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Holy Wednesday: Oil and Air

oil lamps
O Lord who, in thy mercies and bounties, healest the disorders of our souls and bodies, do Thou, the same Master, sanctify this Oil, that it may be effectual for those who shall be anointed therewith, unto healing, and unto relief from every passion, every malady of the flesh and of the spirit, and every ill; and that therein may be glorified Thy most Holy Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

What I remember most clearly about my chrismation was the anointing with oil. I remember closing my eyes, holding out my hands and standing barefoot as the priest made the sign of the cross on my forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, chest, hands, and feet. Each anointing was punctuated by the priest saying, “The Seal and Gift of the Holy Spirit” and the people in attendance responding “the seal.” It was an emotional and powerful moment.

It’s no surprise that the Holy Wednesday services would stand out to me among the many and varied services in Holy Week. Unlike in the Catholic tradition, the Orthodox church doesn’t reserve the mystery of Holy Unction to those seriously ill or near death. Or perhaps, it does in some manner. Perhaps it is only that we are all seriously ill or near death, we are just unaware of it. I can use healing here. I’m not too shy to admit how hard this life can be, how much I am in need of some hope, some miracle, some small offering of oil on my forehead.

This moment of anointing, of healing, of hope, is enough to remind me to breathe deep here, to be able to step into the chilly night air knowing that I am stronger, a bit more prepared, for what is to come than I had been only moments before. So, yes please. I’ll take it.

It is with this perspective that I glide into Holy Wednesday, moving deeper into the week, approaching fast the ever sobering feel of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This mid-week evening service offers one last sliver of hope and healing before the great descent into death and the miraculous light of the resurrection. Hope and healing, death and darkness, oil and air– now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

#unction #pascha #Lent #water #oil #air #orthodox #holywednesday