Holy Wednesday Evening: The Service of Holy Unction

This evening at St. Stephens we had the joy of concelebrating the service of Holy Unction with our sister parish, Holy Transfiguration. This service in many ways, marks the mid-point of Holy Week – and is really, in many ways, outside of the flow (at least chronologically) of Holy Week. The service itself is actually one that can be done any time for the anointing of the sick. The Seven Epistle and Gospel Readings do not fit into what is happening in the Passion Week – they focus instead on the healing of sickness and forgiveness of sins. It is still quite fitting that we do this at the midpoint of Holy Week – especially considering that, beginning with tomorrow service – we move very quickly towards Golgotha – the services of the 12 Gospels tomorrow evening, and then the Vespers and Matins on Friday are lengthy services – but the amount of activity packed into those services is intense – time definitely begins to change into “Holy Week time” if you are in tune with what is happening – the services are almost designed to do that – to turn night and day upside down – to measure the days and evenings by the events described in the services. Its truly an amazing experience!

Tonight we blessed Holy oil and anointed everyone present. Fr. Alexis, the priest at Holy Transfiguration, reminded us in his sermon that there is always a connection between healing and forgiveness of sins – that we cannot truly be well , even physically, without being well spiritually. He made the point that, that does not mean that physical illness is always directly related to sin (we certainly do not teach in the Orthodox church that if you’re sick its probably because you did something wrong!), but he gave the illustration of the connection of our physical and spiritual wellness by saying, if you’re married, and you’re in a fight with your spouse- you’re never quite “right” even physically, until you’ve made up, until you’ve repaired that relationship. He made the point that things like confession are not about appeasing a judge, but about healing, about getting well.

Tomorrow morning we will return to St. Stephens at 10am for the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Thursday, which, technically, is the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Friday – yep – Friday —  I told you things get turned upside down!