Healing of the Spirit

healsick“If anyone among you is sick?  Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him.” James 5:14

There seems to be a fear amongst Orthodox for the Anointing of the sick.  Perhaps this is a throwback to the days when this Sacrament was, mistakenly, called “last rites.”  Because of this fear many of us will not call the priest when we are sick but rather I get the call to let me know that so and so was in hospital but is now home.  I think do for some they think I am the grim reaper coming to them rather than the one that brings the healing power of the Church.  The Sacraments of the Church are there for us and for our salvation but we have to use them when we need them.

The Church teaches that humanity is combination of body and soul and that the anointing by the priest aids in the healing process.  There have been a number of studies recently that show a correlation between prayer and health especially when one is sick.  Now this is nothing new to the Church for we have always known this, but medical science seems to be catching on.

On the other hand some believe that all we need is the anointing by the priest and we can throw off medical science as some sort of voodoo, but the way I look it is God gave the doctors the skills they have to heal and we need to use that.  So call the doctor, but also call the priest!

When the priest comes to anoint you, and by the way, it can be done in church as well, there are some prayers that are said and then the Holy Oil, blessed on Great and Holy Wednesday, is applied.  Olive oil not only is an ancient form of medicine, but it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit so the Sacrament really works on the healing of the body as well as the spirit.

Combined with the anointing, actually taking place prior to the anointing is confession.  I think people are as afraid of confession as they are with the anointing.  In his letter, St. James speaks of forgiveness of sins as well as healing of the body.  Again, there is a relationship between the health of the body and the health of the soul, if one is out of whack, that is a technical medical term by the way, and then the other one will suffer.

Confession of sin is an important part of our spiritual walk and it is something that should be done more than one time a year.  If you had the need to take some kind of medication would you only take it once a year?  I don’t think so.  Confession is medicine for the soul and is an important part of our spiritual, and therefore, physical wellbeing.  Confession of our sins before God with the priest as witness, frees our souls from the burdens that we carry and help to keep our spiritual life on track.

Another aspect of this is regular spiritual direction.  I have not really talked about this in the past but another tradition of the Church is that of the spiritual father.  I don’t just mean this in the good times, but all the time.  Regular spiritual direction, like confession, keeps us on track with our spiritual life.  The tradition of the Church is that before we make any big, life changing, decisions we should speak with our spiritual father.  If we have a medical reason why we cannot fast or we need to adjust our fasting, we should speak with our spiritual father about this.  Questions of faith should be brought to our spiritual father.  Just as we seek the counsel of a physician for matters relating to physical health, we need to consult with our spiritual doctor for matters of the spirit and the soul.  Regular meeting with our spiritual father keeps us on track with our spiritual life.

You know as well as I that if we are sick it is hard to pray, sometimes it is hard to do anything, so that is why we call for the elders of the Church so they can pray for you.  Each week in our bulletin I list names of people who have asked for our prayers.  Many of those on our list are suffering from cancer in one form or another and we should be holding them in prayer each day.  I also list clergy from our Archdiocese as well members of the Church to pray for.  Prayer works.

The anointing of the sick is available for all anytime you feel you need it.  If you are having surgery, if you are facing some sort of illness, any illness, call the priest and we will come and pray for you and anoint you.  You should also go to confession and take communion prior to any surgery, the Sacraments of the church are not some magical hokus pokus but indwelling’s of the Holy Spirit that will give us the strength we need to get through what we are to face.

“If anyone among you is sick?  Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him.”

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