience. His cross and suffering shows us how our own pain and suffering can be transformed and have meaning. Christ lives with us and within us and experiences our joys and our pain as we experience them. He walks with us on our journey.
Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy uphold you by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As you are outwardly anointed with this holy oil, so may our heavenly Father grant you the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering, and restore you to wholeness and strength. May he deliver you from all evil, preserve you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rite of Healing (Book of Alternative Services)
O Lord, Only you know how hard life has been for me.
Only you have seen each moment of my day and night.
Only you feel my pain and understand my discomfort.
Only you are beside me through my grief and sorrow.
Only you have been within each moment to comfort me.
O Lord, break through the loneliness of my suffering.
You have encountered sorrow and laid a glorious path
of hope, healing and the promise of heaven in my heart. Amen.
Today and all days embrace us in a love that knows no end.
Today and all days fill us with a power that overcomes.
Today and all days encourage us with a word that nourishes.
Today and all days inspire us with a hope that sustains.
Today and all days comfort us with a peace that endures.
Today and all days bring wholeness of body, mind and spirit
Today and all days. Amen.
There are scars seen and unseen in my life.
There is pain inside and out I confess.
There is need for wholeness and peace.
There is room for healing and grace. Amen.
Permission is granted to use and replicate this or parts of this article with the following ascription;
“From an article by Dean Rose, St. Peter’s Church, Oshawa, Diocese of Toronto.”