Healing Line

Healing Line

Blessed Elements

by Francis MacNutt
May/Jun 2007

Because God is invisible and we humans are helped to think about God when we see, touch, or hear (music) something that reminds us of God’s attributes (such as “beauty”), God has been gracious enough to use certain material elements as channels of healing when we use them wisely. In the course of Christian history, we find many of these, but the most important are: oil  — through anointing; water — through sprinkling or drinking; salt — through sprinkling in places or placing on food.

All these are ordinary and inexpensive and, in the human course of events, they somehow signify healing. For example, in Jesus’ day, olive oil was used as a healing agent, such as when the Good Samaritan helped the man beaten by brigands by pouring oil and wine (an antiseptic) on the open wounds.

We find remarkable stories in Scripture that present us with examples of the use of human elements as channels for healing. For example, when the Israelites, during their journey through the desert, are bitten by serpents and some die, God comes up with an astonishing solution and orders Moses to:

“Make a fiery serpent and raise it as a standard.  Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will survive.”  Moses then made a serpent out of bronze and raised it as a standard, and anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the bronze serpent survived. (Numbers 21:8-9)

This serpent, hanging on a standard, became the symbol of the medical community known as the “caduceus.” When I was a medic in the army, the button with the caduceus on it identified me as a medic.

The problem with all this is that visible channels of God’s love can sometimes become worshipped in themselves and this leads to magic, or even idolatry. We read that several hundred years after Moses, the Israelite king “abolished the high places, broke the pillars, cut down the sacred poles and smashed the bronze serpent which Moses had made; for up to that time the Israelites had offered sacrifices to it” (2 Kings 18:4). What had been life-giving when seen as an instrument of God’s mercy was transformed into evil when regarded as, in itself, the source of healing.

Today we have learned to use three ordinary elements — oil, water and salt — as special channels of God’s healing power. Fortunately, they are so ordinary that it is hard to make them into gods! In order to use the element as a channel of healing, you add a blessing to it, asking God to:  block all harmful side effects and use it for healing or deliverance (in which salt is especially useful).

1. Oil: Oil has long been used as a symbol of the anointing of the Holy Spirit and of healing.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward
(1 Samuel 16:13a).

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them
(Mark 6:12-13).

(By the way, in the Catholic tradition, blessed oil can be used by laypeople, as long as it is not given the special blessing for the Sacrament of Anointing.)

2. Water: Blessed water (“Holy Water”) reminds us of the cleansing water of baptism, and it drives away evil spirits. Like blessed oil, it also has healing properties. It can be sprinkled, as well as ingested by drinking.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you (Ezekiel 36:25).

3. Salt: Historically, salt has been used to keep food, such as meat, from decomposing, so it is a symbol of our struggle against evil. Typically, blessed salt is mixed with water (as in baptism) or is sprinkled about. It has a particular power over evil spirits, and it has the advantage (over water and oil) in that it stays for a time before evaporating. We often sprinkle an entire room with salt. (I hope this doesn’t sound irreverent, but we sometimes liken it to “divine roach powder,” which can last for weeks.)

The men of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”

“Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.

Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’” And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken
(2 Kings 2:19-22).

It is fascinating to see that people affected by the demonic respond strongly to blessed water, oil, and salt, but do not respond in any remarkable way to ordinary, unblessed water, oil, and salt.

If you would like more information on these “sacramentals,” you can consult my book Power to Heal,1 which includes the blessing prayers that have traditionally been used by the Church.

(Footnotes)
1 Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Ind., 1977. Appendix Two.


Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. May/Jun 2007 Issue