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Re: [orthodox-rocor] To clergy--a question re Holy Unction Russian practice of annual only

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  • Seraphim Larsen
    I m not clergy, and certainly can t give a theological or historical opinion about any of this, but thought I d share my varied experiences of the Unction
    Message 1 of 55 , Mar 31, 2008
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      I'm not clergy, and certainly can't give a theological or historical opinion about any of this, but thought I'd share my varied experiences of the Unction service.

      In 1995 I witnessed an unction service performed by a single hieromonk of the Moscow Patriarchate, performed for a sick person in a private residence in Moscow, Russia.  This hieromonk was Father Anatoly, a former neurosurgeon and the natural brother of Elder Raphael of Valaam; Father Anatoly has also written a great number of books (in Russian) about the harmful spiritual and neurological effect of occult practice, computer and video games, movies with sudden and surprising action (like nearly every childrens video produced nowadays), and so on -- really interesting books (at least the parts that my wife has translated for me).  Father Anatoly read the entire unction service himself.  There was a prayer, a Gospel reading, then an anointing; this was repeated (with different prayers and readings) seven times.  I believe some in attendance besides the sick person were also anointed, but I don't remember clearly.

      Sometime in the mid/late 90's, we visited an Old-Calendar OCA monastery in Santa Rosa, California -- Skete of the Kazan Icon of the Theotokos, which we loved to visit when we lived in that part of the country.  A beautiful little monastic community, living in a pair of neighboring old homes in a semi-rural neighborhood on the edge of Santa Rosa.  It was founded by Elder Dmitri, who also founded St Eugene Skete in Point Reyes, where the St John of San Francisco Monastery (OCA) got started and lived for several years.   Mother Susanna is a precious person, she is so humble and kind.  Once she had found a mouse running around in the house, and was carrying it in her hand to put it outside.  Meanwhile, she stopped to talk to a guest.  They talked for 15-20 minutes, all the while with this squirming mouse in her hand, but not mentioning it at all.  Finally, she very apologetically excused herself, saying that she had to go put the mouse outside; I think she was getting concerned that it might be suffocating, more than she was concerned about having the squirming thing in her hand.  Anyway, there was an unction service performed there for someone who was sick.  There were seven priests in attendance, and I believe they followed the same order as Father Anatoly did -- prayer, Gospel, and anointing, repeated seven times.   Most of the people in attendance were also anointed, including children, not just the sick person for whom everyone had gathered.

      Sometime around 2001 or 2002, on Holy Wednesday, we went to Joy-of-all-who-sorrow Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco (ROCOR) for the Unction Service.  (The rector at Holy Protection in Palo Alto (ROCOR) where we were members, said that in the Russian church, the Holy Wednesday unction service is done only in cathedrals and monasteries.)   All the Gospels and prayers were said together, and then the seven anointings were all done at the end -- you had to wander around to different parts of the cathedral, getting in line seven times for each of the seven anointings, each of which being performed by a different priest.  It was a really wonderful experience.  Everyone was singing a beautiful, repetitive hymn I had never heard sung at any other time, with a really somber bass line, though I cannot remember the words.  It was similar in style to many Communion Hymns.  The clergy were emphatic that children (under confession age) should not be anointed unless they were actually sick.  Adults could be said to be in need of forgiveness of sins, and thus could be anointed even if they were not physically sick.  Adults also were required to have gone recently to the sacrament of confession before being anointed, just as for receiving Holy Communion.

      Also, here in Arizona, the unction service is performed, with seven Priests, every Holy Wednesday at St Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), in Florence AZ.  Nearly everyone in attendance is anointed, including children.  They read all of the Gospels and prayers, and then do a single anointing at the end -- several priests take part in doing the anointings, but you only go to one of them.   They anoint several locations on the face and head, and both sides of each hand.   (They also make sure you wipe off the oil afterwards, and give you a special piece of cotton for it, and one of the fathers holds a basket where you can drop the piece of cotton.)   They follow Athonite practice very conscientiously at St Anthony's, so I suppose this is the common practice of the Holy Mountain.


      Seraphim Larsen
    • emrys@globe.net.nz
      ... From: Fr. John Whiteford ... As well as prayers do you think he will have some superfluous merits which will be a great help?
      Message 55 of 55 , Apr 6, 2008
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Fr. John Whiteford" <frjohnwhiteford@...>


        > You may have to do some exta time in the toll houses,
        > but I am sure through the prayers of your bishop
        > you'll eventually make it through.

        As well as prayers do you think he will have some superfluous merits which
        will be a great help?

        "'With these words he [Saint Basil] took out a full dark red bag and, giving
        it to the Angels, he said: `When you pass through the aerial toll booths,
        and the wicked spirits begin to torture her soul, redeem her debts with
        this. I am wealthy in God's grace, gathered many riches by fasting and my
        labors, and I make a gift of this bag to the soul that served me'. Having
        said this, he departed."

        Fr Ambrose

        -
        -




        --- In orthodox-rocor@yahoogroups.com, <emrys@...> wrote:
        >
        > But Father, what of those of us, myself included, who actually gave this
        > oath to our ordaining bishop, with one hand on the Cross and the
        other on
        > the Gospels?
        >
        > On what authority will we be absolved of breaking our oath? Perhaps
        at our
        > death with the Prayer of Absolution when it is read over our corpses,
        > "....if he hath fallen under his own curse or hath sinned by any
        oath..."
        >
        > Fr Ambrose
        >
        > - -
        >
        > ----- Original Message -----
        > From: "Vladimir Boikov" <frvlad@...>
        >
        >
        > > We just did it in all 3 NZ parishes without the bishop present,
        but with
        > his
        > > blessing! ;-) he, apparently, is a little busy these days...
        > >
        > > Everybody needs to lighten up a bit - If this wasn't a profitable
        practice
        > > God (or at least, some bishop) would've sent down some lightning ages
        > ago...
        > >
        > > In Christ,
        > > Fr Vladimir
        > >
        > > ----- Original Message -----
        > > From: "Elias G Gorsky" <elias.gorsky@...>
        > > To: <orthodox-rocor@yahoogroups.com>
        > > Sent: Sunday, April 06, 2008 6:21 AM
        > > Subject: RE: [orthodox-rocor] Re: To clergy--a question re Holy
        Unction
        > > Russian practice of annual only
        > >
        > >
        > > Yes, that is why for these parish soborovanije, a bishop is
        present who is
        > > presumed to have the authority modify this directive via economia.
        I have
        > > never seen such parish soborovanije conducted by priests alone,
        without a
        > > bishop being present.
        > >
        > > p. Ilya Gorsky
        > >
        > > -----Original Message-----
        > > From: Rev. Alexander Lebedeff [mailto:lebedeff@...]
        > > Sent: 04/05/2008 1:31 PM
        > > To: Fr. John R. Shaw
        > > Subject: Re: [orthodox-rocor] Re: To clergy--a question re Holy
        Unction
        > > Russian practice of annual only
        > >
        > > The reluctance of priests of the Russian Church to perform Holy
        > > Unction over those who are not seriously ill is understandable.
        > >
        > > The Ordination Certificate (Satvlennaya Gramata) given to the priest
        > > on the day of his ordination, signed and sealed by the bishop that
        > > ordained him gives many specific directions to the newly-ordained
        > > priests.
        > >
        > > He is told:
        > >
        > > . . . ÐÏ ÏÂÙÞÁÀ É ÞÉÎÕ Ó×ÑÔÙÑ áÐÏÓÔÏÌØÓËÉÑ ÷ÏÓÔÏÞÎÙÊ ãÅÒË×Å,
        > ÂÌÁÇÏÓÌÏ×ÅÎÉÅÍ
        > > É ÒÕËÏÐÏÌÏÖÅÎÉÅÍ ÎÁÛÉÍ, ÓÏÄÅÊÓÔ×ÕÀÝÕ ÔÏÍÕÖÄÅ ÖÉ×ÏÔ×ÏÒÑÝÅÍÕ É
        > > ×ÓÅÓÏ×ÅÒÛÁÀÝÅÍÕ ó×ÑÔÏÍÕ äÕÈÕ, ÐÏÓ×ÑÔÉÌÉ ÍÙ ×Ï ÉÅÒÅÁ ËÏ ÈÒÁÍÕ (ÎÁÚ×ÁÎÉÅ
        > > ÅÇÏ É ÍÅÓÔÁ, ÇÄÅ ÈÒÁÍ ÎÁÈÏÄÉÔÓÑ, Ó ÕËÁÚÁÎÉÅÍ ÇÏÄÁ, ÍÅÓÑÃÁ É ÄÎÑ
        > > ÈÉÒÏÔÏÎÉÉ), É ÕÔ×ÅÒÄÉÌÉ ÅÍÕ ×ÌÁÓÔØ: ôÁÊÎÁÍÉ Ó×ÑÔÙÍÉ ÓÏ×ÅÒÛÁÔÉ ÞÅÌÏ×ÅËÁ
        > > × ÖÉÚÎØ ÈÒÉÓÔÉÁÎÓËÕÀ, ÄÕÈÏ×ÎÕÀ, ËÒÅÝÁÔÉ, ÍÉÒÏÐÏÍÁÚÁÔÉ, ÉÓÐÏ×ÅÄÙ×ÁÔÉ,
        > > ÌÉÔÕÒÇÉÓÁÔÉ, ×ÅÎÞÁÔÉ ÐÏ ×ÏÌÅ É ÓÏÇÌÁÓÉÀ ÍÕÖÁ É ÖÅÎÙ, É ÅÌÅÏÐÏÍÁÚÁÎÉÅ
        > > ÎÁÄ ÂÏÌÑÝÉÍÉ ÓÏ×ÅÒÛÁÔÉ, ÎÁÄ ÚÄÒÁ×ÙÍÉ ÖÅ ÎÉËÁËÏÖÅ ÄÅÒÚÁÔÉ Ô×ÏÒÉÔÉ, É
        > > ×ÓÑ ÃÅÒËÏ×ÎÁÑ ÐÏÓÌÅÄÏ×ÁÎÉÑ É ÞÉÎÙ ÄÅÊÓÔ×Ï×ÁÔÉ, ÑËÏ ÓÌÕÖÉÔÅÌÀ èÒÉÓÔÏ×Õ
        > > É ÓÔÒÏÉÔÅÌÀ ôÁÉÎ âÏÖÉÉÈ.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > (if you can't see the Russian text, here is the main portion in
        > > transcription and translation):
        > >
        > > ". . .utverdili jemu vlast'" Tajnami sviatymi sovershati cheloveka v
        > > zhizn' khristianskuju, dukhovnuju, kreshchati, miropomazati,
        > > ispovedyvati, liturgisati, venchati po vole i soglasiu muzha z zheny,
        > > i eleopomazanie nad bol'nymi sovershati, nad zdravymi zhe nikakozhe
        > > derzati tvoriti..."
        > >
        > > "We have confirmed him with the authority (right, power): To perfect
        > > a person into Christian spiritual life through the Holy Mysteries: to
        > > baptize, to chrismate, to confess, to liturgize, to crown (wed) in
        > > accordance with the will and agreement of the husband and wife, and
        > > to perform Holy Unction over the ill, but never to dare to perform it
        > > over the healthy, . . ."
        > >
        > > Now -- that's a very strong injunction coming from the bishop at the
        > > time of the ordination of a priest -- who would wish to go contrary
        > > to such a directive from the bishop who ordained you?
        > >
        > > As far as the frequency of receiving Holy Unction, the Handbooks for
        > > priests of the Russian Orthodox Church make it clear that the Mystery
        > > of Holy Unction should NOT be repeated over the same person in the
        > > course of the same illness.
        > >
        > > Infants, too, are forbidden to have this Mystery performed over them.
        > >
        > > With love in Christ,
        > > Prot. Alexander Lebedeff
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > Monday, March 31, 2008, you wrote:
        > >
        > > > --- In orthodox-rocor@yahoogroups.com, "DDD" <ochichernie2@> wrote:
        > >
        > > >> .. I always thought you had to go to Holy Unction before Pascha.. ?
        > >
        > > > JRS: No, no one, necessarily, "has" to "go to Holy Unction" at
        all: not
        > > even in sickness, for
        > > > that matter.
        > >
        > > > It was intended as a service for those who are seriously ill,
        not for
        > the
        > > healthy.
        > >
        > > > This was reflected in the promise that ROCOR priests used to make at
        > > ordination, with the
        > > > words that "I will not administer 'Soborovanie' to the healthy".
        > >
        > > >> .. What was the practice of the pre-revolutionary Russian Church?
        > > >> Was it once a year? Where did this difference come in?
        > >
        > > > JRS: There was no practice of "Soborovanie" for whole
        congregations in
        > the
        > > Russian
        > > > Church, not just before the revolution, but up to just a few
        years ago.
        > >
        > > > It was often said that one could receive "Soborovanie" only once
        in a
        > > lifetime!
        > >
        > > > But it had become a regular practice in the Greek Church for
        some years,
        > > to the extent
        > > > that, in the Holy Week book published in the Greek Archdiocese, the
        > > service of Holy
        > > > Unction long ago replaced Matins of Holy Thursday.
        > >
        > > > Unlike the Russians, the Greeks usually anoint each person only once
        > (not
        > > 7 times), and
        > > > the service can be performed by one priest, and was not
        restricted to a
        > > "sobor" of 7
        > > > priests.
        > >
        > > > In Greek parishes, therefore, it became almost like the
        "mirovanie" we
        > > have at Night Vigil.
        > >
        > > > I don't know exactly when "general Soborovanie" began to be
        introduced
        > in
        > > Russia, but in
        > > > ROCOR it is relatively recent.
        > >
        > > > At the time I was a seminarian in Jordanville, for example
        (1968-1971),
        > it
        > > was still
        > > > completely uneard of in our Church.
        > >
        > > > Until 1976, when Archbishop Nikon reposed and I was transferred to
        > > Chicago, I had never
        > > > heard of it taking place anywhere in ROCOR.
        > >
        > > > But in current practice, there is no restriction on how many
        times one
        > can
        > > receive Holy
        > > > Unction.
        > >
        > > > The only restrictions would be local: by a local bishop, or by
        the local
        > > priest.
        > >
        > > > So, if you want to take part, it would be as directed by the local
        > clergy.
        > >
        > > > In Christ
        > > > Fr. John R. Shaw
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > With love in Christ,
        > > Prot. Alexander Lebedeff
        > >
        > >
        > > ------------------------------------
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        > >
        > >
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        > >
        > >
        > >
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        > >
        > >
        > >
        >



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