The Sacrament of Holy Unction
Holy Unction is a Sacrament of divine sanction by which Divine Grace imparts to the afflicted, through anointing with oil, the healing of both body and soul. This Sacrament of Holy Unction is called "Anointing through oil", "sanction through oil" and "Euchelaion" (prayer and oil). It is not directly traced to Christ. However, it is evident that the ecclesiastical ceremony, with prayers and oil, was practiced by the Apostles as having characteristics of a sacrament. This ceremony of prayer and oil was an established practice of the Church. The order of the ceremony of Unction contains the elements of a sacrament; it presupposes a sick person, the calling of the presbyters of the Church to pray over the sick person, the anointing with oil in the name of the Lord, the reading of prayers of faith and the invocation of the Grace of God to heal the body and forgive sin. This healing is considered a part of the mission of the Church along with teaching and preaching.
The anointing with oil of afflicted persons, prayers of faith, invocation of the Grace of God for the remission of sins, and healing of the body and soul were practiced by the early Church. This ceremony of the anointing with oil of the person who is sick bodily or spiritually is not a mere physical healing stemming from the oil itself but also is the absolution of sins, which is not related to the therapeutic power of oil. Furthermore, the healing depends on prayers of faith, not merely upon the oil. That miraculous healing was intended to demonstrate the special power of the Holy Spirit.
The perceptible signs of the Sacrament of Unction are the anointing with sanctified oil and the prayer of faith. The invisible sign is divine grace imparted both for the healing of the body and the remission of sins. However, the healing of the body depends upon God's Grace and may not always be attained the absolution of the sins of the soul of the repentant sick person always occurs.
The officiators of the Sacrament of Holy Unction, as recorded, are more than one presbyter. However, if necessary, oly one presbyter can officiate. The Sacrament of Holy Unction is traditionally officiated for all Orthodox believers on Wednesday of Holy Week, after confession of sins in preparation for partaking of Communion on Holy Thursday.
The Sacrament of Holy Unction can be administered on the same recipient as often as desired and for the same sickness. The recipient of this sacrament receives the Grace of God by the anointing with oil for the cure of bodily afflictions and the absolution of his sins. The oil of the Unction is not to be confused with that of the myron of the Sacrament of Chrismation or with the lain oil of the Sacrament of Baptism. The Sacrament of Unction is not used as last rites for a dying person. The recipient of the sacrament who believes in God's Grace and energy to guide and strengthen him receives the energy and patience to fortify himself to accept his afflictions with courage and endurance.