Holy Wednesday

This post is coming a few days late but I have been reflecting on the prayers from the Unction Service of Holy Wednesday and wish to focus on one particular prayer. During this service the Holy Oil is blessed that will be used to administer the Sacrament of the Sick during the coming year. In the Orthodox Church, the priest is the normal celebrant of this blessing. Oil can be blessed at any time during the year for need, but the bulk of it is blessed on this night. At the conclusion of the service the faithful come forward for the anointing.
During the service seven Gospel pericopies are read that deal with healing during Jesus ministry. Each of these pericopies are followed by a prayer. As has become my custom here I move to the vessel that contains the oil and pray these prayers out loud. In the Holy Week Service Book that I use the prayers are written in small type which usually means they are optional.
As I was reading the 5th prayer it struck me and a well-spring of emotions began to build up in me. I will re-print part of it below and then comment on it.

O Lord, our God, You chasten, and again heal; You raise up from the ground and dunghill the indigent; Father of orphans, and Haven of tempest-tossed; Physician of the ailing, Who without toil bears our weaknesses, and accepts our infirmities; it is You, Who cheerfully shows mercy, and passes over our iniquities, taking away our unrighteousness; quick to help and slow to wrath; You breathed on Your Disciples, and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit; whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them;” It is You, Who accepts the repentance of sinners, and has the power to pardon countless and grievous sins, bestowing healing upon all, who continue in weakness and long-enduring illness.
It is You, Lord, Who has also called me, Your humble, sinful and unworthy servant, intertwined in many sins, and wallowing in the pleasures of life, to the Holy and exceedingly lofty degree of the Priesthood, and to enter within the innermost Veil, into the Holy of Hollies, where the Holy Angels desire to penetrate and hear the voice of the Lord, God, announcing glad tidings, and to behold with their own eyes the presence of the Sacred Oblation, and to enjoy the Divine and Sacred Liturgy.
You, Lord, deemed me worthy to minster Your Heavenly Mysteries, and offer You gifts and sacrifices for our sins, and the ignorance of people; and to meditate for Your reason-endowed sheep, so that through Your great and ineffable love for mankind, You may blot out their transgressions…

You who has called me… intertwined in many sins, and wallowing in the pleasures of life, to the Holy and exceedingly lofty degree of the Priesthood… WOW, I read this and almost fell on the ground and yelled, “I AM NOT WORTHY…” It never ceases to amaze me when I come upon one of these prayers and it stops me in mm tracks. This is the third year of my Priesthood and I have read this prayer two times before, but I guess this year I am not as worried about the service this year and more into the prayers and I am actually listening to what I am reading. This is BIG! It is hard to think of the “Lofty Degree of the Priesthood,” when you have your hands in the toilte cleaning it before the people arrive for services, or when you are doing some other task around the church, but I guess it is true. It is all part of the job, and you can be cleaning a toilet one minute and anointing a person the other. Man this is going to need more reflection.

1 Comment

  1. We hold anointing services once a month in my parish, and every time I hear my priest read this prayer, all I can think is that this guy is so innocent that if a roaring rampant Sin came bounding up to him with the intention of devouring him, he’d pat it on the head and beam and say, “NICE pussycat.” And that lion-like sin would just lie down and roll over to have its stomach scratched and purr. “Wallowing in a welter of sins” is SO not my priest.

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