Tag Archives: anointing

Healing: Physical or Spiritual

Does spiritual health affect physical healing?

A chaplain had told me that the hospital she served expected her to visit every patient frequently, for statistics showed that patients visited by a chaplain at least three times were discharged sooner.

Anointing Vial
Anointing Vial

Similarly the ritual of anointing that I carry in my pocket links spiritual care with physical health saying: “Spirit of the Living God, present with us now, enter into … in body, mind and spirit, forgive her/his sins, and heal her/him from all that harms her/him.”

Spiritual healing might not kill viruses nor bacteria; it might not mend broken bones nor close a nasty cut; it might not directly affect any of the multitude of diseases and illnesses that modern medicine can cure or at least name. But guilt and shame can burden more than a person’s soul, feelings of unmitigated remorse do cause real illnesses.

Conversely, feelings of joy and acceptance can and do improve one’s physical well-being. People who attend worship regularly live longer, happier, and healthier lives. The placebo effect, merely telling someone that a treatment will help, does make a physical difference.

Perhaps this is why the Greek word meaning “to save” is also used as “to heal.”

[Jesus] said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you;
go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

— Mark 5:31

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, June 28th, 2015.

See also: Naming Demons

Naming Demons

I made a curiously controversial remark at a church conference on severe mental illness several years ago. “What spiritual healing can the Church provide?” I had asked.

The medical professionals in this meeting wanted to keep spirituality out of this process as many people, even in developed countries, want to deny the physical aspect of mental illness, to deny the healing power of proper medication. Affirming a spiritual dimension would keep them away from conventional medicine.

Yet there really are demonic powers in the world. Scientists call this the “Nocebo effect.”

Its opposite, the placebo effect is widely known. The placebo effect happens when scientists give patients in a clinical trial sugar pills to test the efficacy of a new drug. While they expect those who receive pills with the drug to get better, even a few of those who merely receive sugar pills also get better. Merely believing or trusting that a pill or procedure will benefit yields benefits.

Those same medical trials often also prove the nocebo effect, that merely thinking something might go wrong, that the pill might have serious side effects, causes those side effects.

My question about the spiritual dimension of mental illness sought to discuss those effects and others that interfere with conventional medicine. These effects are most properly named as demonic effects.

Anointing VialWhen I visit people in the hospital I offer them anointing with oil. The ritual I use from our Book of Common Worship includes forgiveness of sins. I am convinced that holding on to one’s sins interferes with healing, and that a simple reminder that our sins are forgiven aids physical healing. Our own sins and the fear that they cannot be forgiven, at least by ourselves, is perhaps the most dangerous of demons; a demon that Jesus lived and died to cast out; a demon that God sends the Church into the world to name and to cast out.

And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
— Matthew 9:2-8 (NRSV)