(1) Unction of the sick is the sacrament through which the priest anoints the body of the sick, asking for divine grace to care both body and soul.
(2) The difference between this sacrament and that of penance is that the latter is administered (a) for all Christians (b) and for healing spiritual diseases; while the first is administered (a) only for the sick (b) and for healing bodily and spiritual diseases.
(3) There are some who think that St. James mentioned this unction as an ordinary means of healing diseases. In reply we state the following:
1. Had it been an ordinary means of healing diseases it would have been said that anyone could anoint with oil. But St. James says that it is the priests who should anoint.
2. And the healing power is not attributed to the oil but to the prayer: “ Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick.”
3. Moreover, it is said, directly after that: “And if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. “This forgiveness can never be granted through mere oil.
(4) Others say that it was a healing gift given only to the Apostles. In answer it is sufficient to say that St. James speaks of this unction not as a special privilege given to the Apostles but as a sacrament to be always administered by the priests.
(5) The Church of Rome calls this sacrament “Extreme (or last) Unction” on the basis that it is administered to the sick only when they are at the point of death. This is utterly wrong because the Bible speaks of it as a means of healing, and not as helping the sick at the point of death
II. Institution of the Sacrament.
This sacrament was instituted by the Lord Himself:
(1) Because it was said of the Apostles that “they cast out many devils and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.” (Mark 6: 13)
It is of course to be understood that they, having been sent by the Lord for that first mission, were instructed by Him to do the same.
(2) And St. James, in his Epistle, says (5: 14, 15) “Is any sick man among you? Let him call for the elders (priests) of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
It should be taken for granted that the Apostles did not preach a gospel of their own, but that which they received from the Lord Himself. “But I certify you, brethren that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For (neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:11, 12) Therefore, St. James must have received that teaching directly from the Lord Himself.
(3) Moreover, the Disciples did not pretend to have instituted the church sacraments (mysteries), but they merely called themselves “Stewards of the mysteries of God,” (1 Cor. 4:1) And it was not clearly and definitely mentioned in the Bible that Christ instituted this sacrament or some other sacraments, it was because many things were done by Him and were not written. (John 21: 25)
(4) The Fathers said that it was used as a church sacrament since the first centuries.
(5) Even the Protestant historians stated that “when the early Christians were seriously sick, they used to call the Priests of the church, and after confessing their sins they were anointed with oil by them.”
III. The Visible Sign
There are two outward signs in this sacrament:
(1) The oil with which the sick person is anointed. Before using it for anointing the sick, it should be consecrated through certain prayers.
(2) The prayers which are offered to God for healing the sick. There are certain prayers seven in number, prepared by the church for this sacrament. In addition to these prayers, certain portions of the Bible are also read.
IV. The Invisible Grace.
The invisible grace which is granted through this sacrament is the healing of body and soul.
V. Who has the Right to Celebrate the Sacrament?
Although this right was given to priests, yet of course the bishops can celebrate the sacrament if they like. But it was given 10 priests because they are in direct contact with the congregation.