Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Unction of the sick. Holy Wednesday

2 April 1980
Theme: Sacraments, Great Lent, Suffering and pain, Healing, Death   Place: London Parish   Period: 1976-1980   Genre: Sermon

Now we shall perform the sacramental unction of the sick. It was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles: but it came to be done in Holy week in the course of the Crimean war in the besieged city of Sebastopol. Illness, the danger of violent death was upon everyone, and the bishop commanded everyone, indeed, – begged everyone to prepare himself to death and to standing before God pure of stain. Everyone repented of his sins in the face of impending, and practically certain death; and then everyone was anointed unto the healing of the soul, and subsequently their bodies from illness, from frailty, from the weakness of hunger. We are in no danger of dying a violent death as far as we know; but all of us we must face our mortality. Death will come upon each of us, illness strikes everyone of us in his time. And there is an illness beside that belongs the body; but there is also, in the gradual death of men something that belongs to the spirit: resentment, hatred, bitterness, fear, envy, jealousy – all those feelings which are turned against our neighbour. And also those feelings, and that absence of feelings that estranges us from God, destroys us in soul and body, as sure as by the illnesses of which we are otherwise aware. And so, when we will now stand before God, hearing the call of the Apostles to re­pent, hearing the Gospel proclaiming the forgiveness and the healing power of God, let us – each of us! – think of our mortality, of our frailty, of the fact that we stand day in and day out before the jud­gement of our soul, of our conscience, and listen so little to it that one day, each of us, will stand before God and see that he has spent half, perhaps most of his life in vain, because the only fruits of life are love, gratitude, worship, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. Let us repent, that is turn away from death to life, from ourselves to God, from twilight and darkness to the pure light of Christ. And then, in the course of all this service, having brought forth to God, sincerely, a broken heart, a contrite spirit, having resolved not to let Christ live and die in vain, let us receive anointment with the Holy Oil unto the healing of soul and body, with the oil of gladness, with the oil that restores strength, that prepares us to fight all evil, spiritual and other, to become warriors of Christ… Let us now stand before God in the nakedness of truth, in the nakedness of a soul that looks for no defense against her God, no defense against a judgement of her conscience, and we shall be healed; healed in soul, and to the extent to which it is good for us, healed in our bodies, because we are called to be strong in the Lord, but we also are called, in a mysterious, and at times brightening way, to carry in our flesh the wounds of Christ, to fulfil in our bodies what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. So, let us become pure in spirit and soul so that any suffering, any agony of mind, or any suffering of our body should not be the result of death in us, but of our oneness with Christ with Whom we will be privileged, blessed indeed to share His passion.

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