This rite is meant for brief visits to the homebound or the hospitalized, though it could also be used in the context of a Healing Prayer service. In either case, brevity is key. If the sick person(s) being visited want to talk at length the minister can do so apart from this liturgy. If the sick person(s) are desirous of more extensive ministry then the Communion of the Sick should be considered the liturgical template instead.
The anointing of the sick with oil by a priest is a recovery of ancient and biblical practice that was absent in the classical Prayer Book tradition. The rubrics here note that another “authorized person” may also administer this rite. Three things maintain the integrity of this rite:
- The liturgy is to be followed faithfully, the priest using it in full and the lay minister or Deacon omitting the priest-specific parts.
- The oil to be used is blessed by a bishop or priest beforehand.
- The lay minister must be trained before being authorized to carry out this ministry.
Traditionally the priest makes the sign of the Cross on the sick person’s forehead with the oil, speaking the words of ministration, and then lays on hands for the prayer. The additional prayer, “As you are outwardly anointed…” is especially helpful for understanding the purpose and effect of this rite, and combating false teachings such as found in the Word of Faith or Prosperity Gospel movements.
Additional Prayers, from the pages noted in the rubric, may be added. This should always be considered, but happily omitted when brevity is required. The Lord’s Prayer, in which the sick person is able to join in by memory, can often be the most comforting part of the rite. The final prayer is more of a benediction, and eye contact with the sick person(s) is strongly advised. The priest may add a blessing after; the traditional Prayer Book blessing following that benediction is:
Unto God’s gracious mercy and protection we commit thee. The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace, both now and evermore. Amen.