Preparing for death: Some liturgical and theological perspectives
During the Middle Ages visitations to sick and dying parishioners were central parts of the priest’s daily work. When a person fell seriously ill or was hovering between life and death, the priest would be called upon, and it was his duty to make his way to sick and dying people. Having arrived at the sickbed, the priest should hear confession and administer the sacraments of communion and extreme unction. The aim of these rites was to restore the person’s health or to enable him or her to die in a state of grace.
Apart from different kinds of scriptural sources which prescribe the liturgy of the visitation of the sick, there are also a few scenes in Swedish medieval altar pieces and mural paintings that represent central liturgical moments of the extreme unction. These sacramental scenes have rarely been considered by scholars. The present article, however, examines what kind of information these scenes, when studied together with scriptural sources, can provide about these central liturgical moments.
From such sources the article explores the ways in which the dying person received the unction from the priest or bishop, how the oil was applied to different parts of the body and what kind of tools and vessels were used. This kind of information is also found in scriptural sources. The scenes give however various information which is not to be found in scriptural sources, such as how relatives and friends could be active through intercession for the dying person.
Oslo: Novus forlag , 2011. 9-24 p.