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As to the actual paucity of early testimonies, various explanations have been offered. The earliest accurately preserved commentary is that of St. 735), who, as we shall see, is a witness for this sacrament, as is also Victor of Antioch (fifth century), the earliest commentator on St. Second, it is clear, at the period when testimonies become abundant, that the unction was allied to penance as a supplementary sacrament, and as such was administered regularly before the Viaticum.It is not sufficient to appeal with Binterim (Die Vorzüglichsten Denkwürdigkeiten der christkathol. We may presume that this order of administration had come down from remote antiquity, and this close connection with penance, about which, as privately administered to the sick, the Fathers rarely speak, helps to explain their silence on extreme unction.In the Eastern Church the later technical name is , etc. Hence the guarded statement of the Council of Trent that extreme unction as a sacrament is merely "insinuated" in St. hinted at or prefigured in the miraculous unction which the Apostles employed, just as Christian baptism had been prefigured by the baptism of John. And the prayer of faith shall save : and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him." It is not seriously disputed that there is question here of those who are physically ill, and of them alone; and that the sickness is supposed to be grave is conveyed by the word and by the injunction to have the priests called in; presumably the sick person cannot go to them.
Here we have the physical elements necessary to constitute a sacrament in the strict sense: oil as remote matter, like water in baptism; the anointing as proximate matter, like immersion or infusion in baptism; and the accompanying prayer as form.
The unction of the loins is generally, if not universally, omitted in English-speaking countries, and it is of course everywhere forbidden in case of women. The teaching of the Council of Trent is directed chiefly against the Reformers of the sixteenth century. He did not deny that the Jacobean rite may have been a sacrament in the Early Church, but held that it was a mere temporary institution which had lost all its efficacy since the charisma of healing had ceased (Comm. In the first edition (1551) of the Edwardine Prayer Book for the reformed Anglican Church the rite of unction for the sick, with prayers that are clearly Catholic in tone, was retained; but in the second edition (1552) this rite was omitted, and the general teaching on the sacraments shows clearly enough the intention of denying that extreme unction is a sacrament.
As administered in the Western Church today according to the rite of the Roman Ritual, the sacrament consists (apart from certain non-essential prayers) in the unction with oil, specially blessed by the bishop, of the organs of the five external senses (eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, hands), of the feet, and, for men (where the custom exists and the condition of the patient permits of his being moved), of the loins or reins; and in the following form repeated at each unction with mention of the corresponding sense or faculty: "Through this holy unction and His own most tender mercy may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed [quidquid deliquisti] by sight [by hearing, smell, taste, touch, walking, carnal delectation]". In other words, immediate institution by Christ is compatible with a mere generic determination by Him of the physical elements of the sacrament. Calvin had nothing but contempt and ridicule for this sacrament, which he described as a piece of "histrionic hypocrisy" (Instit., IV, xix, 18). The same position is taken up in the confessions of the Lutheran and Calvinistic bodies.
James clearly implies the Divine institution of the rite he enjoins. It may be admitted that the words "the prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord shall raise him up", taken by themselves and apart from the context, might possibly be applied to mere bodily healing; but the words that follow, "and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him", speak expressly of a spiritual effect involving the bestowal of grace.
To take these words as referring to a mere invocation of Christ's name--which is the only alternative interpretation--would be to see in them a needless and confusing repetition of the injunction "let them pray over him". This being so, and it being further assumed that the remission of sins is given by St.
ii), and others--holding against the more common view that this sacrament had been instituted by the Apostles after the Descent of the Holy Ghost and under His inspiration.