I am one of the very few people left around who remembers when young Princess Elizabeth was crowned as Queen of England and its far-flung empire back in 1953. If you are another one of those who remembers that event, you might also remember that in the course of the ceremony the Archbishop of Canterbury anointed the head and forehead of the young woman with oil that had been blessed.
Oil? Why was that? The anointing ceremony in the Anglican Church is a reflection of the influence of Judaism that continues to a certain extent in Christian culture and tradition. Oil? Why oil? To get the answer to that you have to go back into the economic and social conditions of ancient times, and for us the time of Jesus.
The oil that we are talking about is olive oil and it was an extraordinarily valuable and useful commodity. Oil was used to provide lighting, cooking, healing and for trade. When ancient people wanted to mark an event as something very special and noteworthy, they would take some of that valuable material and ceremonially pour on the head or on the hands of the person being anointed. When the Prophet Samuel selected David as the king, he was anointed. Anointing gradually worked its way into various Jewish ceremonies.
Tomorrow let’s look at the fact that the Christians drew upon these Jewish traditions and used them in their own sacred rites, most especially several of the sacraments.