“…there is no health in my bones because of my sin.” (Psalm 38:3)
On Holy Wednesday evening in some Orthodox traditions, the service of holy unction is offered. Throughout Lent we were called to repent of our sins, to receive the healing forgiveness of Christ. On Holy Wednesday we experience that forgiveness and healing through the sacramental oil of unction. Confession, Holy Communion and Unction are all Mysteries in which we received healing from Christ. They are all means for us to experience the salvation which Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, made possible for all humanity. All three Mysteries become available to us during Holy Week.
Here is one of the prayers the priests say at the service:
“For you are great and wonderful God: you keep your covenant and your mercy toward those who love you, granting forgiveness of sins through your holy Child, Jesus Christ, who grants us a new birth from sin, who gives light to the blind, who raises up those who are cast down, who loves the righteous and shows mercy to sinners, who leads us out of darkness and the shadow of death, saying to those in chains, ‘Go forth,’ and to those who sit in darkness, ‘Open your eyes.’
You made the light of the knowledge of his countenance to shine in our hearts when for our sake he revealed himself upon earth and dwelt among us. To those who accepted him, he gave the power to become children of God, granting us adoption through the washing of regeneration and removing us from the tyranny of the devil. For it did not please you that we should be cleansed by blood, but by holy oil, so you gave us the image of his cross, that we might become the flock of Christ, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; and you purified us with water and sanctified us with the Holy Spirit…
Let this oil, O Lord, become the oil of gladness, the oil of sanctification, a royal robe, an armor of might, the averting of every work of the devil, an unassailable seal, the joy of the heart, and eternal rejoicing. Grant that those who are anointed with this oil of regeneration may be fearsome to their adversaries, and that they may shine with the radiance of your saints, having neither stain nor defect, and that they may attain your everlasting rest and receive the prize of their high calling.” (Paul Meyendorf, The Anointing of the Sick, p. 82)
Throughout Holy Week we encounter our Lord, God and Savior Jesus, the Messiah, who comes seeking us, who heals us, who gives us His Body and Blood for our salvation. Sin is another illness which affects our souls and bodies. In unction we come like so many did in Christ’s own lifetime to be healed by Him of our physical and spiritual infirmities.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)