Jul 04 2016

Part 27: The Second Stage: Christ the Sender of the Spirit P.2, 2- The Anointing, and Saying of St. Gregory Nazianzen on Pentecost.

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Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed

Part Twenty Seven


The second stage: Christ the Sender of the Spirit.

(Part 2)

2 – The Anointing

The Lord Jesus is the Messiah, which means ‘the anointed one’, or Christ.  Since Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament, anointing was done using a special oil called anointing oil, to anoint the priests and kings and to consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and all its vessels (see Exodus 4:9-15, and Leviticus 8:10-13, 1 Samuel 10:10, 2 Samuel 5:3).  The kings of Israel were called “The Anointed Ones” because they were anointed with that oil in preparation for their coronation.  And the anointing oil in the Old Testament was a symbol and a foreshadow to the true and complete anointing that was fulfilled in the New Testament through the anointing of Jesus our Savior with the Holy Spirit at the time of His baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.  This is what was announced by St. Peter the Apostle in the house of Cornelius, saying: “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).

And now we, in the Orthodox Church, are anointed with the holy Chrism (Mayroon) and our anointing is an extension of the anointing of Christ Himself with the Holy Spirit.  It is also a sharing in His anointing that was accomplished by God the Father.  St. Cyril of Jerusalem talks to the catechumens about this anointing saying: [You have been made anointed ones by accepting the Holy Spirit.  All the things done to you were taken after the example of Christ because you are the image of Christ; He was baptized in the Jordan River and the fragrance of his divinity was spread in the water, and went up from the water and the Holy Spirit, in all His fullness, descended upon Him.  So similar to that was done to you: after you came out from the holy basin (in Baptism) you were anointed with the Chrism as Christ did, and this is the Holy Spirit who the blessed Isaiah talked about in his prophecy about the Lord: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me” (Isaiah 61:1)]. 1

Thus, the anointing unites us, not only to the Holy Spirit, but also to Christ the Son.  The Father anoints us with the Holy Spirit as children by adoption and as members of the body of His only begotten Son.

The Link between the Spirit and the Oil:

In the early centuries, some Fathers of the Church viewed the sacramental relationship between the Holy Spirit and anointing oil (balsam of Chrisma or Mayroon oil) as parallel to the relationship between Christ and the bread and wine in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  St. Cyprians refers to the consecration of the Chrism as to an “eucharistia“; perhaps he was only referring to the “eucharistic” form of the prayer of consecration (eucharist = thanksgiving).2  And St. Cyril of Jerusalem used language suggestive of a real presence of the Holy Spirit in the oil (Chrism).  He says: “See that you not mistake the Chrism for mere oil.  For, just as the bread of the Eucharist after the invocation of the Holy Spirit is not ordinary bread, but it is the body of Christ, so also this holy ointment is no more simple oil after the invocation, but the gracious charisma of Christ and the Holy Spirit, being made operative by the presence of His Divinity.  It became fit to anoint your forehead and your other senses with it. When your body is anointed with the visible Chrism, your soul is sanctified with the life-giving Holy Spirit.” 3

We note that St. Cyril speaks here, not only of a charism (gift) of the Holy Spirit, but of a charism of both Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The anointing is the approach to Christ through the Holy Spirit, and thus, it shows us the function and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

There is, however, a special and direct association of the Holy Spirit with the anointing oil (Chrism).  The view of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, concerning the parallelism between Chrism and Eucharist agrees with the general sacramental outlook of the Orthodox Church and deserves more of our prayerful and enquiring attention than what it has received so far.

We do not think we sin against the “worship in spirit and truth” when we adore the presence and sacrifice our Lord in the broken bread and the shed wine.  With the same realism we can adore the presence and effusion of the Holy Spirit in the anointing Chrism.

And yet we must remember again and again that “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24).  This is particularly so when we talk about the Hypostasis (Person) of the Holy Spirit.  The Pentecostal grace cannot, anymore than Baptismal and Eucharistic grace, be fixed and, as it were, crystallized around the visible and external practices of the Holy Mysteries.  The Chrism, the ritual anointing, is but the efficacious sign or sacramentum of the invisible and spiritual unction which God pours out in the hearts of men whenever and wherever He pleases.

We find in some verses of the New Testament an explanation of the nature and impact of this unction and its relationship to the Holy Spirit and to Christ.  The Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:21, 22).  Through anointing God makes us steadfast in Christ which means to establish and build us not on individual basis, but rather “establishes us in Christ” as a connected group.  And here it is clear also the work of the Holy Spirit that God gives us as a token in our hearts.  The Spirit connects and brings together the members of the Body of Christ and unites them together in Christ.  In this aspect the work of the Holy Trinity is clear: The Father anoints and seals us, we are established in Christ the Son, and The Spirit is the One whom the Father anoints and seals us with, in order to dedicate us for Christ.

The Apostle John says in his First Epistle: “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (1Jn. 2:27)

Here St. John explains that the anointing teaches everything.  There is a clear reference to the work of the Holy Spirit that the Lord talked about in the Bible when He said, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things” (Jn. 14:26).  And also “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth …” (Jn. 16:13).  Thus, the anointing establishes us in Christ through the spiritual education within us and with guiding us into all truth, whether this truth is for life of holiness and spiritual behavior or for teaching the doctrinal faith.

(To be contd.)

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St Gregory Nazianzen

The Descending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost

The Holy Spirit is no longer present only in energy, but as we may say, substantially, associating with us, and dwelling in us.  For it was fitting that as the Son had lived with us in bodily form – so the Spirit too should appear in bodily form …  And He came in the form of Tongues because of His close relation to the Word.  And they were of Fire, perhaps because of His purifying Power … or else because of His Substance.   For our God is a consuming Fire (Heb. 12:29), and a Fire burning up the ungodly. …  And the tongues were cloven, because of the diversity of Gifts; and they sat to signify His Royalty and Rest among the Saints (Is. 57:15 LXX). …  And it took place in an Upper Chamber … because those who should receive it were to ascend and be raised above the earth. …  And Jesus Himself in an Upper Chamber gave the Communion of the Sacrament to those who were being initiated into the higher Mysteries.

Oration 41,11-12,  On Pentecost

NPNF, 2nd Ser., Vol. VII, p. 383.



  1. Catechetical Lectures (Lecture 21:1).
  2. Epistle 70.2.
  3. Catechetical Lectures (Lecture XXI, 3).

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