Holy Unction Service in Chicago Deanery of the Western Eparchy of the Church
Is any among you sick, let him call for the presbyters 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. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5.14–16).
On the afternoon or evening of Great and Holy Wednesday, the Mystery of Holy Unction is conducted in Orthodox parishes. The Sacrament of Holy Unction is offered for the healing of soul and body and for forgiveness of sins. At the conclusion of the service of the Sacrament, the body is anointed with oil, and the Grace of God, which heals infirmities of soul and body, is called down upon each person. The Sacrament is performed by a gathering of priests, ideally seven in number, however, it can be performed by a lesser number and even by a single priest.
Seven local Ukrainian Orthodox clergy of the greater Chicago Metropolitan area, representing parishes of Chicago Deanery, gathered together with the bishop of Western Eparchy, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, for the celebration of the Mystery of Holy Unction at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL.
The mystery of Holy Unction provides both physical and spiritual healing with holy oil blessed by the Holy Spirit, and is usually celebrated during Great Lent, but private services are also common. Everyone in a parish who prepared oneself may be anointed with the holy oil for the healing of spiritual and bodily ills. As this is one of the sacraments of the Orthodox Church, it may be administered only to Orthodox Christians.
As one of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church, the oil carries God’s grace both to renew the body and to cleanse the spirit. This service follows the Apostolic tradition mentioned in the New Testament: “…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).
Holy Unction is a mystery that provides spiritual comfort to the faithful Christian, and while seeking healing, asks for faithful to seek patience to accept the will of God whatever the physical outcome.
The full service is composed of psalms from the Old Testament, hymns of direct supplication to God, and prayers to the 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. Traditionally, the service is celebrated by seven priests, but where fewer than seven priests are available it will be served by at least one.
At the end of the service, the priest puts holy oil on the forehead, eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, chest, and hands of the parishioners in the form of the cross, saying: “O Holy Father, physician of our souls and bodies, heal Your servant [name] from every physical and emotional affliction” or “The blessing of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ: for the healing of the soul and body of the servant of God, [name], always: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
Very Rev.Fr. Ivan Lymar, the cathedral pastor, welcomed Archbishop Daniel, the gathering of priests, and many Orthodox faithful from across the Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
As the service neared the conclusion, the bishop, assisted by the clergy, holding the Holy Gospel over the faithful gathered in the parish temple, recited the prayer of Anointing for the healing of soul and body. Following the dismissal, the faithful approached the hierarch and the clergy (Very Rev. Fr. Ivan Lymar – pastor of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL; Very Rev. Raymond Sundland – pastor of Holy Archangel Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Pro-Cathedral in Hammond, IN; Rev. Fr. Walter Hwostik – pastor of Annunciation of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Milwaukee, WI; Very Rev. Fr. Gregory Jensen of Madison, WI Ukrainian Orthodox Mission; Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl Sendeha – pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Palos Park, IL; Rev. Fr. Silouan Rolando – pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Goshen, IN; Rev. Fr. John Charest of Chicago Deanery) for anointing, while the responses and hymns were chanted by Pani-matka Lilia Lymar joined by singers Ania Kreinina, Volodymyr Lymar and Subdeacons Mykola Zomchak and Ivan Venhryn. Altar servers, assisting Vladyka Daniel were seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary Myroslav Mykytyuk and Yaroslav Bilohan.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel addressed the faithful of the Church with his remarks prior to the beginning of the service, teaching the faithful about the spiritual meaning of this sacred service. Vladyka stated: “The express purpose of the Sacrament of Holy Unction is healing and forgiveness… In Holy Unction, blessed oil and wine is mixed. The wine represents the Blood of Christ, spilled on the Cross for the salvation of all people, while the oil is an ancient form of medicine in its own right, and represents the mercy of God...”