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Healing: Sacrament or Prayer?

Lizette Larson-Miller


The laying on of hands and anointing of the sick at the center of the church’s ritual care of the suffering and dying presume the physical presence of the one seeking this ritual care. This real encounter between human beings as vehicles of God’s grace seems a basic aspect of healing, given both the incarnational and creational foundations of sacramentality and sacramental theology, and the practical and psychological importance of touch and presence. In order to counter the growing trend of “proxy” anointings in North America and the United Kingdom, this article gives theological and liturgical support to the presupposition of physical presence. First, the article notes the emergence of this trend. Then the article counters it through a reflection on the meaning of the ritual actions, with reference to the longer theological and liturgical traditions and the current official liturgical texts of the ECUSA.

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