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When does the Church prescribe holy unction services?


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#1 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 08:06 PM

This is somewhat a spin-off of Julia's thread on Holy Unction for children. I would like to know when it is considered appropriate or needful to have Holy Unction services. Is it considered needful to have Holy Unction only when someone has a terminal illness or could such a service be conducted for someone whose situation is less severe? Can Holy Unction be performed on someone who is mentally ill, or someone who is going through spiritual difficulties/attacks? Can the sick person request Holy Unction or is it usually done at the suggestion of the priest? Are there supposed to be several priests present to conduct these services? Are they done only on certain days and at certain times? Could Holy Unction be performed immediately after a Divine Liturgy? Is the bishop ever involved in performing Holy Unction and must he be informed if it is being done even if he is not present? Can a Holy Unction service be performed outside of the church building, for example, in a hospital room or at someone's home?

I look forward to your answers.

Edited by Darlene Griffith, 11 April 2011 - 08:52 PM.


#2 Mary Ann H.

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 01:15 PM

Darlene, I am also still learning, but here is what I have experienced or heard so far:

The frequency of Holy Unction services varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For some (Greeks and Antiochians, but please correct me if this is incorrect) the main time for the service is an evening during Holy Week (Wednesday?). In my Romanian Orthodox parish, we have Holy Unction every week, and often none of those attending are noticeably ill! If you read the epistles and gospels that make up a large part of the service, you will see many references to sin as well as sickness, and the conclusion that one draws is that these two things are often intimately connected and that we are all in fact spiritually ill to a greater or lesser degree. At the end of the service one person venerates the gospel book and opens it, after which the priest places the book over his head and reads a prayer for him. Sometimes this person is in fact going through some kind of difficulty, be it of a purely spiritual or physical nature (or both), and sometimes I think he is just representing the entire group attending the service.

Our priest has occasionally done the service for an individual at home, but he really prefers it to be a communal event. In the event of a really serious illness, the main thing is Holy Communion, though I don't think there is any reason why both should not be administered if desired.

When I was visiting our metropolia, and an elderly nun had fallen down and broken her hip, we had an Unction Service especially for her after Liturgy on Sunday - she wasn't present, but we prayed for her.

The books say that Holy Unction is to be performed by seven priests, but I have never experienced it with more than two or three, and usually with just one, who reads the prayer blessing the oil seven times. When our bishop was visiting us some years ago on a Saturday evening, he performed the service together with our priest. We may be the exception in having the service Saturdays - I think many parishes in Romania do it on Friday - but it is a good preparation for Communion on Sunday (and Saturday evening after Holy Unction is our main time for confession).

As for mental illness, yes, people suffering from this also seek help at Holy Unction Services. I have read of dramatic cases being cured at monasteries in Romania.

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 02:43 PM

In our parish unction is a part of Matins/Orthros (most) every Sunday.

Herman

#4 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 02:52 PM

Herman,
that is probably the anointing that is appointed at Matins. It is different from Unction because anyone can be anointed then, including catechumens. The oil for that anointing is either blessed at the Litya at Great vespers, or more commonly, just some blessed oil, say from the tomb of a Saint, or something like that.

Sbdn. Anthony

#5 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 03:15 PM

The anointing at matins (or anointing at any other time) is not the same thing as the mystery (sacrament) of holy unction. You'll know you're attending an unction service if there are seven readings of the holy Gospel and seven anointings (ideally by a bishop and six priests - though this is not always practically possible).

#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 03:21 PM

The sacrament of Holy Unction is prescribed by the Church for the health of a person who is seriously ill. I have been taught that when the sacrament is done (which can be either at the Church of if the person is too ill to be moved, at the sickroom) it is done once and only once for a single illness. Therefore if a person has say cancer, the anointing is done once only for that cancer - not repeated over and over. If the person later develops a heart condition, then a second anointing can be done - but only once for that condition. The oil that is "left over" from the sacrament is given to the person (usually) and when they die, it is buried with them in their coffin.

It is also the custom of the Church to give the sacrament of anointing to all Orthodox Christians once during each Great Lent. This is based on the practice of the Church of Constantinople which initiated the practice in response to a plague that struck the city. This general sacrament of anointing is the same as the personal sacrament and it is given for the general healing of all. In the Byzantine practice this general sacrament is usually done in each parish by the rector on Holy Wednesday. In Russian practice this general sacrament is done only by the bishop and can occur whenever he is present during Lent (but it is also always done at the cathedral on Holy Wednesday). There are, I am sure, many variations and exceptions to this practice so if your parish does it differently, then I guess that's the way you do it. The leftover oil from this anointing is kept by the priest and can be given to those in need to anoint themselves with. This practice is reflected clearly in the letters of Fr John Krestiankin in which he frequently instructs his spiritual children who are under great temptation or in great suffering to anoint themselves regularly with this oil.

Fr David Moser

#7 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 03:52 AM

Is it appropriate for a person to request Holy Unction for themselves?

#8 Julia P.

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 06:22 AM

It is also the custom of the Church to give the sacrament of anointing to all Orthodox Christians once during each Great Lent. This is based on the practice of the Church of Constantinople which initiated the practice in response to a plague that struck the city. This general sacrament of anointing is the same as the personal sacrament and it is given for the general healing of all. In the Byzantine practice this general sacrament is usually done in each parish by the rector on Holy Wednesday. In Russian practice this general sacrament is done only by the bishop and can occur whenever he is present during Lent (but it is also always done at the cathedral on Holy Wednesday). There are, I am sure, many variations and exceptions to this practice so if your parish does it differently, then I guess that's the way you do it. The leftover oil from this anointing is kept by the priest and can be given to those in need to anoint themselves with. This practice is reflected clearly in the letters of Fr John Krestiankin in which he frequently instructs his spiritual children who are under great temptation or in great suffering to anoint themselves regularly with this oil.


When I first asked about children being anointed at Holy Unction, this is the practice that I was referring to. I didn't phrase my question very thoroughly because I didn't know there were different ways of administering this sacrament, I had only experienced the service with a bishop and 6 priests and 6 Gospel readings during Lent. Thank you Fr. David for the clarification.

Now, Fr. David, you say that

There are, I am sure, many variations and exceptions to this practice so if your parish does it differently, then I guess that's the way you do it.

Am I correct in thinking that whether children will be anointed or not at this particular service depends on the practice of the parish? I ask this because the information I got at my last parish was originally from the bishop there saying that children either need not or should not be anointed during the Lenten Holy Unction service. So I don't know if this means children are always excluded for some reason OR it was just that parish or diocese practice.

P.S. I hope this is still in line with the topic of this thread...

Edited by Julia P., 13 April 2011 - 06:24 AM.
add p.s.


#9 Father David Moser

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 03:47 PM

Now, Fr. David, you say that Am I correct in thinking that whether children will be anointed or not at this particular service depends on the practice of the parish? I ask this because the information I got at my last parish was originally from the bishop there saying that children either need not or should not be anointed during the Lenten Holy Unction service. So I don't know if this means children are always excluded for some reason OR it was just that parish or diocese practice..


This is a question for your own priest - no one here can really answer it.

Fr David

#10 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 05:04 PM

Is it a common practice within Orthodoxy to have Holy Unction services during Lent? I've noticed that many churches seem to be having this service on the 20th (Wed) of April this year, called Holy Wednesday on the calendar.

#11 Father David Moser

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 05:10 PM

Is it a common practice within Orthodoxy to have Holy Unction services during Lent? I've noticed that many churches seem to be having this service on the 20th (Wed) of April this year, called Holy Wednesday on the calendar.


Back in my post #6:

It is also the custom of the Church to give the sacrament of anointing to all Orthodox Christians once during each Great Lent. This is based on the practice of the Church of Constantinople which initiated the practice in response to a plague that struck the city.



#12 Nina

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 09:58 PM

Is it a common practice within Orthodoxy to have Holy Unction services during Lent? I've noticed that many churches seem to be having this service on the 20th (Wed) of April this year, called Holy Wednesday on the calendar.


As Father David said. And also we often have a synonym for the Holy Wednesday as Holy Unction because it always takes place in a GO church (at least the ones I know). This is also to strengthen us and prepare us for burial with Christ as He was prepared and to strengthen us in the last days before Pascha.

Confess before Holy Unction as you would before Holy Communion - if you need to.

#13 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 12:53 PM

It is actually so common in Greek and Antiochian churches, that their published Holy Week books don't even include the actual services for Holy Wednesday evening (being the Matins of Holy Thursday) and miss all of the hymnography about the betrayal.

Sbdn. Anthony

Is it a common practice within Orthodoxy to have Holy Unction services during Lent? I've noticed that many churches seem to be having this service on the 20th (Wed) of April this year, called Holy Wednesday on the calendar.



#14 Angie

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Posted 28 April 2016 - 01:54 AM

Would someone be able to guide me to the Holy Wednesday Evening Service in Greek/English?

 

I have the black book Holy Week, but its not the same as what the priest reads.  I read it on Holy Wednesday, but its printed differently.

 

I have tried searching on internet, but cant seem to find it.

 

Thank you


Edited by Angie, 28 April 2016 - 01:54 AM.





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