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Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick

by Catherine Frakas 03 May 2003

Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick As the anointing by conferring the Holy Spirit completes the sacrament of baptism, so extreme unction is the complement and completion of penance. Penance restores the justification lost by sin, extreme unction takes away the infirmity left by sin; it removes that state which might be an obstacle to the clothing with glory of the resurrection and, as every sacrament makes us men in some respect like Christ, so we become by extreme unction like the risen Christ because it will be given to the dying as a sign of the glory to come in which everything mortal will be stripped from the elect (Albertus Magnus). According to the teaching of great theologians, the holy anointing makes the man who stands at the threshold of eternity and loyally cooperates with the grace of the sacrament ready to enter directly upon the Beatific Vision. That this sacrament was provided for the sick to strengthen them and prepare them for a happy passage to the hereafter was for centuries an undisputed part of tradition. The ancient prayers accompanying the anointing of the sick are evidence of this. The Church only had to concern herself officially with the doctrinal side of it when particular questions cropped up or errors appeared. For this reason the earliest documents deal more with the question of the minister and the external rites. It was not until the Reformation denied the sacramentally of extreme unction and its institution by Christ that a more exact exposition was demanded of the Council of Trent. Extreme Unction is a true sacrament instituted by Christ and proclaimed by St. James. He said is any man sick among you. Let him bring in the priests of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of the faith shall save the sick man, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him. Only a priest can validly administer the Sacrament. It can be received by any baptized person who has reached the age of reason and is on account of sickness or age in danger of death. It brings hope to the sick person and asks that he shall be cured and return to his ordinary life. But when someone is obviously so neat to death, it is then that the Church prepares him for his journey into the next world and it should not be administered so late that the dying soul is beyond awareness. Wherever possible the priest will bring with him the Holy Viaticum, the provision for the journey which the departing soul is about to take. The Holy Viaticum is, of course, the Holy Eucharist, and can be given to anyone in danger of death. As the priest administers the oil to the eyes he will say by this holy unction and his most loving mercy may the Lord pardon thee whatever thou has sinned by sight. He will repeat this prayer as he administers the oil to the dying persons ears, nose, lips, palms of his hands, and feet changing the words of the particular sense in turn. After this the priest will follow with prayers and the Apostolic Blessing and will conclude with: Baptism brought him/her out of the stain of Adam's sin and the Sacrament of Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick) restored him to the innocence of Baptism, so that he/she could face God strengthened by all the help and hope that Holy Mother Church could give him/her. May our Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, who gave to Peter the power to bind and to loose, receive thy confession and restore to thee that first robe of innocence which thou didst receive in Baptism, and I, by the power given to me by the Apostolic See, grant thee a plenary indulgence and remission of all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Through the most sacred mysteries of man's redemption may God remit unto thee the pains of the present and of the future life, open to thee the gates of Heaven and bring thee to everlasting life.

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