Among all the attitudes recommended by the Fathers in times of illness, patience and thanksgiving come first. St. John of Gaza goes so far as to affirm that 'God demands of the sick person nothing other than thanksgiving and endurance.'
By these two dispositions of the soul, the patient can realize one of the highest forms of ascetic practice and a truly spiritual pathway. "Such is the greatest form of asceticism," Amma Syncletica teaches, "that we master ourselves in times of illness, addressing to God hymns of thanksgiving." The Fathers celebrate both of these virtues, stressing the power they possess to lead the ill person to the highest summits of the spiritual life and to grant him salvation. With regard to patience, St. John Cassian writes: "The advantage that illness can sometimes present appears quite clearly with the beatitude illustrated by the poor, ulcerated Lazarus. Scripture makes no mention at all in his regard of any virtue. His great patience in supporting his poverty and illness alone merits the blessed fortune to be admitted into the bosom of Abraham."
Lazarus did nothing extraordinary other than suffer his illness and his poverty with patience, and it is this that earned him eternal salvation.
Referring to this same parable, St. John Chrysostom likewise underscores the fact that Lazarus did nothing extraordinary other than suffer his illness and his poverty with patience, and it is this that earned him eternal salvation. For his part, St. Macarius affirms that "when souls have been delivered from various afflictions - whether these be caused by other people, or they result from bodily illnesses - they receive the same crowns and the same assurance as the martyrs, if they have preserved patience until the end."
'God demands of the sick person nothing other than thanksgiving and endurance.'