The Origins of Illness

Holy Apostles of the Seventy

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior


O Eternal God, The Uncreated Light, infinite and without beginning, The Creator of all creation, The inexhaustible source of mercy, The deep ocean of goodness, And the unsearchable abyss of Loving-kindness for mankind, Let the Light of Your countenance, O Lord, shine upon us. Illuminate our hearts, O spiritual Sun of Righteousness, And fill our souls with Your gladness. Teach us always to meditate and to speak of Your judgments, And to constantly confess to You, Our Master and Benefactor. Direct the work of our hands to conform with Your will, And support us in doing what You love and what pleases You. Thus, even through our unworthiness, Your All-Holy Name with be glorified, The Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, To Whom benefits all glory, honor and worship, Unto the ages. Amen.


On July 30th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: The Holy Apostles Silas, Silvanus, Crescens, Epaenetus and Andronicus.

THE HOLY APOSTLES OF THE 70: SILAS, SILVANUS, Crescens, Epaenetus and Andronicus. These are all among the Seventy. Saint Silas was sent from Jerusalem to Antioch with Saints Paula and Barnabas, to settle a quarrel among the faithful concerning circumcisions: namely, whether or not it was necessary to circumcise pagans who had embraced Christianity (Acts 15:22). After that, Saint Silas traveled with Saint Paul around Asia and Macedonia, and was installed as Bishop of Corinth, where he died peacefully. Saint Silvanus helped the two greatest Apostles (I Peter 5:12; II Cor. 1:19). As bishop in Thessaloniki, he labored much and suffered much, until he exchanged the earthly life for the heavenly. Saint Crescens was a fellow-worker with the Apostle Paul (II Tim. 4:10), and then bishop in Galatia and a missionary in Gaul, where he died a martyr for Christ under Trajan. Saint Epaenetus is mentioned by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 16:5), and became bishop of Carthage. Saint Andronicus (Rom. 16:7), bishop of Pannonia, is also commemorated separately on May 17th.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Apostles, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: I Corinthians 11:31-34; 12:1-6
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 18:1-11


"Someone who does not obey God's will is called an 'enemy' in the language of Holy Scripture and the holy Fathers of the Church (Rom. 5:10, Rom. 8:6-7, Phil. 3:18, Col. 1:21, Jas. 4:4), not in the sense that God is hostile to people, but that, by freely accepting the counsels of the devil, a person does not obey God's will and makes himself an enemy of God, forfeiting his relationship with Him." [Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos]

by Jean-Claude Larchet [source: The Theology of Illness]

Although he is the "Creator of all things visible and invisible," God cannot be considered to be the author of illness, suffering and death. The Fathers affirm this unanimously. In his homily entitled "God is not the cause of suffering," Saint Basil the Great declares: "it is folly to believe that God is the author of our sufferings; this blasphemy [...] destroys God's goodness." "Illness is not [...] fashioned by the hand of God." "God, Who made the body, did not make illness, just as He made the soul but by no means made sin." It is equally clear that "God did not make death." To those who object to the biblical affirmation that man is created in the image of God because of our mortal destiny, the short length our life, the painful character of the human condition, and our tendency to suffer all sorts of physical and mental illnesses, Saint Gregory of Nyssa replies: "The abnormal nature of the present conditions of human life are not enough to prove that man has never been in possession of goods [deriving from the image of God]. In fact, since man is the work of God, who was inspired by His goodness to give man life, no one can reasonably conclude that the creature who owes his existence to this goodness could have been plunged into suffering by his Creator. There is another cause for our present condition and for the factors that have deprived us of a more enviable state of being." "Only the most narrow-minded will appeal to bodily sufferings, which inevitably mark the inconsistent character of our [present] nature, as reason for naming God the author of our ills, or will absolutely refuse God the title of man's Creator in order to avoid imputing to God responsibility for our suffering." Saint Maximus the Confessor stresses that "God, in creating human nature, did not introduce [...] suffering into it," and that the susceptibility to suffering, corruption and death that followed did not come from God. For his part, Saint Gregory Palamas declares that "God created neither death, nor illnesses, nor infirmities"; "God created neither the death of the soul nor the death of the body"; "This death of the body was not given by God, He neither made it not did He ordain that it should be. […] Nor is God the author of bodily illnesses." The author of the Book of Wisdom had already affirmed that "God did not make death, and He does not delight in the death of the living. For He created all things that they might exist, and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is no destruction poison in them" (Wis. 1:13-14).

The inspired author of the Book of Genesis reveals that God's creation at its beginning was wholly good (cf. Gen. 1:31), and the Fathers are unanimous in teaching that man himself, in the primordial state of his nature, knew nothing of illness, infirmity, suffering or corruption (fthora). Saint Dorotheos of Gaza notes that "Man dwelt in the delights of paradise [...], where he possessed the full range of his faculties, being in the natural state in which he was created." Saint Maximus the Confessors writes: "The first man, receiving his being from God, came into existence free of sin and corruption, for neither sin nor corruption were created with him': and "the change in man toward suffering corruption and death was not there in the beginning."

This double affirmation, that God did not create death and that man in his primordial condition was incorruptible, implies logically that man in the original state of his nature was also immortal. A number of patristic texts support this point. Saint Athanasius speaks of man living an "immortal life" in that he "possessed the gifts of God and the special power that came to him from the Father's Word." And he notes as well "men were of a corruptible nature, but by the grace of participation in the Logos (Word)" they could "escape this condition of their nature" since "because of the Logos (Word) present with them, the corruption of their nature could not approach them."

According to the Fathers, then, we need to seek the source of illness, infirmities, sufferings, corruption, and death, together with all other evils that presently afflict human nature, in the personal will of man, in the bad use to which he has put his free will, that is, in the sin which he committed in Paradise. As Saint Maximus the Confessors affirms: "The misuse of his freedom of choice introduced into Adam susceptibility to punishment, corruptibility and mortality." Saint Theophilus of Antioch notes: "For the first creature, disobedience procured exclusion from paradise; […] in his disobedience, man acquired fatigue, suffering and distress, and finally he fell into the power of death." It is "because of the sin of disobedience that illnesses torment mankind" declares Saint Irenaeus.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria expresses makes the following statement: "Nature fell ill from sin through the disobedience of a single man, Adam. Thereby the multitude of human beings was made sinful: not because they shared Adam's sin--they did not even exist yet, but because they shared his nature which had fallen under the law of sin."

From this perspective, then, the illnesses that afflict human beings appear to be due not to their personal sins, but to the fact that they share in the fallen nature of their first father, Adam. Consequently, several passages of Scripture demonstrate that there exists no a priori link between a person's illness or infirmity and any specific sin or sins which that person or his or her immediate ancestors might have committed. Consider first of all the episode of the blind man in St. John 9:1-3. To His disciples' question, "Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should have been born blind?" Jesus replied clearly: "Neither he nor his parents sinned."

Note finally that Saint James, recommending that in cases of illness the elders of the Church be called to pray over the ill person and anoint him with oil, stipulates: "The prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins he will be forgiven" (St. James 5:14-15). Using the conditional ("and if"), Saint James indicates that there is no necessary link between the patient's illness and the sins he might have committed. In addition to these, we could quote as well any number of Old Testament passages which depict the righteous afflicted with serious illnesses and bearing acute physical sufferings. The most striking, of course, is the case of Job.

Only Christ can deliver mankind from the consequences of Adam's transgression and from sin itself...By His Incarnation, Christ has overthrown the barrier which separated our nature from God and has opened that nature once more to the deifying energies of uncreated grace. By His redemptive work, He has freed us from the tyranny of the devil and destroyed the power of sin. By His death, He has triumphed over death and corruption. By His resurrection, He has granted us new and eternal life. And it is not only human nature, but also the creation as a whole which Christ heals and restores, by uniting it in Himself with God the Father, thereby abolishing the divisions and ending the disorders that reigned within it because of sin.

"God," Saint Maximus writes: "became man in order to save man from destruction. By reuniting in Himself the ruptures in the universal nature…He accomplished the great work of God the Father by recapitulating all things-things in heaven and things on earth-in Himself, in Whom they also were created…First of all He united us in Himself, rendering us in total conformity to Himself. Thereby He restored in us His image, pure and whole, which none of the symptoms of corruption could touch. With us and for us He embraced the entire creation…He recapitulated all things in Himself, thereby showing that the entire universe is one, as if it were itself and in its manner a human person, fulfilled completely by the reuniting of its various members…He brought to unity those things that had been separated; He put an end to the internal war between created beings, joining together in peace and unbreakable harmony all things both in heaven and on earth."

This work of Christ, however, does not in any way infringe on human freedom. His saving work is imposed neither upon mankind nor upon other created beings. Rather, its accomplishment is offered to man's free will and presupposes man's acceptance and free collaboration.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George