Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick

1. This sacrament is a vital sign of the Church’s concern for the sick and the dying. Jesus showed much respect for the sick. The vast number of the beneficiaries of Jesus’ healing touch were the sick. In the mission command during his lifetime, Jesus gave his disciplesthe power to drive out all demons and to cure diseases (Lc 9/1). The Church took over this concern in the form of this sacrament. Letter of St. James wrote thefollowing prescription. “If anyone among you becomes sick, let him send for the Church elders who will pray for him and anoint olive oil on him in the Lord… The Lord will restore him to health… The sins they have committed will be forgiven” (Jam 5/14-15)

2. For many people, sickness brings a feeling that now God alone can help. The healing and caring for the sick can be an occasion for manifesting God’s glory, “He is blind so that God’s power be seen at work in him” (Jn 9/3).

3. The parallelism at work in the sacramental theology of the Malankara Church between how one begins their Faith life and how they begin the eternal life (Nithyajeevan) is very striking. A Malankarite is initiated into the life of faith by the trio of Baptism, Myron and Eucharist. Under normal circumstances, his entry into the Nithyajeevan is prepared by the sacraments of Reconciliation (like baptism), Anointing (like Myron) and Holy Communion (Eucharist) [In the Jacobite and Mar Thoma tradition Holy Qurbana is at times celebrated at the House of the patient, for facilitating the reception of the Holy Communion).] These three sacraments together form the lifeline of a Christian. Eucharist is always taken as a guarantee for Nityajeevan (Karthaveninirektasareerangal……..).

4. When, by whom and how often the sacrament of anointing of the sick can be received? Formerly this sacrament was known as the last Rite, creating the wrong impression of this sacrament being the draft for a "death certificate”. The ideal would be that this sacrament is asked for and received as soon as a person’s health becomes critical. It is not a one-time sacrament and so can be repeated.

5. Seen as a preparation for meeting our loving Father in heaven, whom we have addressed, maybe thousands of times, our father in heaven, Jesus Christ, whom we have received in the Eucharist, maybe again a thousand times, and Mother Mary to whom we have requested several times a day to pray for us at the time of our death, anointing of the sick shall be approached more as a preparation for meeting them, rather than a terminating one’s life on earth.
i. Candela is the anointing of the Sick given to bishops and priests, a word deriving from the candles/lights lit during the ceremony.
ii. There are separate burial services for laymen, women and children.
iii. The burial services for laypeoplein the cemetery, for priests in the church.
iv. Procession during the funeral (Nagarikanickal) for Priests and Bishops, Bishops buried in the sitting position, symbolising their teaching role in the church even after death.
v. Different types of Orma of the dead, at home and in the Church. Orma of and Prayers for the dead is a constant in the Malankara liturgy, not of any recent origin but almost from the time of birth of the west strain tradition.