The Sacrament of Holy Unction

The Sacrament of Holy Unction

Category : Resource

Brisbane Schedule for Great Lent, 2019

Vladimir Icon Parish (Rocklea): To be confirmed.
St Nicholas Cathedral: To be confirmed.
Holy Annunciation: Sun, 7 April, 6pm

In our liturgical tradition, this service of General Unction is part of the customary preparation for Holy Week and Pascha. On 18 March, it is being served at Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church in the English language.

Click here for a full text of the service.

Please note that, as it is a Sacrament of the Orthodox Church, only Orthodox Christians may be anointed. In addition, a healthy Orthodox Christian may be anointed at only one service of General Unction during Great Lent.

We hope that this page will be of use to you.

Some rules in brief…

Because Unction is a Sacrament of the Church, only Orthodox Christians may be anointed. This anointing is on the forehead, nostrils, cheeks, lips, chest (i.e. upper sternum), and on both sides of the hands.

Do not be late for the service. Like any sacrament, it is important to be present and praying from the start of the service through to the anointing. Prior to the service, please write your name on the paper provided, so that the clergy are able to pray for you during the service, and receive a candle. This candle will be held throughout the service.

Unction is customarily served during Great Lent, as a supplement for the Sacrament of Confession – in particular, those sins that have been forgotten. As such, those who are physically healthy should not receive Unction more than once during Lent; and also, physically healthy children who have not reached the age of Confession are not anointed.

In addition to your normal church dress, we ask that an open-collared top is worn (as the upper sternum is anointed). We also ask that no cosmetics are worn.

The blessed oil & wine of Unction is generally not distributed after the service. If there is someone who needs to be anointed, but who is too sick to attend the service, please contact a priest so that he can visit them.

What is Unction?

Holy Unction is a Sacrament where the body is anointed with Holy Oil to invoke the grace of God over those who are ill. We not only ask for healing of the body, but also for healing of the soul – treating sin as a spiritual illness, while asking for the patience to accept the will of God.

The sacrament of “anointing with oil” was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 10:1; Mark 6:13), and is most explicitly taught in the Epistle of James, “let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (5:14-15). In addition, this Sacrament was known to Fathers of the early Church – Sts Irenæus of Lyons, Basil the Great and John Chrysostom all attest to its existence, and are even the authors of prayers read during the celebration of this Sacrament.

While this sacrament may be served in a hospital or home as needed, it is served in church during Lent as a means of preparation for Holy Week. This service is ideally served by 7 priests (even better, a bishop with 6 priests), and the faithful are anointed by each. The Sacrament is closely connected to the Sacraments of Confession and of Communion. A table is placed in the church and is covered with a clean cloth. On this are placed various things:

  • A bowl is filled with grains of wheat to symbolise new life – whether for recovery or for the resurrection.
  • An empty glass is placed in the middle of the bowl.
  • Seven sticks (with ends wrapped in cotton wool) are placed into the wheat – symbols of the olive branch, brought to Noah in his ark, signifying grace-filled spiritual renewal from the flood of illnesses and sins.
  • Two vessels – one of wine and the other of pure olive oil – are also placed on the table. The wine represents the Blood of Christ, spilled on the Cross for the salvation of all people, while the oil is an ancient form of medicine in its own right, and represents the mercy of God.
  • Other items include the Book of the Gospels and a Blessing Cross.

The service begins with censing, before we hear a series of prayers, Psalms 142 and 50, hymns of supplication to God, a canon relevant to the service, and prayers asking saints to also pray to God for us. The priest pours the oil and the wine into the empty glass and mixes these together.

Seven candles are lit and stood in the wheat, with the candles of all present being lit. A prayer for forgiveness and for the sanctification of the oil is read, then we hear the first Epistle reading from the Epistle of St James about the establishment of this sacrament, and then a priest will read the first Gospel reading on the Good Samaritan. There are a total of 7 Epistle Readings, 7 Gospel Readings, and 7 prayers, each read in sequence.

The final prayer is read with an opened Gospel over the heads of those being anointed. The service concludes with a brief litany, a few hymns and the dismissal.

After this, all those who have prepared come forward for anointing of the forehead, nostrils, cheeks, lips, chest and hands (both sides), while the priest prays that God, our heavenly Physician of both soul and body, will heal each person from all sicknesses.

Glory to God for all things!

Great Lent 2019

Category : Resource

In 2019, we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Sunday 28 April.

This page is a resource for this vital season in our church calendar.


10 February: Zacchaeus Sunday.  This is the first Sunday of Pre-Lent.

17 February: Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.

24 February: Sunday of the Prodigal Son.

3 March: Sunday of the Last Judgement; and, Meatfare Sunday.

10 March: Forgiveness Sunday; and, Cheesefare Sunday.

Great Lent

11-15 March: Clean Week.
We serve Great Compline from Monday through Thursday.

17 March: The Sunday of Orthodoxy.
At the close of Liturgy, we serve the Moleben for the Astray.

20 March: Compline and Bible Study (Genesis 1 & 22)

24 March: Sunday of St Gregory Palamas.

31 March: Sunday of the Holy Cross.
At the Vigil service for this day, near the end of the service, we bring out the Cross for veneration.  During this service – unlike most Sundays – the faithful are invited to make full prostrations to venerate the Cross.

3 April: Compline and Bible Study (Exodus 12-15)

  • Full Service Text (including music): Full Service Text (including music): Great Compline

7 April: Sunday of St John of the Ladder.

  • In 2019, this day is also the Great Feastday of the Annunciation of the Theotokos – when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear the Son of God.
    • (NB: While our parish is named for this great feastday, we have made the decision to transfer our feasting to the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel, celebrated in late July).
  • In the evening, we will celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Unction, as part of our preparation for the Resurrection.  Please see the Unction resource page for more information.

10 April: Matins with the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete.

14 April: Sunday of St Mary of Egypt.
NB: On the day prior to this (13 April), we will have our parish cleanup and working bee in preparation for Holy Week.

17 April: Compline and Bible Study (Daniel 3)

  • Full Service Text (including music): Full Service Text (including music): Great Compline

Holy Week

20 April: Lazarus Saturday.
We serve Matins on the Friday evening and Divine Liturgy on the Saturday.  After the Liturgy, we make palm crosses.

  • Tutorial for making Palm Crosses (coming soon)

21 April: Palm Sunday.
We serve the Festal Vigil on the Saturday evening, blessing the palms and branches, and the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday morning.

22-24 April: Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
For the first time, our parish is celebrating services on each day of Holy Week.

Please note that each of these services are served in anticipation – that is, they are served the night before the day they are commemorating.

24-25 April: Holy Thursday.
We serve the Matins of the Mystical Supper on Wednesday 24 April, and the Divine Liturgy on Thursday 25 April.

25-26 April: Holy Friday.
We serve the Matins of the Crucifixion, with the 12 Passion Gospel Readings, on the evening of Thursday 25 April.  On Friday 26 April, we serve the Royal Hours for Good Friday.

26-27 April: Holy Saturday.
On 26 April, we serve the Vespers of the Shroud in the afternoon and the Matins of the Lamentations in the evening.  On 27 April, we serve the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of Holy Saturday, celebrating the destruction of Hades.

27-28 April: The Resurrection of Christ.
On 27 April, prior to midnight, we serve the Midnight Office of the Shroud.  Then, as midnight falls, we have the Paschal Procession around the church, followed by Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy, in celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.

On the evening of 8 April, it is the local custom for all clergy to concelebrate the Paschal Vespers at one of the churches. In 2018, Holy Annunciation had the honour of hosting this service; the location of the service in 2019 is TBC.

Bright Week

1 May: Bright Wednesday.

5 May: Thomas Sunday.  We will serve Matins and Divine Liturgy on this day, from 8-11am.

We welcome you to worship Christ with us!

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