According to the Orthodox Christian teaching, the mystery of the anointing is closely related to the baptism, with which they officiate together, immediately following the immersion of the baptized in water. This Sacrament shares with the newly baptized the grace of the Holy Spirit for his spiritual growth and strengthening. That is why it is called by some Holy Fathers: seals, strengthening, perfection.
So, it is that mystery by which the new baptized is anointed, with the Holy Anointing on the main limbs of the body and by uttering the words “the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit”, the grace of the Holy Spirit descends upon him and the graces of baptism are updated, strengthening increasing in him his spiritual powers.
The establishment of the mystery by Christ was not explicitly stated in the New Testament. However, it is administered after the example and likeness of the Savior himself. He was anointed par excellence with the hypostatic Holy Spirit, as He Himself testified: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted” (Luke IV, 16). He was anointed with the Spirit for His service and activity, as St. Peter states, “For God hath anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, and to heal all that are oppressed of the devil” (Acts X, 38). He was the Anointed One par excellence, as the prophets, bishops, and kings were anointed in the Old Testament. For in truth, Christ fulfilled the mission of: prophet, bishop and king.
Christ promised the Holy Spirit to His Apostles: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. The Spirit of Truth… who will be in you ”(John XIV, 16-17). Or, “And when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John XV, 26). But he promised not only to His apostles the Holy Spirit, but also to all who would believe in Him. “Rivers of living water will flow from the womb of him who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said. And this is what he said about the Holy Spirit that those who believe in Him would receive. For the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified ”(John VII, 38-39). After the glorification of Christ, that is, His resurrection and ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit descended on His Apostles on the day of Pentecost, and St. Peter said on this occasion in his speech that the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled (III, 1-2 ) And God has poured out His Holy Spirit on them and will pour out on those who will believe, the baptized (Acts II, 17-18).
After this date, the Holy Apostles performed the Sacrament of Anointing either by laying hands on the baptized or by anointing, immediately after baptism or at a greater distance from this sacrament, which proves that the sacrament was established by Christ. , without expressly announcing this fact in the Holy Scriptures. However, the Apostles put into practice what Christ had taught him.
Thus, the Apostles shared the mystery mentioned by laying their hands on the baptized, by Deacon Philip: “then they (Peter and John) laid their hands on them (the baptized) and they took the Holy Spirit” (Acts II, 17). The same procedure was used by the Holy Apostle Paul, laying his hands on the disciples of St. John the Baptist, from Ephesus, immediately after receiving the Christian baptism: “And when Paul had passed through the upper parts, he came to Ephesus. And when he had found some, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, I never heard that he was the Holy Ghost. And he said, Wherefore then were ye baptized? They said, “In John’s baptism.” And Paul said, John did baptize with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the One who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus Christ. And when they heard it, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying ”(Acts XIX, 1-6).
Obviously, the laying on of hands in the mentioned places should not be confused with the ordination, which is also administered by laying on of hands, because this is mentioned in Holy Scripture in special contexts (II Timothy I, 6; I Timothy V, 22).
So the Holy Spirit was shared only by the apostles, at a greater distance from baptism – in the first case – or immediately after baptism – in the second case.
The mystery of the Anointing was also shared by anointing – as he recalled. Thus, the Holy Apostle John stated: “And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (I John II, 20). Or, “As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you and you do not need someone to teach you, but as His anointing teaches you about all things and this true teaching is…” (I John II, 27). The Holy Apostle Paul also reminds us of this mystery by anointing, saying: “And it is God who has strengthened us with you in Christ and anointed us, who sealed us and gave us the gift. To the Spirit in our hearts ”(I Corinthians I, 21-22).
This anointing shows us that it is an external fact, and the inner strengthening of the soul through the Holy Spirit shows a supernatural fact. That is, it is the Mystery of Anointing.
Therefore, it was shared either by the laying on of hands by the Apostles or their relatives, the bishops, or by the anointing of priests. Or, as the number of the baptized multiplied and the bishops could no longer administer the sacrament by laying on of hands, the perpetration of the sacrament by the priests by anointing with the Holy Anointing became widespread. Hence the name of the Mystery of Anointing.
It is performed by the priests, anointing the most important limbs of the bodies of those baptized with the holy anointing, consecrated by a council of twelve bishops on the Thursday of the week of the passions. It is performed – as mentioned – with the Sacrament of Baptism, immediately after the immersion of the one who is baptized.
The effects of the mystery are the growth, strengthening and spiritual flowering of the recipient. The actualization of the gifts received at baptism and the consummation in the Christian life of the newly baptized, the possibility of becoming a true follower of Christ.
The grace that is shared in the Sacrament of Anointing imprints a seal on the whole being of the recipient, working and unfolding his spiritual life. For these reasons, like the Sacrament of Baptism, the Sacrament of Anointing is not repeated. The anointing with the Holy Anointing of heretics who return to the right faith is a simple ceremony, but not the repetition of the Sacrament of Anointing.
In connection with the Sacrament of Anointing, there are some differences between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The latter does not administer the sacrament to young children immediately after baptism, but at an older age, at the age of twelve, on the pretext that those who receive the sacrament must know at least a brief knowledge of Christian teaching. However, they also ask for godparents – other than at baptism – to receive the anointing. The sacrament of Anointing is administered only by bishops, and is called confirmation. At the mentioned age, the baptized child is anointed with the holy anointing only on the forehead and putting his hand on his head. That is, anointing with the Holy Anointing and laying on of hands is maintained.
Obviously – according to our Orthodox teaching – this practice is unacceptable, because remembering the anointing at a rational age, for the same reasons can be postponed the baptism of young children.
We do not believe that the exclusion of the priest from the officiating of the Sacrament of Anointing is justified, because the priest has the right to administer all the mysteries, except for ordination.
Protestants recognize anointing with the Holy Anointing as a simple instructional ceremony, calling it confirmation, and administering it to fourteen-year-olds after a brief examination of religion.
For these reasons, some Christians influenced by the Protestant spirit deny this mystery even as a symbol. They state that the mystery has no scriptural basis, it is not mentioned in Holy Scripture as anointing with the Holy Anointing, but at most by the laying on of hands.
Indeed, there is no precise moment in Scripture when Christians received the grace of the Holy Spirit by anointing from the Holy Apostles, but by the laying on of hands (Acts VIII, 17; XIX, 6). But it is generally remembered that those who are baptized, Christians, by anointing, have nevertheless received the grace of the Holy Spirit, “you have anointing from the Holy One and you know all things” (I John II, 20). Or, “The anointing you received from Him remains in you and you do not need someone to teach you, but as His anointing teaches you about everything and this true teaching is and is not a lie, stay in Him, so how he taught you ”(I John II, 27). Or, as St. Paul says, “And it is God that strengtheneth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, and hath sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (II Corinthians I, 21-22).
Here, by “anointing” we mean the same action of the Holy Spirit that is shared with the Christian, as by the laying on of hands. That is, the knowledge of the truth of the faith (“you know all things,” “it teaches you all things”), through which God Himself anointed us and “strengthened us in Christ” and which “sealed us” and gave the Spirit’s sake into our hearts. . All these expressions show us that by anointing the graces of the Holy Spirit are transmitted which strengthen us in the faith and by which it confirms, “seals” the belonging of the baptized as a son of God: God ”(Romans VIII, 15). Anointing, therefore, strengthens the one baptized in faith in God, following Christ, Anointing, therefore, is synonymous with the laying on of hands. The shape is different, but the background is the same, both shapes share the same grace.
It is also stated by the same Christians that anointing is useless, it makes no sense, because it is administered to the newly baptized, who at baptism receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. This fact is also confirmed by St. Paul when he says: “And so were some of you, but ye washed, and sanctified yourselves, and ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians VI). , 11). So, from the words mentioned, it follows that the baptized received the grace of the Holy Spirit necessary for the life, the following of Christ. But there is a difference between the grace that is shared at baptism and that which is given through the Sacrament of Anointing. They are two special mysteries that offer different graces. Through baptism the forgiveness of ancestral sin and one’s own sins is shared until that date, and through anointing the grace of the Holy Spirit is offered to be able to persevere and develop the soul powers of believers throughout his life. Baptism conveys the grace of forgiveness of sins. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), and anointing strengthens us spiritually. St. Paul distinguishes between baptism and anointing by saying, “Wherefore, leaving the beginning of the word of Christ, let us stand up unto the perfect, without again laying the foundation of the doctrine of baptism, laying on of hands, of eternal judgment ”(Hebrews VI, 1-2).
So, just as the resurrection of the dead differs from universal judgment, so also the baptism of anointing (laying on of hands) differs.
The difference between baptism and anointing was also noticed by Simon the Magi, who after being baptized (Acts VIII, 13), seeing that by the laying on of the hands of the Apostles the Holy Spirit was given, he brought them money, saying: give me also this power, that the one whom I lay hands on may receive the Holy Spirit ”(Acts VIII, 18-19). So baptism shares the forgiveness of sins, and the laying on of hands (anointing) is another power, that is, spiritual strengthening.
Finally, it is also stated by those who deny the purpose and role of anointing, that the Holy Spirit with His graces shares without anointing with St. I anoint even without laying hands, but only faith and good deeds are needed. Thus, the centurion Cornelius received the grace of the Holy Spirit before baptism. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost came on all them that heard the word. And the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed to see that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the pages. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter and said, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ ”(Acts X, 44-48).
We should note that the grace of the Holy Spirit was shared with those in Samaria after they believed in the sermon of Deacon Philip and were baptized by him. Then, after baptism, St. Peter and St. John came to them and “laid their hands on them and took the Holy Spirit” (Acts VIII, 17). The Apostle Paul also asked the disciples of St. John the Baptist in Ephesus – baptized with the baptism of John: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? And they said unto him, Because I heard not that it was the Holy Ghost. And when they heard it, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying ”(Acts XIX, 2-6). So, usually, the Holy Spirit was received, after baptism, by the laying on of hands. But Cornelius received the gifts of the Holy Spirit before baptism, unusually, wonderfully without laying on of hands, to persuade Peter not to consider any man unclean, even though he was a heathen; to show him by a sign that he must receive Christian baptism. Cornelius unusually received the Holy Spirit, just as the Apostles of the Lord received the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (Acts II, 4). These were miracles, special cases, which God performs when He pleases. Usually, however, the graces of the Holy Spirit are shared by the holy mysteries, and the grace of the Holy Spirit for spiritual strengthening, to become a true anointed Christian, a follower of Christ is shared through the Sacrament of Anointing administered to the newly baptized immediately after immersion in water, together with the Sacrament of Baptism.
The sacrament of Anointing is very necessary for Christians because it helps us to live up to our Christian name, it crowns our efforts on the path of virtue. However, it also depends on us not to lose weight and to guard against mistakes so as not to take the divine Spirit away from us, so as not to make us worthy of the punishment of dishonesty and violation of the grace of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Apostle Paul says: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you have been sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians IV, 30).
St. Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John Chrysostom, the Blessed, bear witness to the divine origin of the mystery, its necessity and utility, its commission only by priests, as well as its commission immediately after baptism. Jerome as Blessed Augustine, the Second Ecumenical Council (381) and the Fourth Ecumenical Council (451).
All attest to the existence of the Sacrament of Anointing from the beginning of the Christian Church, its fulfillment in both forms at the beginning and its steadfastness and practice only in the form of anointing with the holy anointing, as we have it today.
“Îndrumător păstoral – Din tezaurul credinței noastre”, pag. 106-110.Pr. Prof. I. Constantinescu