In the letter of S James we read:
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 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. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. (James 5:14-16)
The use of oil is indeed a most ancient practice, and through the Old Testament it often signifies God’s Bless, Kings and Prophets where anoint as a sign of God’s endorsement of their authority, and we know that it was used to soften skin and wounds and used to exclude air from a wound.
It is in the New Testament we find the reference to the use of oil as a sign of God’s healing blessing.
The Archbishop of Canterbury traditionally anoints the English Sovereign as part of the rites of enthronement. The Bishop will often anoint the candidates at confirmation as a sign of God’s Blessing, and an affirmation that we are members of the family of Christ the King.
We also anoint the sick with the Holy Oil of Chrism (blessed by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass) as an outward sign of the prayer of faith and the healing that God desires for us. It is a mistake to think that anointing is only for the dying, though clearly we do use it there as well. Our bodies were not made to last for ever, and in preparation for the final journey the anointing with Holy Oil may be a sure sign of God’s presence with us in this world and the next. In a very real sense death does not mean the absence of healing, but may in fact be the healing in its season.
The anointing of the sick for healing is a sign of faith and a commitment to the life and blessing that God has in store for us.