Use of Anointing Oil Today
Posted on October 03, 2014
How is Oil used in Christianity Today?
Reference to the use of oil (chrism) is found throughout the Bible. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Exhaustive Concordance lists 224 entries for oil and 170 for anointing. Anointing oil was use to place priests, governors, and royalty into their revered stations. Oil was used to heal the sick. Oil was offered as a sacrifice.
How might oil be used by modern day believers? While some Christian religions eschew the act of anointing due to theological debate of what Scripture means, others include the use of anointing oil to intensify meaning and symbolism in rites and sacraments. Our views of the use of anointing oil require us to state that the power of anointing oil is in its ability to reinforce the meaning of an act or provide physical evidence of a spiritual concept. In no way is the oil mystical or powerful in and of itself. Only our Lord possesses the power to heal or to truly sanctify. Here are some of the ways that modern day Christians use anointing oil.
During the baptismal rite, oil may be used as the sign of the cross is made on the forehead of the newly baptized as the pastor proclaims the person as a child of God. The laying on of hands, prayer, signing of the cross, presence of supportive family and friends, and anointing with oil are traditions that seek to heighten the importance of its real meaning.
A scriptural basis for this anointing during healing can be found in James 5:13-16. While in ancient times, the oil was used for medicinal purposes; its use today is a physical assurance of the Lord's healing powers. Laying on of hands and anointing with oil provide the person worldly comfort and support, while God's love and amazing power provides the healing.
Some Christian communities use oil as part of a ceremony to place a person into a Christian vocation. While blessing missionaries, Sunday school teachers, Vacation Bible School organizers, or pastors is common in many churches, some use the powerful symbolism of laying on of hands and anointing for service.
Daily devotional or prayer time is invaluable to those who seek to grow their faith and live His will. Some believers find that using anointing oil or balm during their daily appointment with Jesus offers spiritual benefits throughout the day. Use of a scented oil [link to anointing oil products page] or balm [link to anointing balm products page] provides a lingering fragrance to prompt a quick prayer, a grateful thought, or encouragement that Jesus is near.
Anointing Oil is a Symbol
Using oil evokes the biblical images of anointing with the Spirit, union with Christ, and healing emotionally and physically. This use of scented oil adds dimensions of sensory involvement to worship [link to post about 5 senses]. As we assemble together as believers, we do many things together as signs of our faith and our solidarity as one Church. We pray, sing, and listen to the Word of God. Symbolic use of earthly elements such as anointing oil helps communicate in a powerful way the reality of our roles as God's creatures and the awesome miracle of the healing the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Have you experienced use of anointing oil or other reinforcing earthly symbols of faith? Did it enhance your spiritual experience? Share in the comments!