UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Holy Unction Service at Protection of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Detroit, MI
Photos by Elizabeth Symonenko and Mykola Zomchak
There is no man on the earth, who would not benefit from receiving healing. We are all in a need of some type of healing, either physical or spiritual; especially after the strain of “not so happy events” that have shaken our country and shaken the whole world… We have fallen into a spiritual distress. Pastors of various religious congregations have been encouraging laity to seek spiritual healing. One after the other has been reminding their faithful of the importance of wellbeing of one’s soul. Our Holy Orthodox Church, besides providing healing through the comforting words of its clergy provides spiritual healing through miracle working sacraments: Holy Confession, Holy Eucharist and in particular Holy Unction.
The faithful of the Pokrova of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Southfield, MI, had an opportunity to receive so much needed spiritual healing in the evening on Holy Wednesday (27 April, 2016). Mystery of Holy Unction or Anointing unto Healing with Holy Oil was served by the local clergy under the leadership of the Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy, His Grace Bishop Daniel.
The beautiful and somewhat warm spring evening of the Holy Wednesday began with the gathering of the faithful of the parish at the cathedral temple. People have spent hours in traffic, traveling quite a distance, tired after working day, just to be a part of this unique and powerful healing service.
The Holy Mystery of Unction calls for seven priests, seven readings from the Scriptures, seven prayers and anointing with oil specifically blessed during the service. Although it is not always possible to perform the sacrament in this way, the customary procedure is still to gather together as many priests and people as possible. Assisted by Very Rev. Fr. Paul Bodnarchuk of the cathedral parish family and Hieromonk Andrei of the local Serbian Orthodox community, Bishop Daniel led the prayers of the evening hours.
The Lord Himself came into the world to "bear our infirmities." In Matthew 11:28-29 Christ says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” One of the aspects of Christ Divine Mission on the Earth was to heal the sick. The Sacrament of the Unction for the sick is the Church's specific Service for healing. If participants have strong faith, and if it is according to God’s will, there is every reason to believe that the Lord can heal those who are ill with any possible affliction.
Quite often people think of the Mystery of Holy Unction as a Sacrament served only for one who is ill and in pain or is in the final hours of his/her life. Besides providing physical healing, this Sacrament also provides healing of the soul. It provides great benefits to the one who at times feels alone and isolated to the one who is spiritually ill. It has power to heal, physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. Christ is present in this Holy Mystery through the ministry of His Church.
The foundation of the Holy Mystery of Unction is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the Book of James 5:14-16 we read; “If any among you sick, let him call for the presbyters 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 man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
The words “Anointing” and “healing” are mentioned over 150 times, in the New Testament. As we can see the act of “Anointing with oil” is quite common throughout the Holy Scriptures. We can receive the same grace and healing given by God through His Apostles by being anointed by Priest and/or Bishop.
Today, Service of the Holy Unction stands as a miracle working Sacrament that has great powers to bring comfort and relief from our physical, spiritual or emotional sufferings. It will work miracles in our lives as long as we believe, as long as we have that little muster seed of faith. I have heard of so many healings from this Sacrament, some so miraculous that they go beyond human understanding. Truly, in faith, with faith, all things are possible through God.
This Sacraments of Holy Unction is a magnificent way to draw near to God together as a congregation of His people. It helps us to commune with Him, to receive His healing power and to worship Him with our whole being.
His Grace Bishop Daniel addressed the faithful of the Church with his remarks at the conclusion of the service, teaching the faithful about the spiritual meaning of this sacred service.
The bishop stated: “The express purpose of the Sacrament of Holy Unction is healing and forgiveness. Since it is not always the will of God that there should be physical healing, the prayer of Christ that God's will be done always remains as the proper context of the Sacrament. In addition, it is the clear intention of the Sacrament that through the anointing of the sick body the sufferings of the person should be sanctified and united to the sufferings of Christ. In this way, the wounds of the flesh are consecrated, and strength is given that the suffering of the diseased person may not be unto the death of his soul, but for eternal salvation in the resurrection and life of the Kingdom of God… In the Orthodox Church, healing of the soul ranks higher than the healing of the body. In fact, the healing of the body is offered as a sign of His mercy and blessing to the person experiencing God's healing and to inspire others to do His will... Sometimes the emphasis on spiritual healing is taken to mean that attempts at physical healing should be minimized. This is a grave misconception. In the Orthodox moral tradition both spiritual and physical healing should be brought to God.
The foundation of this misconception rests in ideas that faith somehow stands in opposition to science. It doesn't. God is the source of both faith and science and in the end no final conflict exists between the two… Christ came to the world to "bear our infirmities." One of the signs of His Divine Ministry was to heal the sick. The power of healing remains in the Church since Christ himself remains in the Church through the Holy Spirit.”
We are blessed this evening with another spiritually uplifting opportunity – 12 relics of the venerable Fathers of the Kyiv Monastery of Caves along with the icon of the venerable fathers as well as the “Chornobyl Savior” icon is with us. As we approach to be anointed, please use the opportunity to venerate the sacred relics in order to spiritually unite yourselves with the Fathers of the Church and to receive their prayerful intercession in front of our Savior…
Prior to the Prayer Service of Holy Unction, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, His Grace Bishop Daniel visited with some parishioners of Pokrova Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Southfield, MI, who gathered for a short prayer service for the infirm and homebound parishioners of the cathedral parish family. A special prayer petition was proclaimed for the suffering brothers and sisters of Ukrainian nation that continue to live under a threat of a war conflict as well as for the victims of Chornobyl Nuclear Disaster.