Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed
The first stage: The Baptizing Christ.
The stage of purification and
The beginning of the process of spiritual renewal for man
2-The Forgiving and Healing Christ (Part 2)
1- The forgiving Christ (continued):
The gift of tears is connected with baptismal or repentance grace. St. Gregory of Nazienza includes the Baptism of tears among the different forms of Baptism. He says that it is a tedious Baptism so that the one who attains it wets his bed with his tears every night (Ps. 6:6) … prays as in Manasseh’s repentance (2 Chronicles 33:11-13) and in the brokenness of the people of Nineveh … who prays in the words of the tax collector at the altar to become justified … who bows like the Canaanite woman asking for mercy and for the crumbs of bread that the dogs eat because of their severe hunger.
The holy sadness “soaking our very thoughts in tears”, according to St. Diadochus, purifies and illuminates. St. John Climacus does not hesitate to say: “ the flood of tears which we shed after Baptism is not less powerful than Baptism itself, for tears cleanses from offences after Baptism.” He calls tears a second Baptism and says: “If God, in His mercy, had not granted to men this second Baptism, then few indeed would be saved.”
2- Unction of the sick – Christ the Healer:
Christ the Baptizer forgives and heals “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Mathew 4:23). When He sent His disciples to preach He told them “And heal the sick that are therein and say unto them, the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:9). The church follows the rules of the Bible that say: “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of the faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he had committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, that ye may be healed (James 5:14-16).
The mystery of the Unction of the sick in the Orthodox Church is a mystery that combines forgiveness of sin and healing of the body. There is an extension of the grace of Baptism as there is remission of sins and cleansing for the sick. Therefore, repentance and confession of sin are necessary when unction of the sick is performed in order to heal the soul from sin. This is the power of Christ, the Baptizer, forgiver, and carrier of the sins of the world. And also, the healing of the body is obtained by the work of Christ the healer. To make this clear, that it is not the priest but Christ who forgives the patient and heals him, the priest puts the Book of the Gospel on the head of the patient and says: “It is not by the laying of our hands we sinful priests on his head pleading to you for forgiveness of sins, but it is by the cherished hand of this Gospel we ask you…” (seventh prayer of the Unction of the sick).
Prayer of faith heals the sick:
It is clear from St. James’ words about Unction of the sick that there is a relationship between faith and healing. The prayer that heals the sick is a prayer of faith, the faith of the minister who is praying and the faith of the sick person or, at least, the faith of the minister and the faith of his family if the faith of the patient is missing (e.g. if he is an infant or unconscious). And as the Divine power went out of the Lord Jesus when He was on earth and healed all (Luke 6:19, and Mathew 14:36) and this was through the faith of those who touched Him such as the bleeding woman who said “If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole” (Mark 5:28), and the Lord saying that power went out of Him when she touched Him and she was immediately healed, and the Lord said to her “Daughter, be of good comfort: your faith has made you well; go in peace” (Luke 8:48), so also here we find that God’s healing power flows from the Lord Jesus in His name through faith. The power that works in Unction of the sick is the power of Christ Himself, but the one who receives it is one who prays in the name of Christ with faith. Without faith, the power of God is prevented from reaching the sick person to heal him despite its presence and availability within the reach of our hands. There are other times when there is faith but God wants the sickness to continue a while longer in the body in order to make the patient experience the power of Christ despite the continuing weakness of the body, as in the case of St. Paul the apostle who prayed three times for the thorn in his flesh and the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8,9). The apostle experienced the presence of the power of Christ with him in his sickness and bodily weakness. In this example and other, the inner soul has joy, health, and peace with healing despite the illness of the body. The believer is able to boast in his weakness and join the apostle saying: “Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10).
Faith in the healing Christ through prayer means that the faithful person who is sick directly seeks Christ asking for salvation and healing, and seeks the priest to come to his home to perform the mystery of the Unction as commanded in the bible (James 5:4). It is not appropriate for the believer to think of medical treatment before he goes to Christ in prayer first; and even when he goes to a human physician, his heart from inside looks for the power of healing that comes from Jesus, whether directly from prayer and the unction with oil, or from the scientific ways that physicians use. This is because his inner heart is still depending on Christ as the source of his life and his healing, putting himself and all that belongs to him in the hands of his faithful Savior; he doesn’t ever turn his heart and depend on the creation but continues to depend in all his situations on the Lord and to keep his hope in Him alone. This is because Christ is the healing physician whether through Unction or medical treatment, “for I am the Lord that heals you”, says the Lord (Exodus 15:26).
Christ has put the Unction of the sick in His Church for a specific purpose and that is for their healing. But using unction just as a “blessing”, as we sometimes see now, and not asking the priest to perform the mystery of Unction of the sick when there is illness, this means that we don’t believe in the effectiveness of the divine healing power through the Unction that was taught to us in the bible and that we received from the Fathers of the church. But also, Christ gives healing sometimes on calling His name in prayer without using the mystery of Unction. This happened many times in the history of the Church since the days of the apostles and still happens now when an ordinary believer prays and he is neither a priest and is not performing the mystery of unction of the sick. Those believers are given the gift of healing from the Holy Spirit for praying in the name of Christ (1 Cor. 12:9, Mark 16:18). Sometimes also healing occurs through the prayer of the patient himself because Christ is “The true Physician of our souls, bodies, and spirits” in all of those cases (prayer for the sick).
3- Baptism Prayer for consecrating monks: (in the next part, God willing)
4- Prayer of the second marriage: (in the next part, God willing)
(To be continued)
The Coptic Church Calendar starts on the 11th of September each year by celebrating her Martyrs (Feast of Nayrouz)