This weekend, our parish will celebrate the Church’s healing Sacrament, the Rite of Anointing of the Sick. Oil is the primary symbol for the Rite of Anointing. The oil we use is olive oil that has been prayed over by the Archbishop at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday. Why do we use oil in this Sacrament?
The Ancient Greeks believed that the human race received the olive tree as a gift from Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strength. It was thought to confer wisdom, power and strength. So, atheletes were anointed with oil from the tree’s olives, and physicians prescribed olive oil for a variety of maladies—everything from baby’s teething to constipation and ulcers. In Jesus’ time, olive oil was used as fuel, butter, and medicine.
I think of the way I use all kinds of oil every day, as lotion to heal my dry skin and protect it against the cold and dryness, as motor oil to keep my car running smoothly, and in cooking to help nourish and strengthen me.
The word “anoint” comes from a Latin word meaning to smear or rub. And, in the Rite of Anointing, the priest rubs the Holy Oil on the forehead and on the hands of the sick. We pray and believe that this anointing nourishes and strengthens the sick physically and spiritually.
O Lord, bring health and healing to all those suffering this day in mind, body, or spirit. Amen.