Anointing of the sick

How is Anointing of the sick carried out?

How is the Anointing of the sick carried out?

If the sacrament of the Anointing of the sick is carried out in the church, then the convocation of up to seven members of church men will perform it (that is where the Sacrament got its name from). However, in some cases there is a possibility for only one priest to carry out the Anointing of the sick.

Before the beginning of the Anointing of the sick, the church prepares a table on which the plate with wheat is placed, which symbolizes renewal of physical and spiritual life and hope for future resurrection. If necessary, wheat may be substituted by other grains such as bread-corn, rice, or oats. An empty vessel (lamp) is placed on the plate among the grains and during the Anointing of the sick, and anointing oil and wine will be poured on. There is a mention of these two substances as being used for medical treatment, which can be found in God’s parable about a kind Samaritan that poured anointing oil and wine onto the wounds of a person who was been beaten up and is laying on the road. Special attention is paid to the pods (sticks), which are wrapped with cotton that will be used to anoint the faithful – they are placed vertically onto the plate with wheat. Traditionally, seven candles are put there as well.

The action of the Anointing of the sick consists of three parts. It starts with Supplicatory singing, followed by making the anointing oil holy. During this, the priest pours anointing oil into the empty vessel which stands on the wheat, representing a sign of God’s grace, and wine as a sign of Jesus Christ’s blood that was poured out on the Cross to save mankind. He then mixes these two substances with the Communion spoon.

Seven candles that are placed above the vessel with anointing oil are lit, as well as candles that are held by priests and all those present at the Anointing of the sick. The priests read a prayer where they ask God, who cures souls and bodies, to make this anointing oil holy himself to cure the ones who are anointed, and for purification of the last filth of the body and spirit and any other evil. During this prayer, troparions to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Apostle Jacob, our Father’s brother in flesh, to Nikolaos the Wonderworker, to the  archbishop Myra of Lycia, to the great martyr Dmitry, Saint Panteleimon, to Saint Unmercenary, and to St. John the Evangelist the last troparion, are said to the Most Holy Mother of God.

Then the faithful are anointed seven times with the holy oil – the sign of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and as a remembrance of the seven prayers and hyperdulia of prophet Elisseus which he used to resurrect the youth from the dead; seven is the number of times Naaman was dipped into the waters of Jordan before he was purged from sins; and refers to the seven prayers of prophet Elias that cleared the sky and made it rain.

Before each anointing you can hear the readings from Apostle. Extracts from the Holy Gospel are read. After Litany, requesting for the future wellbeing of the sick, and his forgiveness for all his sins, a special prayer is read. Then according to the service book’s instructions, the “priest will take an anointment brush and put it in anointing oil, then will anoint the sick with crosses on the forehead, nostrils, cheeks, lips, chest, and hands (both sides)”. This is done as a sign of purification of feelings, thoughts, heart, and all our doings – all that can be counted as a sin. While the priest does this, he talks to God, the doctor of souls and bodies that cures every disease and that cures death, and the priest asks to cure the suffering person from physical and mental sickness, to bring him back to life. This secret prayer is uttered seven times during the Anointing of the sick, one during each anointing.

After the seventh anointing, the Holy Gospel is placed on the head of the sick with the text facing down; the book is held by the priests, and the main priest, without touching the Holy Gospel, reads the prayer of absolution. Following the prayer of the sick, he kisses the Holy Gospel. In the case of the sacrament being carried out in a larger church for many people, they stand closer to the Holy Gospel and lay their heads.

When sacrament is finished, people who took part in the sacrament then ask the priests for blessedness and forgiveness.