Sacrament of the Unction of the Sick

The rite of the Sacrament of the Unction of the Sick

Introduction

The service of the Unction of the Sick, one of the Seven Sacraments of the Church, is commonly referred to as the sacrament of “Kandeel” (literally: lamp) because the first Christians used to place the oil in a lamp with seven threads. Today, the oil is poured in a plate and seven threads are dipped in it. The number seven signifies the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the Church (Is. 61:1-3). The Lord Christ instituted this sacrament when instructing His disciples saying “Heal the sick… cleanse the lepers” (Matt. 10:8). When St. James spoke of this sacrament, it was already a common tradition among Christians. He clearly wrote in his epistle: “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven” (Jam. 5:14-15).

It is evident from this passage that this sacrament was widely known from early Christianity, and is conducted by anointing the sick in the presence of the Church priests. Importantly, through this sacrament and the offering of repentance we gain the forgiveness our sins. Therefore, it is important that the priest be concerned in accepting the confession of the sick prior to the prayer, so that their sins may be forgiven. It is also important that the priest wear his vestments since he is participating in the sacraments of confession and unction of the sick. In addition, the priest and the sick individual must be fasting. As for the oil that has been prayed on; it is not to be used except by the priest and the faithful.

Rite

The Rite and order of prayers is as follows:

In the initiation of the service, the first thread is lit while the priest begins with `Eleson Imas and the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the Prayer of Thanksgiving and Psalm 50. The priest then prays the Litany of the Sick and the prayer “You have given Your blessing…”, after which the congregation replies with “Lord have mercy” subsequent to each part. The priest will then pray “God is the Light and living in the Light…”, and then crosses the oil while saying the prayer “For the sake of heavenly peace…” Again, the congregation replies “Lord have mercy” following every part. Then, the priest prays audibly “O Merciful God…” upon the oil. The Catholic Epistle from James 5:10-20 is read followed by the Trisagion and the Litany of the Gospel. Afterwards, Psalm 6:1-2 is read followed by the Gospel taken from John 5:1-7. Upon completion, the Three Short Litanies are prayed, followed by the Creed, and the prayer “O Lord Jesus Christ, King of ages…”

The second thread is then lit as the priest says `Eleycon `ymac and the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the Litany of the Travelers. The congregation responds with Tenouwst and the Pauline is read from Romans 15:1-7. The Trisagion is then chanted followed by the Litany of the Gospel, Psalm 101:1-2, and the Gospel from St. Luke 19:1-10. The priest then concludes with, “O Merciful God…”

After this prayer the third thread is lit as the priest says `Eleycon `ymac and the Lord’s Prayer, followed by one of the litanies for the appropriate season. The congregation chants Tenouwst and the Pauline is read from 1 Corinthians 12:28 – 13:8. The Trisagion is then chanted followed by the Litany of the Gospel, Psalm 37:1-2, and the Gospel from Matthew 10:1-8. The priest then concludes with, “You are blessed O God…”

After this, the fourth thread is lit as the priest says `Eleycon `ymac and the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the Litany of the Leader. The congregation chants Tenouwst and the Pauline is read from Romans 8:14-21. The Trisagion is then chanted followed by the Litany of the Gospel, Psalm 51:1-2, and the Gospel from Luke 10:1-9. The priest then concludes with, “O God the Teacher and Healer…”

The fifth thread is lit while the priest says `Eleycon `ymac and the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the Litany for the Departed. The congregation chants Tenouwst and the Pauline is read from Galatians 2:16-20. The Trisagion is then chanted followed by the Litany of the Gospel, Psalm 41:7, and the Gospel from John 14:1-9. The priest then concludes with, “We thank You O God of Powers…”

The sixth thread is lit as the priest says `Eleycon `ymac and the Lord’s Prayer. The congregation chantsTenouwst and the Pauline is read from Colossians 3:12-17. The Trisagion is then chanted followed by the Litany of the Gospel, Psalm 4:1, and the Gospel from Luke 7:36-50. The priest then concludes with, “O God of spirits and bodies…”

Finally, the seventh thread is lit as the priest says ` Eleycon `ymac and the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the Litany for the Catechumens. The congregation chants Tenouwst and the Pauline is read from Ephesians 6:10-18. The Trisagion is then chanted followed by the Litany of the Gospel, Psalm 24:17-18, and the Gospel from Matthew 6:14-18. The priest then concludes with the prayers “Again, we ask You O God of Powers…”, “O God the Compassionate…”, “God, the Good Father…”, and “O Saints…”

When the priest reaches “… to the end of ages”, the congregation replies Doxa Patri . The priests then says “Behold, I give you freely… freely give” and the congregation answers with Ke nun . The priest then concludes with “O Saintly Mother…”, after which the congregations chants the Gloria, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, the Orthodox Creed, and kieryalason 41 times. He then prays the three absolutions, as well as the final blessing. He puts out the threads and anoints the sick with the oil as well as those who are present and fasting.

Source

Mikhail, Deacon Albair Gamal, The Essentials in the Deacon’s Service, (Shobra, Egypt: Shikolani, 2002), p.988, 989. Translated from Arabic by Ragy Sharkawy, edited by Alexander A-Malek.

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