The Mysterion (Sacrament) of Holy Unction (Blessed Oil)

Commemoration of the Weeping Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” at Novgorod

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


O Gracious and Loving, compassionate and ever merciful Lord, plentiful in mercy, and rich in beneficence, the Father of bounties, and God of all comfort, Who through, Thy Holy Apostles has empowered us to heal the infirmities of Thy people by Oil and prayer: Do Thou sanctify this Oil unto the healing of those who shall be anointed therewith; unto relief from every ailment, and from every malady; unto deliverance from evils of those who in firm hope await salvation from Thee. Yes, O Master, Lord our God, we beseech Thee, O Almighty One, that Thou will save us all. O Only Physician of souls and bodies, sanctify us all. O Thou, Who heals every infirmity, heal also Thy servants. Raise them up from their sickness, through the mercies of Thy Goodness. Visit them with Thy mercies and Thy bounties. Cast out by Thy Mighty Hand every sickness and infirmity so that being raised, they may serve Thee with all thanksgiving; and that we also, who now do share Thine inexpressible love towards mankind, may sing praises and glorify Thee, Who performs deeds, great and marvelous, both glorious and transcendent.

For it is Thine to show mercy and to save us, O our God; and unto Thee do we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the Ages of Ages. Amen.

(At the conclusion of the Sacrament the priest anoints the forehead, chin, cheeks, and hands of the Orthodox Christian faithful saying:

"O Holy Father, Physician of our souls and bodies, have mercy, forgive and save Thy servant [name]".)



On November 27th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Apostles, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint James the Persian; Saint James, Bishop and wonderworker of Rostov; Seventeen monk-martyrs in India; Saint Theodosius of Turnovo; Saint Diodoros of George Hill; Saint Nathaniel of Nitria; Saint Pinuphrius of Egypt.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Monk-Martryrs, Holy Wonderworkers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

THE HOLY MARTYR JAMES THE PERSIAN. Born in the Persian town of Elapa, or Vilat, of Christian parents, he was brought up in the Christian faith and married a Christian wife. The Persian king, Yezdegeherd, loved James for his gifts and for his skill, and made him a noble at his court. Flattered by the king, James was deluded and offered sacrifice to idols, which the king also worshipped. His mother and wife, hearing of this, wrote him a reproachful letter in which they grieved over him as an apostate and one spiritually dead, begging him at the end of the letter to repent and return to Christ. Moved by this letter, James repented bitterly, and courageously confessed his faith in Christ the Lord before the king. The furious king condemned him to death, and added that his body was to be cut to pieces, little by little, until he breathed his last. The executioners fulfilled this command of the accursed king to the letter, and first cut off James's fingers, then his toes, his legs and the arms, his shoulders and finally his head. During the entire martyrdom, the repentant Martyr gave thanks to God. A fragrance came from his wounds as of cypress. Thus this wonderful holy man repented of his sin, and his soul went to Christ his God in the Heavenly Kingdom. He suffered in about 400 A.D. His head is to be found in Rome, and a part of his holy relics in Portugal, where he is commemorated on May 22nd.

SEVENTEEN MONK-MARTYRS IN INDIA. On November 19, we commemorate Varlaam and Ioasaph, Prince of India. After the monk Varlaam converted and baptized Prince Ioasaph, king Abenner was so incensed that he sent men to find Varlaam. They never found him, but they did capture 17 other monks. When they were brought before Abenner, they were condemned to death. So great was Abenner's hatred that he first had their eyes and tongues cut out, their arms and legs broken, then they were beheaded. Ioasaph finally converted his father Abenner to Christianity and Abenner spent the remaining years of his life in deep repentance.

[Personal comment: By reading the lives of the Saints of the Church we are of course inspired by their profound faith and love for Christ and our Christian Church. It is important however to learn from them what it means to be a true Christian. Next time you are tempted to complain about the length of the service or the sermon, think of the tortures and sacrifice of our fellow Christian men, women and children. Today's Christians want a comfortable and convenient kind of Christianity without any sacrifice or inconvenience. True Christianity is to accept the Cross of Christ and to be willing to carry your own cross with faith, courage, obedience, loyalty, unconditional love and to strive by the grace of God to gain the heavenly crown that every holy martyr receives. There are neo-Martyrs today in places like Egypt, North Africa, Syria, Iran, Afganistan etc. Persecution of Christians has never ceased throughout the 2,000 year history of Christianity.]


Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 20: 1-8


"Our every endeavor is powerless without the grace and help of God. A man can easily become debauched and so destroy himself, but he cannot correct himself and be saved without God". (St. Tikhon of Zadonsk).

(Eυχελαιο=Efheleo=Blessed Oil) by Father Anthony Alevizopoulos

Christ gave His disciples the authority "to heal every disease and every infirmity" (St. Matt. 10:1). They would anoint the sick with oil and heal them (St. Mark 6:13).

This healing power remained, according to the will of the Lord, as a faculty of the Church: "Is any among you sick? Let him invite the Presbyters of the Church, and let them pray for him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. And the blessing by faith will save the sufferer and the Lord will raise him and if he had sinned, his sins will be forgiven". (St. James 5:14-15).

Thy Mystery (Sacrament) is performed by the "Presbyters of the Church". The elements of the mystery are the use of oil and prayer "with faith." In other words, it is not something magic; it requires participation. Salvation will be provided by the Lord with His propitiating Blood. It will not only be for physical healing, but spiritual healing as well.

Here, forgiveness of sins does not mean the replacement of the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Confession, since Holy Unction goes together with Confession. Nor does it mean forcing God to grant bodily health. It is more the Mystery of the Church's love for the one suffering. By this mystery we henceforth entrust our fellow-Christian completely to the Providence and the love of God.


In the "Egyptian Decree" of Hippolytus (+ 236 A.D.) there exists a concise prayer for the sanctification of the holy oil: "so that sanctifying this oil, grant health, oh God, to those who are needful and receiving this; as you anointed kings, priests, prophets, likewise grant health to those tasting this and having need of it" (by Fr. Trembelas, Dogm. Vol. 3, pg. 351).

In this prayer preserved in the "Order of the Apostles" (ca 380 A.D.), the celebrant concludes: "grant power that provides health, that distances diseases, that sets the demons to flight, that expels every evil activity with the help of Christ..." (Order Apost. 8, 29:2-3).

Saint John Chrysostom commemorates those who "healed their afflictions, having approached with faith and at the proper time were anointed with oil" (Chrys. Accord. Matt., homily 32). At another point he adds that priests have authority to forgive sins, not only when they regenerate us but also later. This Holy Father of the Church supports this authority with St. James 5:14.


Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes on the Sacrament of anointing of the sick the following: "The sacrament, as this passage indicates (James 5:14-15), has a double purpose: not only bodily healing but the forgiveness of sins. The two things go together, for the human being is a unity of body and soul and there can therefore be no sharp and rigid distinction between the bodily and spiritual ills. Orthodoxy does not of course believe that the Anointing is invariably followed by a recovery of health; the Sacraments are not magic. Sometimes, indeed, the euchelaion (Holy Oil) does indeed assist the patient's physical recovery, but in other cases it serves as a preparation for death. 'This sacrament', remarks Sergius Bulgakov, 'has two faces: one turns towards healing, the other towards the liberation from illness by death."

"The sacrament of Anointing has never been regarded by the Orthodox Church as 'Extreme Unction', intended only for the dying, but it is available for all who suffer from any physical or mental illness. In many Orthodox parishes and monasteries it is the custom to celebrate the euchelaion in church on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning during Holy and Great Week, and everyone present is invited to approach for anointing, whether physically ill or not; for, even if we do not require healing of the body, we are all of us in need of healing for our soul. All too often in Orthodoxy the Anointing of the Sick has become a forgotten sacrament: we Orthodox need to make far greater use of it." (The Orthodox Church, page 296-297)

According to Father Michael Pomazansky in his book "Orthodox Dogmatic Theology" he writes: "This Mystery is performed on the sick who are capable of receiving it consciously an participating in prayer for themselves: however it may also be performed on children. The place of this sacred action may be either the church or dwelling (home) where the sick person is. The Mystery of Holy Unction is usually preceded by Confession and is usually concluded with the Mystery of Communion.

The visible side of the Mystery comprises seven anointings of the sick person with oil by the participating priests in order; this is done in the form of a cross on the forehead, the nostrils, the cheeks, the lips, the chest, and both sides of the hands, accompanied by prayers and by the reading of specific passages in the Epistles and the Gospel. During the Anointing itself, seven times this prayer is pronounced: "O Holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, Who did send Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who heals every infirmity and delivers from death: Heal also Thy servant (Christian/Baptismal name)," and so forth."

[Please note: That the local parish church has Holy Oil throughout the year and any Orthodox Christian may request to be anointed by the parish priest when needed it. The Holy Unction service may be conducted at an Orthodox home by request and it can be just for that one family. There are a number of things that will be needed it for the service and one must remember that the Sacrament of Holy Unction takes an hour and a half.]

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George