14. Holy Oil

Then you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle (place of worship) and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it shall become holy. Exodus 40:9 NRSV
This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be used in any ordinary anointing of the body, and you shall make no other like it in composition; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Exodus 30:31-32 NRSV
Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, “LORD has anointed you ruler over his people Israel.” 1st Samuel 10:1 NRSV
I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him. Psalm 89:20 NRSV

An Overview

Beginning with the Covenant with the Hebrew people and by the divine plan of the Holy, the first formalized hosts where the presence of God would dwell among the Jewish people would be the Bread of the Presence and the Sacred Oil.
These two hosts and the practices that surrounded them are some of the oldest sacred activities in which the Living God becomes present among the faithful individuals through the prayers and ritual of the clergy and the assembly of the faithful. These rites and practices were instituted by God in the establishment of the Covenant with the Hebrew people through Moses and they continue to this day in both Judaism and Christianity.

The concept of using oil for religious purposes has been around for as long as humankind has had desired for formal rites. Many cultures throughout the world have used oil for ritual purposes and the Hebrew community through the Mosaic Covenant has used Sacred Oil for healing, anointing kings, objects, priests, as well as for other events in the life of the Jewish people for centuries.

In both the Jewish and Christian communities an object or individual becomes sacred when anointed with oil by an appropriate person. In this context the act of placing hand(s) on a person is the act of consecration (commissioning) and the Spirit of God within the oil makes the object or person holy. [1]

The Early Christians

In light of their Jewish background it is no surprise that the apostles of Jesus the Anointed would recognize the Sacred Oil as a host of the Spirit of God and continue the practice of using it for ceremonial purposes (especially in the Christian Mikvah of Conversion and in healing rites).

Like the early Christians of yesterday, Christians of today consecrate the oil as a host of the Holy Spirit by a bishop or for Protestants a presbyter/elder on Thursday of Holy Week and afterwards is presented in containers to appropriate clergy for use in their ministries. While these Christian leaders may consecrate oil at other times throughout the year, Holy Thursday is the traditional date to do so.

Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. James 5:14 NRSV

In the Christian ceremonies in which the anointing the oil is used, a cleric uses the oil to make a cross upon the forehead of the recipient of the rite. While throughout the history of Christianity this anointing has produced healing and even miracles, the healing of the body is not the initial purpose of this anointing. The primary purpose of this anointing is to strengthen and comfort the soul of the individual who is weak and ill, so that the soul may become strong and whole through the comfort and sacredness of the Spirit of God.
Modern medical professional acknowledge that for an individual to properly heal they first need a strong and healthy spirit (soul) within their being and therefore treating the soul provides a person with a foundation for either human healing or for the ultimate healing – our union with the Living God (death).

When Consecrating a Priest. You shall take the anointing oil, and pour it on his head and anoint him. Exodus 29:7 NRSV

When ordaining clergy, Christians follow the basic concepts of the Mosaic Covenant and the teaching of Jesus the Anointed One, in that the leadership lays hands upon the candidate (the commissioning) and then the candidate is anointed (making sacred), therefore setting the person apart for the ministry of Word and Sacrament (presbyters).

From these two examples we can see that Christianity of today has an unbroken link to the Mosaic Covenant and a bond with the apostles of the Anointed One. From this foundation, Christian clerics can present the sacred for times of celebration and for those times when an individual is personally in most need of it.

In Closing

The Sacred Oil has been used for the benefit of the faithful for centuries and has strengthen many through receiving the comfort that comes from the Spirit of the Living God. While the Sacred Oil does not nourish and sustains our souls, because that is the Mystery of the Bread and Wine, it does offer our souls comfort and renewed sanctification through the union of humanity and the Sacred. Thanks be to God!

An Old Family Recipe: You shall make it an oil of Holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the perfumer: it shall be a Holy Anointing Oil. Exodus 30:25
You shall make holy anointing oil. Twelve pounds of liquid myrrh. Six pounds of cane. Six pounds of cinnamon. Twelve pounds of cassia. One gallon of olive oil. Exodus 30:23-24

Written by Dave Pflueger April 6, 2011 © copyrighted by Pflueger

FOOTNOTE: Exodus 40:9

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