Holy Unction

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This article forms part of the series
Orthodox Spirituality
Holy Mysteries
Baptism - Chrismation
Eucharist - Confession
Marriage - Ordination
Holy Unction
Three Stages
Nepsis - Metanoia
Hesychia - Phronema
Mysticism - Nous
Chastity - Obedience
Stability - Fasting
Poverty - Monasticism
Humility - Generosity
Chastity - Meekness
Temperance - Contentment
Worship - Veneration
Prayer Rule - Jesus Prayer
Church Fathers
Desert Fathers
The Philokalia
The Ladder of Divine Ascent
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The sacrament of holy unction provides both physical and metal healing with holy oil blessed by the Holy Spirit. It is most commonly celebrated during Holy Week on Holy Wednesday, however, private services are also common. Everyone in the parish in good ecclesiastical standing may be anointed with the Holy Oil for the healing of spiritual and bodily ills. As this is one of the seven sacraments of the Orthodox Church, it may be administered only to Orthodox Christians - same criteria as for Holy Communion.

The oil carries God's grace both to renew the body and to cleanse the spirit. The service follows the apostolic tradition mentioned in the Gospels. "...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; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." James 5:14-15

The service is composed of Psalms from the Old Testament, hymns of direct supplication to God, and prayers to saints to intercede for the petitioner. In addition, there are seven readings from the Gospels preceded by seven other New Testament writings, notably the epistles of St. Paul and St. James. After each set of scriptural readings, a prayer is offered on behalf of the penitent by the priest asking for forgiveness and the sanctification of the oil.

At the end of the serice, the priest puts holy oil on the forehead, checks, chin, and hands of the parishoners in the form of the cross, saying: "O Holy Father, pyhsician of our souls and bodies, heal your servant [name] from every physical and emotional afflication."

Holy unction is a sacrament of great comfort to the faithful. It provides uplift and asks for patience to accept the will of God whatever the physical outcome.