Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Healing Body AND Soul

On Holy and Great Wednesday, it has become part of our Orthodox Tradition to offer the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Unction, also known as Healing Oil. Although this is not original to the Holy Week Journey, it has become somewhat of a “centerpiece” to every personal Holy Week experience, and for good reason.

Let’s take a quick look back at the creation of humanity for a better picture. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2.7) From that very moment humanity existed as a bond between body and soul, and when Adam and Eve fell to temptation, it was not just their bodies that became victims, but their souls as well.

Throughout Great Lent the theme has been about restoring ourselves, through prayer and fasting, to a proper relationship with God. It has been about healing our souls and bodies from the sins and abuses of the world. It has been about become truly human, body AND soul in communion with God. What was broken by Adam and Eve in the Garden, has been restored by God in His Passion which we commemorate during Holy Week.

So it seems natural for the Church to eventually include the Mystery of Healing Oil, for the healing of soul and body, into our Holy Week Journey. In fact during the actual anointing, the Priest offers this prayer:
O holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, Who sent Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to heal every infirmity and deliver from death, heal these Your servants from their ailments of body and soul, and endow them with life by the grace of Your Christ, through the intercessions our all-holy Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary; by the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; the protection of the honored bodiless Powers in Heaven; by the supplications of the honored, glorious Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist; the holy, glorious and alllaudable Apostles; the holy, glorious and victorious Martyrs; our saintly and Godbearing Fathers; the holy Unmercenaries and Healers, Cosmas and Damian, Cyrus and John, Samson and Diomedes, Mokias and Aniketos, Panteleimon and Hermolaos, Thalelaios and Tryphon; of the holy and righteous ancestors of God Joachim and Anna, and of all the Saints. For You, our God, are the source of healing, and to You we ascribe glory; to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.
This prayer reflects not only the purpose of the anointing, namely the healing of body and soul, but invokes the entire Church in the process. It is through the Grace which God has bestowed to His Church that we are healed and restored to full communion with God. What can be a better reason to include the service in Holy Week?

On a final note, as we draw closer to His Passion, consider the benefit to soul AND body of prayer and fasting. Even medical doctors are “now” telling patients about the benefits of an occasional fast to cleanse the body of toxins, something the Holy Spirit knew when the Church was guided to establish Great Lent. Just as a doctor instructs his patients to fast before any major medical procedure, the Church has asked us to fast before any major spiritual procedure. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Our Christian life is about healing soul AND body.