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” (James 5:14-15).
The 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 re-quires 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 of holy confession, since 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.
The first Church performed this mystery.
In the “Egyptian Decree” of Hippolytus (+236) 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. Trembela, Dogm. Vol. 3, pg 351).
In the prayer preserved in the “Order of the Apostles” (ca 380AD), 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)
By : Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos
PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy