On Healing

Martyr Tatiana of Rome

Martyr Tatiana of Rome

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

ON HEALING

In the parable of the Good Samaritan the Lord showed us several truths. As soon as the Samaritan saw the man who had fallen among thieves who had wounded him and left him half dead, he "had compassion on him and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and took care of him" (St. Luke 1:300f). Christ treated the wounded man and brought him to the inn, to the Hospital which is the Church. Here Christ is presented as a physician who heals man's illnesses, and the Church as a hospital.

It is very characteristic that in analyzing this parable Saint John Chrysostom presents the truth which we have just emphasized. Man went down "from the heavenly state to the state of the devil's deception, and he fell among thieves, that is, the devil and the hostile powers". The wounds which he sustained are the various sins. As David says, "My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness" (Psalm 38:5). For "every sin brings bruises and wounds". The Samaritan is Christ Himself, Who came down from heaven to earth to heal wounded man. He used wine and oil for the wounds. That is to say, "by mixing the Holy Spirit with His Blood, He brought life to man". According to another interpretation, "oil brings the comforting word, wine provides the astringent lotion, the instruction which brings concentration to the scattered mind." He set him upon his own animal: "Taking flesh upon His own Divine shoulders, He lifted it towards the Father in Heaven." Thereupon the Good Samaritan, Christ, led the man "into the wonderful and spacious inn, this universal Church". He gave him to the innkeeper, who is the Apostle Paul and "through St. Paul to the high priests and teachers and ministers of each church", saying: "Take care of the people of the Gentiles whom I have given to you in the Church. Since men are sick, wounded by sin, heal them, putting on them a stone plaster, that is, the prophetic sayings and the gospel teachings, making them whole through the admonitions and exhortations of the Old and New Testaments." So according to Saint John Chrysostom, St. Paul is the one who upholds the churches of God "and heals all men through spiritual admonitions, distributing the bread of offering to each one..."

In Saint John Chrysostom's interpretation of this parable it is clearly evident that the Church is a hospital which heals those sick with sin, while the Bishops and Priests, like the Holy Apostle Paul, are the healers of the people of God.

These truths also appear in many other places in the New Testament. The Lord said: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (St. Matthew 9:12). Likewise Christ, as a physician of souls and bodies, was "healing all kinds of sicknesses and all kinds of disease among the people…and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them" (St. Matthew 4:23f). The Holy Apostle Paul is well aware that the conscience of men, especially of simple ones, is weak: "When you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ" (I Corinthians 8:12). The Book of Revelation says that St. John the Evangelist saw a river of the water of life proceeding from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. "On either side of the river was the Tree of Life...and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:1f).

So the work of the Church is therapeutic. It seeks to heal men's sicknesses, mainly those of the soul, which torment them. This is the basic teaching of the New Testament and of the Holy Fathers of the Church. In what follows are many passages from the Holy Fathers which will bring out this Truth.

Father John Romanides wrote: "Having faith in Christ without undergoing healing in Christ is not faith at all. Here is the same contradiction that we find when a sick person who has great confidence in his doctor never carries out the treatment which he recommends. If Judaism and its successor, Christianity, had appeared in the twentieth century for the first time, they would most likely have been characterized not as religions but as medical sciences related to Psychiatry. They would have a wide influence on society owing to their considerable successes in healing ills of the partially functioning personality…

So in the Church we are divided into the sick, those undergoing therapeutic treatment, and those --saints--who have already been healed. "The Holy Fathers do not categorize people as moral and immoral or good and bad on the basis of moral laws. This division is superficial. At depth humanity is differentiated into the sick in soul, those being healed and those healed. All who are not in a state of illumination are sick in soul...It is not only good will, good resolve, moral practice and devotion to the Orthodox Tradition which make an Orthodox, but also purification, illumination and deification. These stages of healing are the purpose of the mystical life of the Church, as the liturgical texts bear witness"...

Now in order to be cured it is essential to feel that one is ill. When a sick person is not aware of his illness, he cannot turn to a doctor. Self-knowledge is one of the first steps to a cure. Saint Maximus teaches: "The person who has come to know the weakness of human nature has gained experience of divine power", and he is eager to achieve some things and has achieved other things through this divine power. Saint Peter of Damascus, describing the great value of prayer at night, says: "Practice of the moral virtues is effectuated by meditating on what has happened during the day", when we meditate on the lapses that occurred "in the confusion of the day", "so that during the stillness of the night we can become aware of the sins we have committed and can grieve over them". Only when we know our state can we grieve about it.

It is an indisputable fact that most Christians today are unaware of their spiritual condition. We are "dead in trespasses" and not only do not perceive it but even have the feeling that we are filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, adorned with virtues. Unfortunately, this self-satisfaction which plagues us is destroying the work of salvation. How can Christ speak to a person who justifies himself? We are like the Pharisees in the time of the Lord who did not feel the need of a physician. How can the great gift of repentance and mourning unfold in a heart which does not feel its desolation, when the inner life is unable to develop?

In connection with the sense of being ill there should also be "self-condemnation", that is, the great gift of self-reproach. It shows that there is humility in the soul, since "self-reproach is a spiritual burden which, when placed upon the soul, "crushes and presses and squeezes out the salutary wine that rejoices the heart of man, that is, our inner man. Compunction is such a wine."

But the sense of being ill is not enough in itself. In any case a therapist is required as well. This therapist is the priest, the spiritual father. He has first been cured, and then he also cures his spiritual children. We have said before that the spiritual father must be a theologian, and vice versa. So in this case the saying applies "Physician, heal yourself" (St. Luke 4:23). One who has come through the devil's devices can safely guide his spiritual children. One who has come to know the great treasure called spiritual health can help others too to be cured. Anyone who has found his nous can help others too to find it. "The truly physician-like nous is one that first heals itself and then heals others of the diseases of which it has been cured".

(Source: Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers by His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos)

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The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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

+Father George