Last week, this article described the background and effects of the sacrament Anointing of the Sick. This article will focus on how this sacrament is administered.
To begin with, if it is feasible and the recipient has not done so recently, it is preferable for him to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation just before receiving Anointing. For, as with the cure of the paralyzed man in Capernaum, the curing of the soul is primary to health of the body. See Mark 2:1-12. The priest then leads the liturgy with prayers and readings. As with all sacraments and most Catholic prayers, we begin with the sign of the Cross. Through this sign, we invoke God by name, for we know Him personally, and recall the cross through which Jesus won for us salvation. There is then a reading from Scripture; for, as with Mass, the written word proclaims the personal Word of God, Jesus Christ. Again as with Mass, there are usually intercessions, for we join our common prayers with the sacraments that Christ instituted.
At this point, the priests administers the sacrament by the laying on of hands and anointing with blessed oil. Assuming that the oil has already been blessed by the bishop he gives thanks for the blessed oil with prayers that invoke God’s compassion for us and the refrain, “Blessed be God who heals us in Christ.” (If the oil has not been blessed by the bishop, he blesses the oil at this point.) The priest then lays hands in silence on the head of the person to be anointed. After this laying on of hands, the priest anoints the recipient, usually on the forehead and the hands, reflecting the desire for cleansing in mind and work. During this anointing he prays, “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit” and “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” These prayers reflect pouring forth of grace from heaven, giving cleansing and restoration in body and soul. These two gestures, the laying on of hands and anointing with blessed oil, along with the prayers, are the essence of the sacrament.
Next week this article will conclude the discussion with a description of the symbolism behind the laying on of hands and the oil, as well as an outline of the rest of the anointing liturgy.