Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The Spiritual Bethesda
The Church too is a Pool, a spiritual Bethesda. All of us, its members, overcome by death and decay, corruptibility and mortality with all their consequences are waiting at this Pool, hoping for our spiritual healing.
About a month ago, I made note here of the book stack I had starting reading through. I began with Scott Cairn's The End of Suffering. I am staying apace with my daily readings from the Synaxarion, which I find both enjoyable and of great benefit. And I am currently 25 chapters into Nights of the Red Moon--and as expected, Milton does not disappoint.
My primary study, however, has been in Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers, by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. This is an oddly jarring title to our Western ears. We cannot imagine the concept of "psychotherapy" considered outside of the general field of psychological studies. But as strange as it may sound, this very approach pinpoints the Orthodox difference as well as anything--a way of life, indeed the Way of Life, a progression of Life in and healing by Christ. The faith considered as such contrasts starkly with the normative assumptions of our day, which have reduced faith to something that is but text-based and propositional, a mere philosophical set of beliefs. Met. Hierotheos quotes John Rominades, following:
The Fathers do not categorise 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.
Met. Hierotheos makes extensive use of the Philokalia and many of the Church Fathers, including St. Isaac the Syrian, St. John Climacus, Abba Dorotheos and St. Gregory Palamas, among others. The scope of his work is deep and broad, beyond any simple summation on my part. Orthodox Psychotherapy is eminently practical, a work I expect to return to again and again.