Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unction, Anointing with Oil


Unction is another term for anointing. The oil may be called chrism. Early Christian usage

In early Christian times, sick people were anointed for healing to take place:
James 5:14-15
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Mark 6:13
13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

Early Gnostic usage

Many early apocryphal and Gnostic texts indicate that anointing was part of the baptismal process, and in fact that the baptism with water (Johns baptism) is incomplete. The Gospel of Philip states; "The Chrism is superior to baptism, for it is from the word "Chrism" that we have been called "Christians", certainly not because of the word "baptism." And it from the "Chrism" that the "Christ" has his name. For the Father anointed the Son, and the Son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us. He who has been anointed possesses everything. He possesses the Resurrection, the Light, the Cross, the Holy Spirit. The Father gave him this in the bridal chamber, he merely accepted the gift. The Father was in the Son and the Son in the Father. This is the Kingdom of Heaven." In the Acts of Thomas the anointing is in fact the beginning of the baptismal process and essential to becoming a "Christian." It claims that God knows his own children by his seal, and that we shall receive the seal by the oil. Many such baptisms/Chrismations are described in detail throughout the text.


Orthodox usage

In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, Confirmation is known as Chrismation—from the Greek word chrisma (χρίσμα), meaning the medium and act of anointing. The Eastern Churches perform the Mystery of Chrismation immediately after the Mystery of Baptism during the same ceremony, even in the case of infant baptism, using the sacred myron (chrism) which they believe contains a remnant of oil blessed by the Twelve Apostles. This myron may be added to as needed, usually at a ceremony held on Holy Thursday at one of the Patriarchal Cathedrals. The new myron contains olive oil, myrrh, and numerous spices and perfumes. This myron is normally kept on the Holy Table (altar) or on the Table of Oblation. During Chrismation, the newly illuminate (i.e., newly baptized) person is anointed by making the sign of the cross with the myron on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, lips, both ears, breast, hands and feet. The priest uses a special brush for this purpose.

The oil that is used to anoint the catechumens before baptism is simple olive oil which is blessed by the priest immediately before he pours it into the baptismal font. Then, using his fingers, he takes some of the blessed oil floating on the surface of the baptismal water and anoints the catechumen on the forehead, breast, shoulders, ears, hands and feet. He then immediately baptizes the catechumen with threefold immersion in the name of the Trinity.

Anointing of the sick is called the Sacred Mystery of Unction. Although practices will vary, most of the Orthodox use Unction not only for physical ailments, but for spiritual ailments as well, and the faithful may request Unction any number of times at will. In some churches, it is normal for all of the faithful to receive Unction during a service on Holy Wednesday of Holy Week. The holy oil used at Unction is not stored in the church like the myron, but consecrated anew for each individual service. When an Orthodox Christian dies, if he has received the Mystery of Unction, and some of the consecrated oil remains, it is poured over his body just before burial.

It is also common to bless using oils which have been blessed either with a simple blessing by a priest (or even a venerated monastic or layperson), or by contact with some sacred object, such as relics of a saint, or which has been taken from an oil lamp burning in front of a wonderworking icon or some other shrine.


1 John 2:27
27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

No comments:

The Rams Horn

The Rams Horn on Facebook