Jesus told his disciples to heal the sick and various types of healing ministry are available at Holy Cross.
An important part of Christianity is healing the soul, the mind and the body. Jesus said, ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’ (John 10.10). A large part of his public ministry was spent healing the sick and delivering people from evil spirits, and this power was given to his Apostles to be handed on in the Church and used for the good of humanity.
Science and medicine are part of God’s good creation and authentic Christianity values them highly. One of the Gospel writers, Luke, was a doctor and we give thanks for the healing work of the NHS and scientific research.
We believe that God can help this healing process through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not magic, sometimes the grace given is to endure suffering and die well. Life is good but heaven is better so we do not pray to prolong life beyond its allotted span. God loves everyone as they are and sometimes a disability or an illness can itself be a source of grace. Good health is not a sign that you have God’s favour.
Jesus did, however, command his disciples to heal the sick. This can be done through the caring professions and also by prayer and the laying on of hands. Everyone can pray and Jesus can give anyone a gift of healing but it must be exercised with the blessing of the Church or it may be a source of pride.
Two powerful sacraments of healing have been given by Jesus to his Apostles and are available today from his priests and bishops.
Confession: the Sacrament of Reconciliation
Jesus gave to the Apostles the power to forgive sins (John 20.22-23) and they handed this on to the bishops and priests of his Church. This ministry of forgiveness has been carried on in various ways and today is usually exercised in Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation). Often associated with the Roman Catholic Church, it is also part of our Scottish Episcopalian tradition, is found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and is part of the ministry of our church at Holy Cross.
In confession, you and the priest pray, you confess the sins that are weighing on your soul, then the priest gives you absolution and a penance, usually a short prayer to say. Your sins are forgiven, not because you think they are but because Jesus says so through his Church. This can give great peace of mind. What you say in confession is protected by ‘the seal’ which means that the priest may not reveal it in any circumstances.
Should you go to confession? Anglican teaching on confession is that ‘all may, none must, some should’. It can be a regular part of your spiritual life or you might have something from your past on your conscience that will not go away and causes you pain.
Confession can bring great healing. It is available at Holy Cross or at any Episcopal church. All you need to do is make an appointment to see the Rector or another priest.
Anointing of the Sick: the Sacrament of Healing
Jesus gave the Apostles power to heal the sick and they sometimes did this by anointing them with oil (Mark 6.13). The Letter of James shows that this gift was handed on to the priests (presbyters) of the Church: ‘is anyone sick among you? Bring in the priests of the Church and let them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick person, and the Lord shall raise them up, and if they have any sins, they shall be forgiven’ (James 5.14-15).
In the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Bishop consecrates the oil of the sick in the Cathedral during Holy Week, just before Easter, and it is taken out to all the churches of the diocese. At Holy Cross it is kept in the golden aumbry (cupboard) at the East end of the Church. If you are ill and wish to be anointed, contact the Rector.
Deliverance: Dealing with the Supernatural and the Powers of Evil
Jesus spent a large part of his ministry casting out demons and he handed on this power to his Apostles as part of their ministry of healing (Matthew 10.1,8). This ministry continues in the Church today, although it is difficult to discern whether a feeling of oppression by evil is psychological, supernatural or a combination of both.
Many people today also have experiences with ghosts, poltergeists and other unexplained phenomena which may cause anxiety. Whatever the reality behind these experiences they deserve to be taken seriously.
The good news is that Jesus, by his cross and resurrection, has defeated the powers of evil once and for all. We can share in this victory by prayer and the sacraments.
Each diocese in the Scottish Episcopal Church has an advisor on deliverance and the paranormal but such matters are usually dealt with by the local priest. If the experience primarily concerns a place, a blessing of that place may be performed. If the experience primarily concerns a person, prayer and the sacraments usually help bring the peace of Christ to the situation. Exorcism is very rare and when people feel they need an exorcism to cast out a demon, it is almost always much less serious than that.
Deliverance is primarily a ministry of healing, as seen in the statue from the church at St Michael’s Mount, pictured below, where the Archangel is holding out a helping hand. The ministry of deliverance is always carried out in accordance with our safeguarding policies and, when necessary, in consultation with medical professionals.
If you are disturbed by unexplained experiences or feel oppressed by evil, these prayers can help:
The Jesus Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
A prayer for protection from ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
A prayer for protection in a place, from Compline:
Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this place, and drive from it all the snares of the enemy; let thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace; and may thy blessing be upon us evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer to St Michael:
Holy Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our defence against the wickedness and snares of the devil; may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen