The following directions, from the Guidelines for Clergy (Orthodox Church in America, 1998), address various issues surrounding the celebration of Holy Unction and are considered normative for our practice at Christ the Savior Orthodox Church.
The services of healing through anointing of the sick must be understood and experienced as corporate acts of worship. See: On Spiritual Life in the Church, Encyclical, page 5.
- The Mystery of Holy Unction is administered to Orthodox Christians for the healing of soul and body. It may be for a particular person or for a number of persons gathered together.
- While especially appropriate for the sick and dying, the Mystery of Holy Unction is intended for the living. Those who are already dead must not be anointed with this Holy Unction.
- It should be understood that the service is primarily for those who are ill in body and in soul and are able to be present if the service is performed in public. Otherwise, the priests ought to go to the bedside of the person for whom the healing is sought.
- This mystery is bestowed on those who have confessed and are at peace with God in their souls. One cannot expect to receive healing without repentance; confession precedes the healing.
- If it is not possible to use the full order of service to anoint a person who has fallen ill, an abridged form that has been approved for use by the diocesan hierarch may be used.
- In some dioceses, deaneries, and parishes, for the benefit of the local Orthodox community, it has become a custom, although not prescribed by the Typikon, to celebrate this mystery on fasting and festal seasons. Although it is not prescribed in the Triodion, one such example is the celebration of the mystery on Great and Holy Wednesday for the entire gathered community.
- Normally, oil which has been sanctified at a previous celebration of the Mystery of Holy Unction is not reserved for the subsequent anointing of the sick, but should be burned in an oil lamp or poured over the body of the person for whom it had been offered if that person dies.
- The custom of allowing the faithful to take oil home with them to anoint others should not be encouraged since the usual ministrant of the Mystery of Holy Unction is of the priestly rank.
If garments and the like are brought forward at the service, they may be sprinkled with holy water, but should not be anointed with the sanctified oil.