Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Throughout the centuries, the Sacrament of Holy Unction has brought physical healing to many people. Many people have been anointed with the Holy Oil of Unction and been rid of illness. These instances can be called miracles. God works a miracle through Holy Unction, or anointing with another oil, or with prayer, or with other means, so that a physical problem is healed without medical intervention. We know that Christ did this many times. He took a dead girl by the hand and she lived. A woman with a flow of blood touched His garment and was healed. He healed a blind man by putting clay on his eyes. Ten lepers were healed by His word alone.
However, medical maladies are most often not healed by sudden miracles but through medical intervention, which is actually a miracle in itself. Because if “every good and perfect gift is from Above” (James 1:17), then physicians actually stand in the place of God, as His vessels, in order to bring healing to the patients charged to their care.
Because the human being is comprised of body, mind, and spirit, and all three work interpedently, (as opposed to independently) a wound to the body or to the mind will affect the spirit. In other words, physical illnesses can have spiritual consequences. For instance, a person who is afflicted with illness, who has been a devout Christian, might wonder “does God still love me?” In the worse instance, one might even wonder if there is a God.
The Sacrament of Holy Unction will not cure a wounded body necessarily. It will, however, help to heal the wounded soul that has been affected by the wounds of the body. God has blessed physicians with the ability to heal the infirmities of the body. God has given the Church, through its prayers, its priests and its people, the ability to heal the infirmities of the soul.
Physical wounds and sickness are part of every life. In fact, they are part of every stage, every year, of every life. There hasn’t been a year in most lives where we haven’t felt sick, or less than 100% of ourselves. In some instances, the sickness is short-lived and doesn’t affect us much. We work through a cold and take a pill to soothe a fever. Other sicknesses are longer lasting and even have permanent effects.
Seeing someone who is sick can also affect us. When we go through illness with a parent or see a friend suffer, a piece of us suffers with them. When we lose someone we love, our souls are wounded. Dealing with loss is part of our daily life actually. Bad weather can cause the loss of the day’s plans. A car accident may cause the loss of some money. A dip in the economy may cause us a loss of security. And all of these things have the potential for spiritual consequences. All of them can affect our spirits.
The Sacrament of Holy Unction provides some needed spiritual strengthening and encouragement. It restores our sense of balance in a broken world. It helps us to reconcile a world that is full of suffering with a God Who is filled with mercy. It can help to heal our doubts about our own selves. Riddled with guilt for our sins, this sacrament provides encouragement that God loves all people, even us.
When we pray to God, either in person or in the context of corporate worship, the purpose of the prayer is not like depositing coins in a vending machine and ordering up what we want. This idea actually discourages people from praying. Praying is being in the presence of God, so that when we feel wounded, when the words of Psalm 13:2—How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?—start to dominate our thoughts and permeate our souls, we can feel reassured that God is with us, to heal the spiritual pain and to comfort the sorrows of our hearts.
Holy Unction will probably not heal a broken leg. It can, however, heal the broken spirit that is the result of the broken leg.
You, Who in Your mercy and compassion, O Savior and only God, heals both the passions of souls and afflictions of bodies, heal those, who suffer from illnesses, O Merciful One. (7th Ode, Sacrament of Holy Unction, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Go to God in moments of despair and pray for Him to comfort and strengthen your spirit when you are wounded.