For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

This afternoon and evening, the Church offers the sacrament of Holy Unction.  When you ask many Orthodox people why they are going to church on Holy Wednesday night, the answer will be “to get the oil.”  Yet, this is not some just some check the box ritual that we are obligated to do.  The reason we receive Holy Unction is unto the healing of soul and body.  And if we are going to receive something for the purpose of healing, then on some level we have to realize that we are sick and are in need of healing. 

I find great comfort in the seven prayers that are offered at the service.  They speak of God’s mercies and desire that we should repent and live.  They speak of sinners who have become saints.  They ask God not to remember the sins of our youth, we all have some of those. 

We all struggle to some degree or another.  Some of us have physical maladies that are part of getting older.  And even some younger people have them.  Whether we admit it or not, all of us struggle on the mental side of things, as well.  Whether it is anxiety, depression or stress, loneliness, a feeling of being overwhelmed, concern for the future, disappointment from the past or challenge at present, we all have challenges in our minds.  Perhaps the biggest challenge in our minds is a spiritual one.  Because the urge to sin begins in our minds and then manifests itself in our bodies.  For example, the urge to swear begins in the mind and then manifests itself in our mouths.  Sin therefore wounds both our minds, and our mouths, our hands, our feet and anything else we use to sin.  And so, the sacrament of Holy Unction, where we are anointed for the healing of soul and body, seeks to heal the mind where sin begins, the body where sin is manifested and the soul which is darkened by the effects of sin. 

In Ephesians 2:10, we read, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  When we look at our hands, we have to think that God created them.  And we have to think about the things we are doing with those hands.  I remember telling our son when he was little, “Hands are for helping, not for hurting.”  And we have to think how much we use our hands to help, how much we use them to hurt, and how often they “remain in our pockets” so to speak, how often we are indifferent to situations where we can be of help. 

God put His divine imprint on our minds.  Each of us has a unique personality and unique skills.  When we look at our minds, we have to think that God loaded each of them with the thoughts and ideas that make each of us special.  We have to think about the things we are thinking with our minds, the things we see with our eyes, how quick we are to become angry, how much we express love to others, what motivates us to help others, and where we place ourselves and our own egos in the middle of all of it. 

The seventh prayer I have always found particularly moving, one sentence in particular: For You have not created man for destruction, but for the keeping of your commandments, and for the inheriting of life incorruptible.  As we experience this sacrament, it is a good time to reflect on our sins and struggles and come to a place where we say to ourselves, “I was not created by God to be like THIS!”  Whether “this” is sadness, struggle, sin, or anything else that doesn’t reflect the “good and perfect gift is from Above” (James 1:17), receive the healing oil of Holy Unction and allow it to both sooth the pain, strengthen you in the struggle, and motivate you to keep struggling, to not quit, to not give up, to be better, to repent, to do the things that bring us more in line with the Lord. 

The seven beautiful prayers of the Sacrament of Holy Unction are meant to be like a spiritual massage, to comfort and to stir the soul, to relax the mind, to recommit the body.  It’s so much more than just “getting the oil.”  God did not create us for destruction, but for inheriting His Kingdom.  He doesn’t want us to have destructive or sad thoughts in our minds, destructive actions with our bodies, or the collateral destruction that these bring to our souls.  Come and receive Holy Unction for encouragement, renewal, and motivation to take better care of your mind, body and soul.  Most of all, as you reflect on these prayers and on your life, realize that we can all do better, and then go out with a plan to do better.  That’s what repentance is.  And repentance is the cure to sin.  Holy Unction is one tool we use to soothe the pain of sin, so that our minds and souls can focus on repentance without sin weighing so heavily on them. 

As You raised up the paralytic, O Lord, by Your Divine supervision, raise up my soul, cruelly paralyzed by unseemly deeds and all manner of sin; that, being saved, I may cry out to You: “O Benevolent Christ, glory to Your Power!” (Sacrament of Holy Unction, Holy Wednesday Evening, Holy Week and Pascha, By Fr. George Papadeas, p. 126)

God made each of us unique and special.  He created us to love, not to hurt.  He created us to serve, not to sin.  We’ve all missed the mark in some way because of our sins.  Holy Unction provides us an opportunity to reflect, be healed, and to start again.


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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 multiple books, you can view here:


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder