“And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.”
This scripture could be the beginning of a rite for giving children under the age of 7 the sacrament of anointing of the sick. Presently, Church law forbids this practice of anointing children under the age of 7. It is my main argument that this laws reflects an outdated theology understanding of the sacrament of anointing.
(Please forgive me for mistakes in syntax, punctuation, grammar etc…My point is to start to lay out my argument. My argument fill attempt to flow from the theological, pastoral and historical.)
This paper has it origin from a talk I had 2 years ago. I was asked to give a talk on healing to a young adult group. In my talk I referred to what I believed was a miss translation in the opening paragraph from the letter of James that is read every time the sacrament of anointing is given.
Interesting enough Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth was in the small audience and he agreed with my thoughts. (Now think about it I don’t know Latin Greek and here I am arguing over a miss translation of a word and the the Priest who is head of the entire project of translating of the English Texts agrees with me.) Last Monday and Tuesday we continue the argument with him and on Wednesday he asked me to write an article and he would make sure it was published. He told me over dinner on Wed that he shared my thoughts. Some of which he had never considered or heard with his friends in the Church. My basic point of the paper is this. The primary purpose of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is Healing. While the forgiveness of sin is only a secondary effect.
Francis Mac Nutt in his book ‘Healing’ writes ” And the celebrated passage of James 5: 14-15 ‘If one of you is sick, he should send for the priests of the church and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will Save the Sick Man and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed any sins he will be forgiven.”
( My original talk was that the Latin Word beneath Save (Salvo) should be translated healed. In the context of anointing Saved and Healed conjure up two different messages. Saved implies forgiveness of sins while healed implies bodily healing.)
Francis Mac Nutt writes ” ‘Will save’ ‘Will raise up’ and ‘Will be forgiven’ are the three key phrases here that indicate the effect of the anointing. The first ‘save’ in the original Greek, is a verb that can mean either healing of the spirit (as does ‘save’ or healing in the sense of physical, bodily restoration. But in the context of sickness, death, or their danger, it always, in the New Testament usage, refers to physical healing (as it does here).
The second verb ‘raise him up’ clearly refers to healing and is the verb often used in Mark to refer to the bodily healing worked by Jesus. ‘Will be forgiven’ is the third effect and of course refers to spiritual healing; the Greek word here used for sins implies serious sin.
Unfortunately, this simple understanding of anointing as being intended for physical healing became obscured after the first few centuries. The direct intention is healing of sickness, with forgiveness of sins as further effect, if it’s needed.
Remember the Church used to refer to the sacrament as last Rites or Extreme Unction. In renaming it the Sacrament of Anointing the Church Father were trying to bring this sacrament to its original purpose which was healing. This attempt has mostly failed. Most People still think of the sacrament as the harbinger of death rather than the dawn of healing. If we give this sacrament mostly to people who are very ill than we will rarely see healing and we will conclude that physical healing are rare. But is we do a better Job focusing on healing and inspiring faith guess what we will see more and more physical healing. And people will approach the sacrament with more expectant faith.
In the rite of anointing after the priest lays his hand on the sick person. This is part of the sacrament the priest takes the oil and recites these words from the ritual book.
‘Let us pray God of all consolation you choose and sent your Son to heal the world. Graciously listen to our prayer of faith: send the power of your Holy Spirit, the Consoler, into this precious oil, this soothing ointment, this rich gift, this fruit of the earth. Bless this oil X and sanctify it for our use. Make this oil a remedy for all are anointed with it; heal hem in body, in soul and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”
(Ok Just getting idea down, in time my argument will flow. Intention is to start making my argument….Sign off Fr Stefan