Tag Archives: God as Physician

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (I)

Publican and Pharisee Zoom Pharisee“God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are.” A sinful man
dares to say this, in church, to God’s face! What is the Church, if not a place where the sick meet their physician? Those sick from sin come  to confess their sickness to God the Physician, and to find medicine and healing from Him who is the true Healer from all human suffering and weakness, and the Giver of all good things. Do the healthy go to hospital, to boast of their health to the doctor?

But this Pharisee did not come to the Temple with a whole and healthy soul, to boast of his health, but as a man seriously ill with unrighteousness who, in the delirium of his sickness, no longer knows he is ill. Once, when I was visiting a mental hospital, the doctor took me in front of a wire screen across the cell of the most seriously ill of his patients. “How do you feel?”, I asked him. He immediately replied: “How do you think I feel, among all these madmen?”Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. Isaac the Syrian: The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured . . .

Confession 4The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured; and he who confesses is pain is near to health.

Many are the pains of the hard heart; and when the sick one resists the physician, his torments will be augmented.

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, “Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence”, Mystical Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh

St. Anthony the Great: The truly intelligent man pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view . . .

Icon of St. Anthony the Great“The truly intelligent man pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view, he disciplines his soul, and whatever he may encounter in the course of his life, he gives thanks to God for the compass and depth of His providential ordering of all things. For it is absurd to be grateful to doctors who give us bitter and unpleasant medicines to cure our bodies, and yet to be ungrateful to God for what appears to us to be harsh, not grasping that all we encounter is for our benefit and in accordance with His  providence. For knowledge of God and faith in Him is the salvation and perfection of the soul.”

+ St. Anthony the Great, “On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: One Hundred and Seventy Texts,” Text 2, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

St. Isaac the Syrian: Do not fall into despair because of stumbling. . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“Do not fall into despair because of stumbling. I do not mean that you should not feel contrition for them, but that you should not think them incurable. For it is more expedient to be bruised than dead. There is, indeed, a Healer for the man who has stumbled, even He Who on the Cross asked that mercy be shown to His crucifiers, He Who pardoned His murders while He hung on the Cross. ‘All manner of sin,’ He said, ‘and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men,’ that is, through repentance.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 64, “On Prayer, Prostrations, Tears, Reading, Silence, and Hymnody”

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: Only the foolish think that suffering is evil . . .

Icon of the Healing of the ParalyticOnly the foolish think that suffering is evil. A sensible man knows that suffering is not evil but only the manifestation of evil and healing from evil. Only sin in a man is a real evil, and there is no evil outside sin. Everything else that men generally call evil is not, but is a bitter medicine to heal from evil. The sicker the man, the more bitter the medicine that the doctor prescribes for him. At times, even, it seems to a sick man that the medicine is worse and more bitter than the sickness itself! And so it seems at times to the sinner: the suffering is harder and more bitter than the sin committed. But this is only an illusion – a very strong self-delusion. There is no suffering in the world that could be anywhere near as hard and destructive as sin is. All the suffering borne by men and nations is none other than the abundant healing that eternal Mercy offers to men and nations to save them from eternal death. Every sin, however small, would inevitably bring death if Mercy were not to allow suffering in order to sober men up from the inebriation of sin; for the healing that comes through suffering is brought about by the gracefilled power of the Holy and Life-giving Spirit.Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “23. The Third Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Miracle at Bethesda John 5:1-16,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. Anatoly of Optina: Are you fighting against your passions? Fight, fight, and . . .

St. Anatoly of Optina“Are you fighting against your passions? Fight, fight, and be good soldiers of Christ! Do not give in to evil and do not be carried away by the weakness of the flesh. During the time of temptation, flee to the Physician, crying out with the Holy Church, our mother: “O God, number me with the thief, the harlot, and the publican (i.e., with the repentant), and save me!”

+ St. Anatoly of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina

St. Maximos the Confessor: Sometimes men are tested by pleasure, sometimes by distress . . .

St. Maximos the Confessor 10“Sometimes men are tested by pleasure, sometimes by distress or by physical suffering. By means of His prescriptions the Physician of souls administers the remedy according to the cause of the passions lying hidden in the soul.”

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love 2.44, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

Metropolitan Philaret of New York: Sermon on the Sunday of the Blind Man II

Icon of Jesus Healing the Blind ManToday we heard at the Divine Liturgy the account of the Holy Evangelist John the Theologian about the healing by Jesus Christ of the man born blind, that is, who had never seen anything before. It is characteristic that, when this Gospel account ends, the Lord said: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (Jn 9:39). And His spiteful enemies, the scribes and Pharisees, probably with irony and mockery, asked Him: “Are we blind also?” (Jn 9:40). And they received an answer, as the Lord told them: “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin” (Jn 9:41), because if a person does not know and does not see, he cannot transgress consciously and does not sin so greatly. Even if he makes a mistake, the Lord Himself does not find it a sin, if the person did not know he was sinning. So the Lord spoke, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin, but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (Jn 9:41).
Remember, this is a frightful sentence, because it was pronounced by the One who alone can justify or condemn, and He said their sin remained. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the former blind man not only physical, but also spiritual vision. At the same time, the Gospel illustrates how, by their determination, Christ’s enemies are blinding themselves all the more, persisting in their delusions.
When the Lord healed the blind man, he was asked how it had happened. He said that he could not answer this question: he had been blind when the Lord approached Him. Probably he had heard what the Savior’s name was, which is why he answered: “A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight” (Jn 9:11). They asked him who Jesus was, and he said “I know not” (Jn 9:12). He was led to the Pharisees, and they examined him. He said shortly: “He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see” (Jn 9:15). Now there was a dispute between the Pharisees and Christ’s enemies, “a division among them,” as is said in the Gospel (Jn 9:16). Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day” (Jn 9:16), which means he did not obey the law. Others argued saying, “How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” (Jn 9:16). The former blind man hears this dispute and the truth becomes clearer and clearer to him. So the words of one of the group of Pharisees (how can a man that is a sinner do such miracles) becomes the guiding line for his further actions. He was asked again and again, and cross-examined, and as they kept asking the same questions, he finally told them: “I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be His disciples?” (Jn 9: 27). For them, rabid enemies of Christ, to be His disciples?! The man had no idea, of course, what a blow his words were to them. So they told him with spite and anger: “Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence He is” (Jn 9:28-29).
The Church, telling us today about this miracle of the Savior, at the same time chants in the person of each of us: “Blind with my spiritual eyes, I come to you, O Christ, like one born blind.” Not long ago we prayed to our Lord intensively: “Grant that I may see my own sins.” If we ask to see, to be able to see our sins it means we cannot see them as well as is needed. This is because our “spiritual eyes” are blind. This is why this church prayer is full of sense and meaning for each of us. The Holy Fathers also always say that people cannot see their sins as clearly as they should.
Photo of Philaret of New YorkA long time ago we already gave this example from one ascetic’s life, who asked God to let him see to what extent human nature was corrupted by sin. And when the Lord, in a certain mysterious vision, revealed to him the degree to which man is corrupted by sin, the ascetic felt that he could lose his mind from fear, and he was begging God to hide this vision from him forever. This is the extent to which people are corrupted by sin. St. Macarius of Egypt said a person can be good, but deep in his soul the roots can be poisonous. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to heal us of this brokenness, because no other force in the world can heal us of this frightful corruption by sin. This is what current reformers of life forget and tend not to see when proposing their ideas. They forget, or do not know, that a person is a sinful creature. Therefore, as the Blessed Augustine said, people differ only in the extent to which each of them is evil. We should always realize how sinful and corrupt we are, and beg God to heal our soul’s eyes the way he gave physical and spiritual recovery to this former blind man about whom we heard. Amen.

+ Metropolitan Philaret of New York and Eastern America, Sermon on the Sunday of the Blind Man II, translated by Felix Culpa and Olga Lissenkova

Archbishop Averky: Excerpt from “Wherein Lies Life Greatest Evil” about the Healing of the Paralytic

Icon of the Healing of the ParalyticWith His one word alone, the Lord healed an invalid who had lain for 38 years near a healing pool, hoping to be made well, but vainly. And raising him up from his sick bed, He cautioned him respecting the future: “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (St. John 5:14).

With these portentous words, the Lord indicated that the cause of the unfortunate man’s fearful infirmities lay in the sins who had previously committed. In addition, he warned that sin inevitable brings with it not only such dire disease as paralysis, but even more dreadful ills.

“Sin no more!” — it is the words of Christ’s warning that should be the principle, founding motto, of our human existence. He who forgets this great God-given truth will have vainly wasted his efforts in making his own life as well as the lives of other people peaceful, joyous, prosperous, and happy. He who loves sinning will inevitable sooner or later fall prey to the oppressive affliction of the spiritual and physical feebleness. The sufferings of body and of soul will be his lot, and in the life hereafter — everlasting, unremitting torment.

Is it not in this position of the inform man, lying helplessly by the Sheep’s Gate pool, that all mankind finds itself today, madly rejecting Christ the Savior, refusing to acknowledge the existence of sin as such, and seeking various paths of life and salvation other than those which Christ, Our Lord, point out to us?

Sin reigns ruthlessly among the people of today, smiting both the body and soul with its death-wielding venom. And for so long as sin maintains its dominion, there can be no liberation or deliverance from the world from all the evils that best it, and it is even meaningless to talk of its prosperity and preservation.

It would seem that experience in life should long since have made this clear and comprehensible to everyone, but Alas! engulfed in the depths of sinful life, led about by diabolical pride and culpable self-love, self-confident people, who put their trust in themselves alone, easily forget the lessons which life itself teaches them, and no matter how many blows they receive in the course of their existence, whereby the Lord Himself instructs them, nevertheless it is frequent among them that, as God’s Word instructs us, “according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:22).

According to Church tradition, that is exactly what happened to the invalid upon whom the Lord had shed His bounty. He did not heed the warning, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” The lesson for the fourth week after Pascha, the week of the invalid, says that this infirm man, so wondrously healed by the Lord, was the very man who struck Our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cheek during the trial before the High Priest (St. John 18:22), for which he obtained “a trial worse than the weakening of limbs”– that eternal fire, not for eight and thirty years alone, but unto time everlasting, should torment him.”

You see to what extreme can come to those who do not remember the mercy and generosity of God. Pride and sinful self-esteem can lead the person who is unmindful of himself to the state of a madman, acting rashly, and doom him forever! The desire to ingratiate someone, to gain someone’s favor, attention, and thereby some personal reward, frequently drives those who become infatuated with their sinful selves to such truly insane deeds that trail in their wake the most frightening and incorrigible consequences!

+ Archbishop Averky, “Wherein Lies Life Greatest Evil”

St. Maximos the Confessor: The sensible man, taking into account the remedial effect of the divine prescriptions, gladly bears the sufferings . . .

Icon of St. Maximos the ConfessorThe sensible man, taking into account the remedial effect of the divine prescriptions, gladly bears the sufferings which they bring upon him, since he is aware that they have no cause other than his own sin. But when the fool, ignorant of the supreme wisdom of God’s providence, sins and is corrected, he regards either God or men as responsible for the hardships he suffers.

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love 2.46, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)