Cradled in my arms, his little body twists and squirms, searching for comfort that is not there. The back arches, legs thrust into the chair, propelling him deeper into my flesh, then almost out of my grasp. Neither of us is sure which he wants more. The cramping is relentless, his stomach, long ago and repeatedly emptied, is locked into a rhythmic spasm that I know must feel like torture. I am helpless to help him. My eyes meet my husband’s as we search each other for the remedy. “Will you give him a blessing?” I ask. Silently his answer is produced, a shiny cylinder dangling from his keys. He kneels beside us and I watch intently as the golden oil collects slowly, too slowly, into a droplet, then falls almost imperceptibly into soft, golden hair. He is anointed.
I find myself wondering at the meaning of such an act. The olive oil itself is replete with symbolism, among these it is emblematic of the Savior. The oil used in anointings is pure and consecrated, set apart for holy purposes, as was the Savior’s life, just as we covenant ours will be. Our ultimate healing is made possible through His atonement, wrought in Gethsemane, or “the oil-press”. But what of the act of anointing? Said Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Anointings were declared to be for sanctification and perhaps can also be seen as symbolic of the blessings to be poured out from heaven as a result of this sacred act.”
I listen as promises of a full night’s sleep, relief, and even recovery of appetite are offered. I feel the stiffness begin to ebb in my son’s body as much as my own. This is the second time in as many weeks he has been this ill. What we had passed off as stomach flu is beginning to look undeniably more like a side effect of medication, a medication as foreign to us as the diagnosis he received just weeks ago. His diagnosis is not one of disease or illness and for that we are undoubtedly grateful. His is a serious developmental struggle and we are still working to wrap our minds around what this means for his future. We are navigating a maze of doctors and therapists, looking for resources and answers, hoping to give him the best possible outcome. The medication was a part of that effort, showing promising help, but now this.
Having been blessed with relief from this bout of sickness I expect the blessing to end. But there is more. “I bless you that those who are involved in your care will be guided to help you develop and progress so that you may fulfill the Lord’s path for you.” My mind leaps to the anointing, the sanctification. To sanctify is also to set apart as sacred, to purify, to make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing. In that sweet, small act, in the symbolic pouring out of blessings upon my son’s head and invoking of priesthood power, I am reminded that this little boy’s life is still able to be sanctified, set apart for sacred use and bound for holiness, just I have covenanted that mine will be. No matter the developmental prognosis, his is a promise offered to all of us, to be given all the spiritual blessings necessary in order to fulfill the Lord’s purposes for him.
What does it mean to you to be sanctified? Have you thought about the purpose of anointing? What does it mean to you? How has the power of the priesthood offered you greater understanding or peace? Are there things you wished you understood better about priesthood blessings/ordinances?