IMAGES OF ANOINTING THE SICK

 

The sacrament now called the Anointing of the Sick was first designated as an eccesiastical ritual to be performed by priests in the ninth century. Before then, Christians had informally used blessed oil and holy water in ministering to the sick and praying for their healing. Because the medieval rite was elaborate and had to be performed in a church, it was often postponed until all other remedies had been exhausted. Consequently, many people died shortly after receiving the clerical anointing, and the sacrament became known as the last anointing (extrema unctio in Latin). The reforms of Vatican II restored the sacrament's original focus on healing and incorporated it into the pastoral care of the sick. In the Orthodox tradition, the purpose of the ritual has always been for healing.

The following images depict the sacrament from the Middle Ages to today. Unless otherwise noted, the rituals are those of the Roman Catholic Church.


Extreme Unction

Extreme Unction (Last Anointing) in the Middle Ages
Detail from the baptismal font of St. Joseph’s Church in Sheringham, England



Extreme Unction

19th century colored print illustrating the last rites
The priest is administering extreme unction while his assistant carries consecrated hosts
for viaticum, the Latin name for communion received by a person who is dying.
The table in the foreground is set with a crucifix and two lit candles.



Extreme Unction

Extreme Unction in the Early Renaissance
Detail from The Seven Sacraments by Rogier van der Weyden (1545)



Extreme Unction

Before the reforms of Vatican II, the sacrament was only for those who were on the verge of dying.



Anointing of the Sick

Today the sacrament can still be brought to people who might die soon.



Anointing of the Sick

And it is brought to people whose bodies are in need of mending.



Anointing of the Sick

But it is also brought to people who are chronically ill,
such as this man who is suffering from cancer.



Anointing of the Sick

Anonting is also for older people who suffer from conditions related to aging.
Here a priest is bringing the sacrament to residents of a home for the elderly in Indonesia.



Anointing of the Sick

But you don't have to be old, of course. Children with Down's Syndrome
are sometimes sick more often and die at an earlier age than other children.



Holy Communion

People engaged in pastoral care also bring communion to the home bound,
as is shown here in the Philippines.



Anointing of the Sick

Parishes today can plan healing services and invite many people
to experience the spiritual benefits of being anointed.



Anointing

Sometimes people from a whole diocese are invited to the sacrament.
Here a priest is anointing a woman at a diocesan mass for healing in Oakland, California.



Anointing of the Sick

People are anointed on the hands as well as on the forehead,
indicating that the benefits of the sacrament are for the whole person.



Anointing of the Sick

For over a century, Catholics have traveled to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France
in search of healing. Today's pilgrims to the shrine are invited to be anointed and prayed over,
in addition to participating in other spiritual activities.



Holy Unction

The Orthodox also have a tradition of sacramental healing.
Here a man suffering from cancer is being anointed with holy unction.



Holy Unction

In the Orthodox tradition, sacramental anointing
is not restricted to the sick and the elderly.



Holy Unction

Orthodox churches during Lent may offer a service of holy unction
rather than a penance service, as Catholic churches do.



Holy Unction

But the purpose is the same: to bring spiritual healing to those who need it.



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Last modified: Thursday, 18 February 2016, 3:20 AM