I wanted to start a thread examining the practice of "laying on of hands."
For starters, I grew up in a strict Dutch Calvinist church where I only saw this happening when a pastor was ordained or an elder appointed.
Now I attend a more evangelical church where it is routine for members to do this anytime they're praying for someone. Recently the children, elementary age, were asked to do this for someone who was going away on a trip as the whole congregation prayed.
This struck me as being something I had never seen before . . . the act of laying on of hands "devolving" from an authoritative act by church leadership, to a commonplace symbol of church unity that even small children can participate in . . .
I am thinking about this because I'm reading Acts and have come across several occasions where the Apostles are laying their hands on people.
How do Orthodox understand and practice "laying on of hands"?
How would Orthodox view what I have described?
Any thoughts are appreciated.
The Laying on of Hands in Acts generally is for the purpose of the reception of the Holy Spirit, i.e. the experience of the new Christian of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. This sacrament (or "mystery", from the Greek mysterion
) is called "Chrismation" in the Orthodox Church. As the Church grew, and as the Twelve Apostles died off, this ability was permitted by the Apostles to be enacted by their successors, the bishops. In the East, priests may also perform this sacrament. In the West, it continues to be the purview of the episcopacy (and they often refer to it as "Confirmation"). A holy oil, called Chrism (or "Myron", in Greek) was consecrated and distributed to the bishops. To this day, this tradition is maintained during Holy Week, and each self-governing (autocephalous) Orthodox Church makes and consecrates new Chrism, led by the Primate (i.e., leading bishop) of that local church. each time adding a portion of last years' Chrism into the mix.
The Laying on of Hands also can refer to the sacrament (or again, mystery) of Holy Orders or Ordination, wherein the bishop stretches out his hands upon the candidate to be ordained to the diaconate or the priesthood. In the case of the ordination of a bishop (often called a "consecration") a Synod of Bishops (i.e., group of local bishops) con-celebrates the sacrament. There are also minor orders of clergy such as readers and subdeacons that receive the laying on of hands of the bishop.
As for the practice in charismatic communities of laying hands on a person for prayer or healing is...not really an historical representation of the act. It probably comes from the strong Protestant/Evangelical belief in the "priesthood of all believers" that excludes the possibility of a sacramental priesthood, as maintained in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. We believe there is both a royal priesthood (the priesthood of all believers) and a sacerdotal priesthood ordained within that royal priesthood to serve a particular function within the Body.