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All is Gift.



If sickness and suffering can, and should be spiritually transcended and transfigured in Christ, and if they can constitute an ascetic pathway capable of leading the ill person to spiritual heights, nevertheless they should never be either desired or sought after.


This is because they require of us a great deal of strength that is lost in vain through the struggles of the body. It would be far more preferable that the energy which is spent in this fashion be used in the exercise of the commandments and in praise of God. For such holy works demand strength beyond measure, and the strength we have when we are in good health is minimal by comparison with what is really needed for us to celebrate the infinite glory of the Thrice-Holy God.


While from a certain point of view illnesses can be of aid to the spiritual life, from another, they are merely an obstacle.

As St. Nicholas Stehatos insists: "As much as (sickness) is useful to beginners, to the same degree it harms those who are more advanced in the struggles toward virtue. They effectively hinder them from giving themselves over wholly to the affairs of God, they limit the soul's reflectiveness because of pain and affliction, they trouble the soul by placing it under a cloud of discouragement, and they undermine contrition by rendering their thoughts dry and sterile." Therefore St. Thalassios recommends: "Treat your body as a servant of the commandments, preserving it as much as you can from all illness."


It goes without saying that health ought to be preferred to sickness, on condition, nevertheless, that it is lived in God and for God. It is not out of mere politeness that holy people, following the apostle John (3 John 2), wish good health to their visitors or correspondents, nor that the Church, in all of its liturgical services, asks God to preserve or reestablish the health of all its members.


The Gospels clearly indicate that the reason a return to health is to be desired is primarily spiritual.

In the episode in which Christ heals Peter's mother-in-law, it is stated that "the fever left her, and she arose and served Him..." (Mt. 8:15) And in the healing of the paralytic it is noted that "he arose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home glorifying God." (Lk. 5:25) The same point is repeatedly stressed in administration of the sacrament of Holy Unction or Anointing of the Sick: "You who heal and help those who are in pain, the Liberator and Savior of the sick, Master and Lord of all things, grant healing to you ill servant... so that he / she might glorify your Divine power" - grant him / her healing of soul and body, the he might praise you with love and glorify Your strength"


"Hasten to visit your suffering servants, deliver them from their illnesses and raise them up from their bitter suffering, that they might ceaselessly hymn and praise You"

"O Lord, send down from heaven Your healing Power, touch this body, calm its fever, put an end to its suffering and every hidden weakness. Be the Physician of this, Your servant, raise him / her up from this bed of pain and suffering, and restore him / her safe and sound to Your Church, well pleasing to You and able to fulfill Your calling. Drive far from him / her all sickness and infirmity, so that raised up by Your powerful Hand, he / she might serve You and offer You unceasing thanks"; "Holy Father, physician of souls and bodies, who has send Your only Son our Lord Jesus Christ to heal every sickness and to deliver us from death, heal Your servant (name) from the infirmities of body and soul which possess him / her, and enliven him / her through the grace of Your Christ, and preserve the life of this person who according to Your good pleasure and by his good works will render to You the thanksgiving which is due."


Under these conditions, the quest for healing even appears to be the Christian's duty, as St. Isaac the Syrian notes:


"He who is ill and knows his illness, owes it to himself to ask for healing."

In addition to the fact that it hinders a person from mobilizing for God all the strength and capacity that he has been given, illness remains a disorder and even a negation of human nature as God created it in the beginning, and as the incarnate Word restored it in His person as the enfleshed Logos. By its very origins illness remains linked to evil, to the "powers of darkness", of destruction and death, that is, to the sin of Adam and to the subsequent corruption of human nature in its entirely. Rather than accept and give in to illness in a fatalistic way, the human person, benefiting from the victory obtained by the God-man over sin and the forces of evil, should do everything within its power to combat it.


This struggle against illness indirectly constitutes a part of the larger struggle one is called to assume against the powers of evil.

In this regard, Theodoret of Cyrus makes judicious use of a military metaphor: "Those who suffer the assaults of illness strive to drive away the sickness of their body - as they would drive away - their enemies."


Glory to Thee our God.

+ Glory to Thee for All Things! +


Original Art: "All is Gift." - Oil on Canvas: by Caroline Grace Hahn, Artist, Grand Rapids, MI


Artist's Statement


Two becomes one, one becomes two

Let's imagine how incredibly small our bodies were

All of us a single cell

A humble beginning in the dark


Let's imagine you are only three or four things

A tissue paper skeletal system and cherry kidneys

Your mind, not yet so heavy to carry

Your awareness light, just beginning to take root


All of us, scattered by the wind

All chaos, everything designed

A dance against entropy


Now grow



Beautiful sinew and sumptuous bile

Stretching, an affirmation of life, growth

Vines, veins, rivers, and roots -

Connection

And growth


Out and up into the world

Violently, beautifully,

Encompassed by the beating center

Our hearts like suns emitting life

Our breaths like winds that snap the rigid

Our blood like rivers filling caverns


Praise the delicacy, the infirmity

Praise the seasons of this body


For all living things are mirrors of that

Which is larger and smaller than the shape called 'self'

Help us to lessen, to dissolve the anatomy, the

particular,

The different, the divisive, and to see


A humble beginning in the dark

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