Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

On healing

Excerpt from a talk 25.11.1987

There are many passages in the Gospel in which Christ turning to a person who is either sick in mind or in body asks a question, and this question is always: Does thou wish to be made whole? And I think, this phrase is important because it implies something which is vaster, more complete than simply restoration of health: a return to the condition that was the sick persons before illness attacked him. Because very often illness is the result of the way of life which we lead, of our folly, it is the result of heredity, it is the result of outer conditions and this is all within the compass of our situation in a world which from a Christian point of view is a fallen world, or if you prefer another term, a distorted world, a world that has lost its harmony, its wholeness or has not attained it. Whatever way you look at it our world is a broken one.

A thing that has been striking me quite a lot in the last years is this: why does Christ ask a person, do you want to be made whole? Isnt it obvious that anyone who is sane will say: Of course I do, with the impact, perhaps, on the word of course. Why are you asking a silly question? Who wishes to be ill? And yet, I think, it is a very important question because in terms of the Gospel to be made whole means not simply getting rid of ones physical illness but of being reintegrated to a quality of life which one did not possess before and which may be given us on condition. The condition being that being made whole, being restored to health even physically means that we must take responsibility for our bodily and mental condition in a way in which we didnt do it before. To be healed physically is perhaps a small image of being restored to life having come to the brink of death. The life which would have continued within us without this healing act of God would have been a life that gradually deteriorated more and more and would bring us to dying, a gradual disintegration either of our mental condition or of physical condition. And if we are given back a wholeness which we had lost or perhaps which we never possessed before, it means that the life which is ours now after healing is not simply for us to use any way we chose, it is a gift, it is not ours in a way. We were dead, we were dying, we are brought back to a plenitude of life and this plenitude is not ours, it is a gift. So that in terms of the Gospel, as far as I can see it, when Christ says: Dost thou wish to be made whole?, He implies: Supposing I do it, are you prepared to lead a life of wholeness or do you want Me to make you whole in order to go back to what destroyed this wholeness, destroyed you in body and soul? And this is a question which stands before each patient, although most patients, practically all patients have no idea of the question, and it stands certainly in front of each of us when we want to be healed beyond our physical illness.

Supposing you were at the gate of death and Christ stood there and said: Do you want to come back? And you said: Yes, doesnt it imply that you are coming back on absolutely new terms? Think of the rising of Lazarus. He had died, he had had the total experience of death and then he was brought back. Do you think that he possibly could return to the life he led with all its smallness, all the things that were not worthy of what truly a human being is, of the greatness of man? Of course not. And again in small it is the same with our illnesses. We come back to health and this health is a new birth, its a new beginning, its an offer given us by God to start life again. Physically and mentally it does come to this. I know that in my small experience, for about fifty years I have had a dislocated back. The moment this back was put right a few years ago I felt new life was given and that this life, this back of mine was to be used to the full, was to be used in a way in which I could not use the old one, the broken one, the dislocated one. And this does apply to all conditions in which healing comes to us.

I think we must realise that when we speak of healing in Christian terms we do not speak simply of a power possessed by God or by His saints or by people who being neither saints nor God are possessed of a natural gift to restore health for us to continue to live in the way in which we lived before, to remain the same unchanged. God does not heal us in order that we should go back to our sinful condition. He offers us newness of life, not the old life which we have already lost. And the new life which is offered us is no longer ours in a way, it is His, its a gift of His, a present. It was Mine to give, take it And it seems to me that thinking in spiritual terms, it is true. Because what is sin? We define sin all the time as moral infringement but it is much more than this: it is the very thing of which I was speaking, it is the lack of wholeness. When you think of yourself or perhaps, I think of myself if you are that better than I which I doubt, if we think of ourselves: I am divided mind against heart, heart against will, body against all the rest. We are all not only schizophrenic, but schizo-everything, we are just like a broken mirror and so that is the condition of sin: it is not so much that the mirror doesnt reflect well, it is the fact that it is broken that is the problem. You can, of course, try to take a small piece of it and see what you can see, but it is still a broken mirror. And this brokenness of ours within corresponds to a brokenness in our relationships with other people. We are afraid of them, we are envious of them, we are greedy, what not. So it creates a whole relational sinfulness and indeed it applies supremely to God because it all results from our having lost our harmony with God. The saints are people who are in harmony with Him, nothing more, nothing less, simply that. And as the result of being in harmony they can be in harmony within themselves and with other people.



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