Temple Studies Symposium III: Archimandrite Ephrem

The Holy Oil in the Orthodox Church

Although Prof. John Hall’s presentation was next after Dr. Barker’s, I am still working on the notes for his talk, so I will now post my notes from the esteemed Archimandrite Ephrem’s presentation covering the use of the anointing oil in the Orthodox Church, or, as he termed it, in the Byzantine tradition.  My notes are not a complete rendition of Father Ephrem’s comments and contain many of my own additions. FYI — Father Ephrem has a great website with many helpful patristic and liturgical texts at www.anastasis.org.uk.

The anointing oil has a number of uses in the Byzantine tradition.  Father Ephrem discussed, principally, its use in light (candles), baptism, healing, confirmation/chrismation, the consecration of tsars, and the anointing of holy objects.

Chrismatory

Unless I misunderstood, there are two types of anointing oil.

  1. The first is the basic pure olive oil, used in burning candles and lamps, for the anointing of catechumens (those preparing for baptism), and for the anointing of the sick for healing. It is also used in the waters of baptism.
  2. The second type of oil is the “myron”, otherwise known as chrism. Myron is a myrrh-scented oil that is very complicated to make. It can only be made and consecrated during Holy Week and is composed of 43 different ingredients (incl. olive oil, wine, spices, and perfumes). They myron is used in confirmation/chrismation, coronation (the anointing of kings), and the anointing of altars, etc. “Myron” is a name for Christ (and also his Mother).

makingmyron

Oil of Healing

The anointing of the sick must be done by seven elders of the Church. After consecrating the olive oil, the person is anointed for the purpose of both healing and the forgiveness of sins (the two are thought to be related).

prayer_oil

From a handout provided by Father Ephrem, I cite the following considering the rite of the Oil of Healing, emphasis in italics from original, bold is mine.

  • The Priest says the Prayer of the Oil in front of the lamp.
  • Note, that in the Great Church, instead of water, they put wine into the lamp of the Euchelaion.
  • Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.
  • Reader: Lord, have mercy.
  • Priest: Lord, who in your mercy and pity heal the afflictions of our souls and bodies, sanctify this oil, Master, that it may be for those who are anointed with it for healing and relief of every passion, bodily disease, stain of flesh and spirit and every evil; that through it your all-holy Name, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, may be glorified now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.
  • Reader: Amen.
  • Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.
  • Reader: Lord, have mercy.
  • And the Priest says this Prayer: O God without beginning and without end, Holy of Holies, who sent forth your Only-begotten Son to heal every disease and every weakness of our souls and bodies, send down your Holy Spirit and sanctify this oil; and cause it to be for your servant N. who is anointed for complete deliverance form his sins, for inheritance of the Kingdom of heaven. For you are God, great and wonderful, who keep your covenant and your mercy to those who love you. Through your holy child Jesus Christ you give deliverance from sins; you have given us new birth from sin, you give light to the blind, set upright those who are cast down; you love the righteous and are merciful to sinners; you have called us back from darkness and the shadow of death, saying to those in chains: Come forth, and to those in darkness reveal yourselves. For in our hearts has shone the light of the knowledge of your Only-begotten Son, since for us he appeared on earth and lived among men. And to as many as received him he gave power to become your children, O God, granting us the grace of sonship through the washing of rebirth, causing us to have no part in the tyranny of the devil. Since he did not consider it good for there to be cleansing by blood but by holy Oil, he has given us the sign of his Cross for us to become Christ’s flock, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, having purified us by water and sanctified us by the holy Spirit. Do you, Master and Lord, give grace for this your service, as you gave Mose your servant, Samuel your beloved, John our chosen one and all those who in each generation have bee well-pleasing to you. So make us too servants of the New Covenant of your Son for this oil, which you have made your own by your precious Blood, so that having put off worldly desires we may die to sin and live to righteousness, having put on our Lord Jesus Christ through the anointing of sanctification of the Oil which is about to be applied. May this oil, Lord, be an oil of gladness, an oil of sanctification, a royal garment, a breastplate of power, a protection against every operation of the devil, an inviolable seal, joy of heart, eternal delight, that all who are anointed with this oil of rebirth may become fearsome to their enemies and shine brightly with the brightness of your Saints, without spot or wrinkle, and that they may be received into your eternal rest and receive the prize of their high calling. For yours it is to have mercy and to save us, O God, our God, and to you we give glory, to Father, Son, and holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.
  • Reader: Amen.
  • And after the Prayer the Priest takes some of the holy Oil and anoints the person making the Euchelaion, saying the following Prayer: Holy Father, physician of souls and bodies, who sent your Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to heal every disease and to deliver from death, heal also your servant N. from the weakness of body and soul which holds him fast and give him life through the grace of your Son, at the prayers of our most holy Lady, Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, by the might of the precious and life-giving Cross, at the protection of the honoured, heavenly and bodiless powers, of the honoured and glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John, of the holy, glorious and victorious Martyrs, of our venerable and God-bearing Fathers, of the holy and healing Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damian, Kyros and John, Panteleimon and Hermolaos, Sampson and Diomedes, Mokios and Akinitos, Thalalaios and Tryphon, of the holy and righteous Forebears of God, Joachim and Anne, and of all the Saints. For you are the fount of healings, O God, our God, and to you we give glory, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.
  • Reader: Amen.
  • The Prayer is said by each of the Priests, after reading the Gospel and the Prayer, while anointing the sick.

Oil in Baptism

Baptism of St. Vladimir

The standard oil is breathed upon by the priest and the water is blessed with oil by pouring the oil into the water. This rite of baptism is originally designed for the baptism of adults and is more difficult to perform on babies as the one baptized is then anointed on forehead, back, breast, senses — the whole body. Baptism is done by immersion — person is immersed three times — with the naming of the three Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

  • The Priest breathes on the container of oil three times and signs the oil three times as it is held by the Deacon [or Godparent].
  • Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.
  • People: Lord, have mercy.
  • The Priest says the following prayer quietly: Master, Lord God of our fathers, who sent out a dove to those in Noe’s ark, with a branch of olive in its beak as sign of reconciliation and salvation from the flood, and through these things prefigured the Mystery of grace; who have given the fruit of the olive for the completion of your holy Mysteries; who through it both filled those under the Law with the Holy Spirit, and make perfect those under grace; do you yourself bless this olive oil also by the power, operation and descent of your Holy Spirit, so that it may become an anointing of incorruption, a weapon of righteousness, renewal of soul and body, a driving away of every operation of the devil, for the removal of all evils from those who are anointed with it in faith, or who partake of it to your glory and that of your Only-begotten Son and your all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.
  • People: Amen.
  • Deacon: Let us attend.
  • The Priest, chanting Alleluia three times with the People, makes three Crosses with the oil in the water. Then he proclaims: Blessed is God, who enlightens and sanctifies everyone who comes into the world, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.
  • People: Amen.
  • The one to be baptized is brought forward. The Priest takes some of the oil and makes the sign of the Cross on the forehead, breast and back of the candidate, saying: The servant of God, N., is anointed with the oil of gladness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. As he signs their breast and back he says: For healing of soul and body. On the ears: For the hearing of faith. On the feet: For your feet to walk. On the hands: Your hands made me and fashioned me. And when the whole body has been anointed the Priest baptizes the person, holding them upright and facing East, as he says: The servant of God N. is baptized, in the name of the Father. Amen. And of the Son. Amen. And of the Holy Spirit. Amen. At each invocation the Priest immerses them and raises them again.

The Myron in Baptism

confirmation

  • After the newly-baptized is clothed:
  • Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.
  • People: Lord, have mercy.
  • And the priest says this prayer: Blessed are you, Lord God almighty, the source of blessings, the Sun of righteousness, who have made the light of salvation shine for those in darkness through the appearing of your Only-Begotten Son and our God, and have granted us, unworthy though we are, the grace of blessed cleansing by holy Baptism, and divine sanctification by life-giving Anointing. And you have now been well-pleased to make your newly-enlightened servant to be born again through water and Spirit, and have granted him/her forgiveness of sins both voluntary and involuntary. Do you then, Master, compassionate, universal King, grant him/her also the Seal of the gift of your holy, all-powerful and adorable Spirit and the Communion of the holy Body and precious Blood of your Christ. Keep him/her in your sanctification; confirm him/her in the Orthodox Faith; deliver him/her from the evil one and all his devices, and by your saving fear guard hi/her soul in purity and righteousness; so that being in every deed and word well-pleasing to you, he/she may become a child and heir of your heavenly Kingdom.
  • Aloud: Because you are our God, a God who has mercy and who saves, and to you we give glory, to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.
  • People: Amen.
  • After the prayer he anoints the newly baptized with the holy Myron, making a sign of the Cross on the forehead, the eyes, the nostrils, the mouth, the two ears, the breast, the hands and feet saying: Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

At the Consecration of Tsar Nicolas II

nicolas_ii

  • The Tsar, followed by the Tsarina, descends from the dais. Walking on the floor, which is covered with crimson velvet bordered with gold lace, the Tsar, and after him the Tsarina, step for a moment onto the golden brocade to be anointed with the holy Myron by Metropolitan Palladius with the words: “Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit” [same as at baptism, but this is post-baptism]. And the bells and a salute of 101 salvoes herald the perfection of the Anointing. The Eucharist concludes the rite.

romanov_nikIIcoronation

Note: the ordination of priests is not done by oil, but only by the laying on of hands.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 6, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the notes, David. You may be interested in a volume edited by Martin Dudley and Geoffrey Rowell entitled, The Oil of Gladness: Anointing in the Christian Tradition. Though there are specific publications that are better on specific topics (like the evolution of the Roman Catholic Extreme Unction), this is a handy volume for a broad and general context.

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