Sacraments as means of healing
All sacraments in our Church are means for healing. The word ‘Sacrament’, derived from the Latin term Sacramentum, originally means that which refines and restores and makes something or somebody sacred or pure. Healing itself forms part of the scheme of God’s salvific work. That is why Jesus, when he came for redemption of humanity, performed miracle healing to all those who sought his compassion and help (St.Matt8:14-17). It was to prove the fact that he himself was the real God who heals everyone as said in Psalms 103:3, Exodus 15:26,St.Matt9:4-7). All prayer healings are and must be for the glory of God.
Some diseases in us are sometimes as a result of our sin. (Ref:-St. Mathew 9:1-8, 1Kings 12:25-13:4) and our illnesses finally lead us to death. Each organ or part in our body is also responsible for our sin and sickness and is liable for punishment. (St Mathew 18:8-9). It was to redeem us from this punishment that Christ, our Lord and Savior, came to the world and bore our sins. “Christ himself carried all our sins in his body to the Cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that we have been healed”. (Isaiah 53:5, St.Matt8:17, I Peter 2: 24) But one must be receptive and must accept this Salvation of God. (Romans10:9) It is with the noble intention of bringing everyone eventually to the feet of Christ and thus saving their souls from eternal perish, even at least at the eleventh hour, that in our Church the Sacrament -Anointing the sick- has been instituted.(Rogikalude Thylabhisheka Shushroosha). Here three sacraments-Holy Anointing the sick, Holy Confession and Holy Qurbana-go together.
It is to be noted that ‘Extreme Unction’ (Andhya Koodasa) is a wrong terminology. This sacrament forms part of the ‘Healing Ministry of Jesus’ that is still continuing through His body- the Holy Church. It plays a vital role in convincing the faithful of the Salvation in Christ and it sets yet another chance for one to repent and to return to God by renewing one’s baptismal faith in Him. It confirms the faithful of the remission of their sins by which they get great solace and hope for the future even beyond death which in a way helps to die in peace. But I have noticed many of the faithful in our church approach this Holy Sacrament with a little bit doubt, fear, anxiety, prejudice, inhibition, and indifference. Sri Nitya Chaithanya Yeti, the great ascetic philosopher and psychologist of India has opined that the rites and rituals have a spiritual tint which plays a definite role in eradicating fear from the mind of a person.
The scriptural references for healing prayers
The anointing of the sick with Holy Olive Oil by an ordained priest is biblically based ( St. Mark 6: 13, St. James 5:13-20) and its efficacy is a proven one. The bible says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders (Kasheeso) of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your sin to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Through this holy spiritual process, each organ or part in the body of a person is being refined and restored by the healing power of the Holy Spirit. The sick person whether old or young is marked by the priest on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, chest, belly, hands, knees and feet, with the signing of the cross-’the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit and the symbol of salvation.’ The reference of lengthy prayers for healing on each part of a human body can be seen in the ancient scripture of India – the Rig Veda 10 Mandela 163 Sooktha. We read of similar acts of healing in 1Kings 13:4-6, 2 Kings2:19-22, 5:14-15, and Isaiah 38, 1 Samuel 16: 23 of the Bible.
The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus purifies us from every sin” and what all we need is to confess our sins (Ref: – 1 John 1:7-9). In the sacrament, the sick is sealed with the charismata of the Comforter Jesus. From the moment of this holy sacrament, divine presence of the Holy Spirit, together with Christ, gets rekindled as a living flame in the inner most shrine of the sick person’s heart. This spiritual act of sealing with the sign of cross is symbolical which implies that the body, soul and spirit of the faithful have been entrusted to the hands of God to be protected from the clutches of Devil by the Guardian Angel. (The epistle of St Jude: Verse 9). The verse 1 Thessalonians 5:23 reads thus: “Now may the God of Peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. It is with the same prayer and intention that this sacrament is done to the faithful to have their body, soul and spirit preserved undefiled for the final Judgment. The significance of this Sacrament is clear in the words of St James, ” My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings them back again, remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from his or her wrong way will save that sinner’s soul as well as his own soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins”. (Verse20) Therefore, by doing so, it is, in a sense, the winning of Souls for Christ- the prime goal of Christian mission. This sacrament is designed for the total healing of the body, mind and spirit of a person. It creates in oneself an awareness of one’s follies and foibles which leads one to rely on God as the last resort. It further gives the recipient courage to face the appalling face of death and to enter into the hope of living eternally with God up in the heavenly abode. I have received this holy sacrament several times and have experienced its power effect. The sacrament- holy confession -which forms part of the anointing sick plays a vital role in psychotherapy and the holy Qurbana which follows it, gives out a spiritual therapy as well.
St. Ignatius of Antioch has stated that ‘Holy Qurbana is a medicine of immortality’. No doubt we can vouchsafe to the efficacy of Holy Qurbana. Yet another holy elements that we use for healing are ‘water’ that is blessed on the day of Epiphany (6 January) and the ‘palm leaves’ blessed on Palms Sunday. One can testify to the fact that they are rich sources of blessings, if someone tries to experience it in their life with all love, faith and hope.