You love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore, God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness.
O Lord, Grant that this oil becomes the oil of gladness, the oil of sanctification, a royal robe, an armor of might, the deflecting of every satanic assault, the seal of immunity from snares, the gladness of heart, everlasting joy; that also in this, they who shall be anointed with this oil of rebirth may be strong against their adversaries, and may shine in the radiance of Your Saints, having neither spot nor wrinkle, and that they may be admitted into Your eternal rest, and receive the award of the calling from above. For Yours it is to show mercy and to save us, O our God, and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to ages of ages. Amen. (From the 1st Prayer)
The end of the First Prayer of Holy Unction lists many intentions that the sacrament is supposed to accomplish for those receiving it. It is interesting to note that all of these intentions have to do more with the healing of the soul than the healing of the body.
The oil of gladness-Holy Unction ideally will bring us a sense of contentment. In a world where we are both driven and expected to achieve and compete, the oil can bring a sense of peace and worthiness in a world that is always on the go and that oftentimes makes us feel inadequate.
The oil of sanctification-When something is sanctified, it is set apart for God. Holy Unction should remind us that we are set apart for God. As our senses are anointed, we are reminded that we are to use them first for His glory and not our own convenience.
A royal robe-At our baptisms, when we were taken out of the baptismal font, we were wrapped in a clean, pure white sheet, representing the state of our souls at that moment—completely washed of sin. After baptism, it takes work and discipline to keep our souls pure, and even with the greatest of efforts, there will still be a stain of sin on them. Holy Unction reminds us of the work and discipline needed to keep our souls as clean as we can, and God’s mercy to help clean our stained souls when we come to Him in repentance.
An armor of might-If a royal robe brings to mind the image of something soft and regal, the next phrase of the prayer, an armor of might, brings to mind the image of something that is solid and impenetrable. We’ve all seen movies with knights jousting and sword fighting. Wearing armor protects one from injury. In this instance, we pray that the armor of might, the strength that comes from God that will protect us from spiritual injury.
The deflecting of every satanic assault-We want God’s grace to come on us like the softness of a robe and with the strength of armor. We also want it to be on us with the elasticity of a rubber band, so that as are hit by satanic assaults, or temptations, those thoughts will bounce right off of us.
The immunity from snares-I was walking in a heavily wooded area once and my backpack got ensnared on a barbed-wire fence that was covered in the heavy brush. The immunity from snares refers to a smooth path, that we are able to walk in God’s Light without being ensnared by temptation or evil.
The gladness of heart-The Christian journey shouldn’t be all about fighting to avoid snares and assaults. There should be gladness along the way. After all, we are not Christians in order to avoid punishment but to attain reward, and not only reward and gladness for eternal life, but gladness and peace in our life right now. Guilt, doubt, and sin rob us of gladness. In praying for gladness of heart, we pray not to be bogged down by failure, but to feel lightened in our hearts.
Everlasting joy-Many people focus so much on the joys in our life today that they forget that life on earth is fleeting. It will one day come to an end for all of us. This is why we need to focus on everlasting joy and not just temporary joy. The only everlasting joy is salvation.
Strong against their adversaries-There are many kinds of adversaries that we will face in life. Some of them are people. Some of them are circumstances beyond our control, like a hurricane or a flood. Some of them are personal challenges, like sickness or a job change. And some of them are adversaries in our own minds, like doubt and anxiety. We pray to stand strong against all of these.
May shine in the radiance of Your saints-Most of us have had the experience of being underdressed. For example, we thought casual meant shorts and a T-shirt while everyone else was wearing polo shirts and slacks. Not being dressed appropriately is uncomfortable, because one stands out and not in a good way. One day we will stand in the radiance of the saints, who will stand around the throne of God at the last judgment. The prayer is that we will shine in their presence, that we will be dressed appropriately with God-centered hearts so that we will shine in their radiance and not stand out as underdressed.
Admitted into Your eternal rest-When we go to a concert, a ticket is required in order to be admitted. We have to pay for that ticket. If we show up without a ticket, we are not admitted. Similarly, we need a ticket to be admitted into God’s Kingdom, and that ticket is purchased with God’s judgment on how we live our lives. Do we love God? Do we serve others? And do we give these two things the first place in our lives consistently? We pray that our lives are preparing us so that when the day comes when we arrive at the gate of heaven, we will be admitted into God’s eternal rest.
Receive the award of the calling from above-God calls all people to eternal life. All come out of the womb with an equal chance to receive salvation. This is the call for every life. The award for the God-centered life on earth is eternal life in heaven. The prayer concludes with a plea to God that we eventually will receive that reward of everlasting life, the reward for answering that call God has for each life.
Forasmuch as Your mercy Divine has decreed to us from on High, O Master, the Oil of gladness as a symbol of condescension, take not away Your mercy, nor overlook those, who with faith, continually cry out: “All the works of the Lord, bless the Lord.” (8th ode)
If we were to continually focus on all the phrases of this prayer, we would have a God-centered life and be well on our way to salvation. Even focusing on one will point us on the right path!