The Healing Mission of the Church

By +Athanasios, Metropolitan of Limassol (EP).

[edited by Stavroforemonk Symeon of Syracuse (USA).]

The main mission of the Church is to heal a person. In other words, when a person becomes part of the Church [that person] is healed if he follows the therapeutic regime which aims to assist him to return to the natural state which God gave him when He had created him.

After the fall of our forefathers, our nature was corrupted. When man severed his relationship with the Lord, after disobeying His command, all his mental and physical capacities were immediately corrupted and perverted; his mind turned away from its unbreakable communication with the Lord, which was his natural state, towards the creation and matter, passions and sin. From that moment sickness and perversion entered man’s nature.

This is the reality of the fall, the sin of the forefathers, namely the hereditary sickness which passes on from one generation to another because we are natural descendents of our forefathers. Thus, each man has inherited this condition of spiritual sickness; the perversion of his nature. [Known as the “Ancestral Curse”]

Jesus Christ is called the ‘New Adam’, because He enters history at a certain point in time and accomplishes a mission. Christ’s mission was not so much to hand over the Gospel, namely His teachings, neither to give us a book called ‘Gospel’, but to give us Himself. In other words, just as we have inherited the sickness of our nature through the first Adam, Jesus offers us Himself, so that through the baptism we unite with Him, become one with Him, and then through the Holy Eucharist we acquire the capacity to unite with Him organically and ontologically (actually). This means that the actual unity with the Body and Blood of Jesus flows into our being, into our soul and our body. This is the reason why we become children of God and why the Church exists. The Church would have no reason to exist if it did not administer the holy mysteries, particularly the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

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How Not to Despair

To a certain brother who had committed a sin, the devil appeared to him and said: “You’re not Christian”. The man replied “Regardless of who I am, at least I am better than you”. Satan then said: “I’m telling you, you will be going to hell”. To which, the brother replied: “You are neither my judge, nor my God”. Thus, Satan went away empty handed, while the brother showed sincere repentance before God and became worthy.

A brother who was overcome by grief asked a Geron (Elder): “What should I do? My thoughts are telling me that I wrongly rejected the world and that I won’t be saved.” The Elder replied: “Even if we never manage to enter the Promised Land, it is to our advantage to leave our bones in the desert, rather than to return to Egypt”.


Another brother asked the same Elder: “Father, what does the prophet mean when he says ‘There is no salvation for him, by his God’? and the Elder said: “He is referring to the thoughts of desperation that are sown by demons in the mind of the man who has sinned, telling him: ‘There is no longer any salvation for you from God’, in their attempt to tumble him into a state of desperation. One must contradict these thoughts, by saying. “The Lord is my refuge, and He shall free my feet from the trap’”.


One of the fathers narrated that outside Salonica there was a hermitage for nuns. One of the nuns, having being prompted by the common enemy, departed from the monastery and fell into prostitution, and remained in this vice for quite some time. Eventually, however, with the help of merciful God, she repented and returned to the monastery. And, upon reaching its gateway, she fell down, dead.
Her death was revealed to a saint, who saw the holy angels that came to take her soul, and the demons that followed behind them. In the dialogue that took place between them, the holy angels said that she had come back repented. The demons however argued that: “She had been subjugated by us for a long time, therefore she is rightfully ours. Besides, she didn’t even manage to enter the monastery, so how can you say that she had repented?” And the angels said: “From the moment God saw that her intention was bent towards this goal, He accepted her repentance; Repentance itself was of course within her power, because of the goal that she was set on, however, her life was within the power of the Lord of the universe.” With these words, the demons were put to shame and they departed. And the one who saw this revelation, is the one who is narrating it to those present.


Abba Alonios said that, if a man wants, he can reach divine standards by the end of one day.


A brother asked Abba Moses: “If someone beats his slave because of a mistake that he made, what will the slave say?”. The elder replied. “If he is a good slave, he will say ‘Spare me, for I was wrong’”. “Nothing else?” asked the brother. “Nothing else”, replied the elder, “because from the moment he acknowledges his error and admits he is wrong, his master will immediately show mercy”.


A brother said to Abba Poemen: “If I commit a lamentable mistake, my thoughts devour me and accuse me of my fall”. The elder said: “If, at the time the person makes the mistake, he says “I have sinned”, the thought immediately ceases”.


There was a young girl with the name Taesia, whose parents had died and she had remained an orphan. From that moment, she turned her house into a hostel for the Fathers of the Scete and for a long time she received them and offered them her hospitality. But when she had spent everything that she had, she began to feel the hardship. Then, certain perverted people approached her and lured her away from the straight path. And she began to live in sin, to the point that she ended up in prostitution.

When the fathers learnt of this, they were saddened very much, so they called Abba John Kolovos and said to him: “We have heard about our sister that she lives in sin. She, whenever she could, had shown love to us. Now it’s time for us to help her. So, you should take the trouble and go to her, and with the wisdom that God gave you, tend to correcting her.”
So the father went to her, and said to the old woman guarding the door: “Tell your mistress that I have come”. She drove him away, saying: “A long time ago, you devoured all of her fortune, and now she is poor.” The elder insisted: “Tell her, and she will see much good from me”. So the old woman went inside the house and reported to the young lady about the elder. On hearing this, she thought to herself: “These monks always travel around the Red Sea and they find pearls”. So she preened herself, sat on the bed and instructed the old woman: “Bring him here”.

When Abba John entered, he sat near her, and looking into her face, said to her: “What made you reject Jesus, so that you would end up in such a condition?” On hearing his words, she froze; and the elder bowed down his head and started to cry, full of bitterness. “Abba, why are you crying?” she asked him. He lifted up his head, but again turned it away, saying: “I can see Satan dancing in your countenance; how can I not cry?” “Is there repentance, Abba?” the girl asked. “Yes”, the elder replied. And she added: “Take me, wherever you think is best”. “Let’s go”, said the elder, and instantly she rose up and followed him. The elder noticed that she didn’t leave any instructions about her house and he wondered at this.

When approaching the desert, night fell. And the elder prepared for her a small pillow; he blessed it and told her to sleep there. Then he made one for himself a little further off, and after finishing his prayers, he also lay down to sleep.

At midnight he woke up and saw something like a path of light, which led off from the girl and ended in the sky, and he saw angels of God carrying up her soul. He rose up, approached her and nudged her with his leg. When he realized that she had passed away, he kneeled, with his face to the ground, and prayed to God. And he heard a voice saying to him that her one hour of repentance was more welcome than the repentance of many other people, whose repentance may last longer, but is lacking in fervor.

What is Prayer of the Intellect and of the Heart?

Remembrance of God demonstrates communion with Him and is therefore like prayer. Striving to invoke the holy Name of Christ continuously, through the prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me’, is a constant renewal within us of the remembrance of God and communion with Him. This is why Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they should ‘Pray without ceasing’.

Through the remembrance of God and prayer, we reveal the true nobility of our nature, which stands at the threshold between the visible and invisible worlds and is that of a ‘deified animal’ [Saint Gregory the Theologian, Oration 38.11 (PG 36: 324)]. This nature transcends physical necessity, expands our existence as far as God and has a sense of freedom from those things which hold us prisoner on earth.

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by Archpriest Isaac Skidmore

On a regular basis, Orthodox priests find themselves in situations in which they need to accurately assess parishioners’ spiritual well-being. Confession is but one setting where this takes place. There are likely few priests who have not occasionally felt daunted by the challenge of distinguishing which kinds of struggles brought by parishioners fall squarely within the purview of spiritual counsel, and which might benefit from referral to professional mental health providers. Coursework provided by some Orthodox seminaries prepares students for counseling that takes place in the parish, and acknowledges that there is a time for referral to outside professionals. Continue Reading Here

About This Author

V. Rev. Isaac Skidmore holds an MDiv from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and a PhD in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria CA. He is an adjunct instructor in the clinical mental health counseling program at Southern Oregon University. He served as rector at Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church (OCA) in Ashland OR during a decade of its growth as a mission parish, where he remains attached as auxiliary priest. He practices as a licensed psychotherapist in Southern Oregon, frequently working with people who are exploring issues of faith, meaning, and identity.

A Priest’s Thoughts…

A Priest’s Thoughts on Depression, Anxiety, the Soul, Your Body and Your Brain

March 21, 2019 Length: 23:10

Fr. Stephen Freeman speaks from his own experience about depression, anxiety and a forty-year battle with panic attacks. He sets these within the wisdom of the tradition and offers a way of understanding as well as some helpful ways of moving forward.


By Jean-Claude Larchet

“Among human affairs,” Saint Cassian writes, “nothing merits being held as good in the true sense of the word except virtue, which leads us to God and makes us adhere to this immutable Good. On the other hand, there is no evil other than sin, which, by separating us from God Who is Good, unites us to the devil who is evil.” (Saint John Chrysostom).

It is true that physical health corresponds to the normal state of human nature–that is, its prelapsarian state–and for that reason health can be considered as good in itself. (Saint Maximus the Confessor). Nevertheless, from another point of view health is worthless to the human person–it does not constitute a true good but is only good in appearance–if it is not used well, that is, if it is not used with an aim toward the Good: to fulfill the commandments of Christ and to glorify God. This is why Saint Basil declares: “Insofar as it does not render good those who possess it, health cannot be counted among those things that are good by nature.” In fact it is evil if it contributes to making a person indifferent to his salvation, keeps him away from God by giving him the false impression that he is self-sufficient, and bestows on him that strength of the flesh which actually weakens, rather than giving him that weakness in which God reveals Himself, which constitutes true strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Health is an even greater evil if it is used to give free rein to the passions, thereby becoming an instrument of iniquity (Romans 6:13). “Know, then,” Saint Gregory of Nazianzus counsels us, “how to despise an insidious health that leads to sin.”

As for illness, it is in itself something evil to the extent that it arises as a consequence of the sin of Adam and as an effect of demonic activity within the fallen world. As such, it is a negation of the order God intended when he created the world and mankind. Nonetheless, it is evil only on the level of physical nature and the body. If one does not give oneself over to it entirely, illness cannot injure one’s soul, nor can it affect one’s essential being, one’s spiritual nature. According to Christ’s own teaching, a person should fear whatever can make him perish in Gehenna both body and soul, but he need have no fear of what can affect his body alone, without bringing death to his soul (St. Matthew 10:28). By itself illness does not have the power to separate man from God; therefore from a spiritual point of view it cannot be considered to be a source of evil in his life. Saint John Chrysostom notes: “If the soul is in good health, bodily illness can in no way harm a man.”

Illness, then, is only evil in appearance. (St. John Chrysostom). It can even constitute a blessing for man in the sense that, if one uses it appropriately, one can draw from it considerable spiritual benefit, thereby making what was originally a sign of mortality into an instrument of salvation. (St. John Chrysostom). Saint John Chrysostom adds: “There is evil which, properly speaking, is not evil, even though it bears that name: such as illness, and other things of that sort. If they were truly evil, they would not be able to become for us the source of a multitude of blessings.” (Saint John Chrysostom). In the same vein Saint John Cassian states: “How can we see [in illness] something that is essentially evil, since it serves as a blessing to so many by granting the means to attain to abundant and eternal joy?”

Finally, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus offers the following counsel: “Do not admire every form of health, and do not condemn every illness.”

Consequently, in certain cases and from the point of view of that which is spiritually good for man, illness can be paradoxically considered as a higher good than health and therefore as preferable to health. (Saint Barsanuphius). Saint Gregory of Nazianzus observes that the aim of medical treatment “consists in reconfirming health or the good condition of the flesh if such exists, or in recovering it if it has been lost. But it is not clear that these advantages are really useful. Often, in fact, the opposite conditions are more advantageous to those who are affected by them.” Accordingly, we encounter any number of holy people, faced with their own illnesses or the illnesses of those in their care, who ask God not in the first place for a return to health, but for what is spiritually the most useful. And rather than lament because of these illnesses, they rejoice in the benefits that can be drawn from them.

The Positive Meaning of Sickness and Suffering

Such an attitude, however, presupposes that we attribute to illness a meaning and a finality that transcend physical nature.

To consider illness strictly as a phenomenon unto itself is almost inevitably to see it in a negative, sterile light; and this only increases the physical suffering and moral pain which result from a sense of its absurdity. The consequence of such an attitude is generally to leave the way open to activity of demons and to develop in the soul troubling passions, such as fear, anxiety, anger, weariness, revolt and despair. These states not only do not relieve the body, they most often increase the symptoms of the evil that affects it, thereby creating sickness even in the soul (St. John Chrysostom). The illness then serves no good at all, but it becomes for the ill person a source of spiritual deterioration which puts his soul in jeopardy perhaps more than it does his body.

It is because of this very danger that the Fathers stress the point that it is not in vain, not without reason that we are subject to illnesses.” This is why they encourage us to be vigilant when illness strikes, and not to trouble ourselves first of all with their natural causes and means to cure them. Rather, our first concern should be to discern their meaning within the framework of our relationship to God, and to throw light on the positive function they can have in furthering our salvation. In this respect Saint Maximus the Confessor counsels: “When you are exposed to expected testing…search out its purpose and you will find the means to profit from it.” The ideal, then, is to avoid from the beginning allowing ourselves to be dominated by suffering when it exists, but to go beyond the limits in which the suffering tends to enclose the soul and even our entire being, our entire existence. In this double perspective Saint Gregory Nazianzus offers the following counsel to an ill acquaintance: “I don’t wish and I don’t consider it good that you, well instructed in divine things as you are, should suffer the same feelings as more worldly people, that you should allow your body to give in, that you should agonize over your suffering as if it were incurable and irredeemable. Rather, I should want you to be philosophical about your suffering and show yourself superior to the cause of your affliction, beholding in the illness a superior way towards what is ultimately good for you.”

To be philosophical about one’s illness and suffering means above all for a person to consider what they reveal to him about his condition.

One’s spiritual intelligence–purified of these burdens that alienate it from the flesh, and refined by suffering–perceives another, spiritual world; and purified will aspire to it, and elevates the soul to participate in it. Thus Dostoyevsky can write: “A healthy man is always an earthly, material man…But as soon as he falls ill, and the normal, earthly order of his organism is disturbed, then the possibility of another world makes itself known to him at once; and as the illness worsens, his relations with this world become ever closer.”

Understood and experienced in this perspective, illness does not crush a person under the weight of their “mortal body” (Romans 7:24), but to the contrary turns the person toward God. It reunites the person to God, drawing him toward God as the true source and end of his existence. It offers wisdom to his intelligence–that is, true knowledge of the world, of himself and of God–and to his will it offers conformity to the Will of his Creator. God does not permit illness to debase us,” Saint John Chrysostom declares, “but because He wanted to make us better, more wise and more submissive to His Will, which is the basis of our salvation.”

It is in our Christian worship that we find strength, comfort and assurance that God is always with us and loves us unconditionally. It is especially true for those who had a loved one fall asleep in the Lord recently. Each person grieves in his/her own way which is natural. But as Orthodox Christians we need to remember the words of Saint Paul writing to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 4:13-18) “Brethren, we would not have you ignorant concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.” Excessive sadness and uncontrollable grieving is not good either for you or the diseased. Orthodox Christians find comfort in prayer and worship in the Church in the presence of God.

Source: The Theology of Illness

Ex-Transgender Walt Heyer: Affirming Wrong Gender Is ‘Child Abuse’

Encouraging a child to identify with a gender other than their biological sex is a form of child abuse, says Walt Heyer, a man who identified as a woman for eight years.

Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D. | 09 April 2019

Heyer said that when he was a

small boy his grandmother gave him a purple chiffon dress and told him how beautiful he looked in it, which led him down a path of confusion about who he was.

“That is child abuse,” Mr. Heyer said during a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation last Thursday. “We need to be calling it what it is. It’s not affirming a child. It’s causing them to be depressed and anxious about who they are.”

“I think it’s important for us to realize that there is nothing good about affirming a young boy at four years old like my grandma did me,” he said.

“The only reason I am able to speak to you today is because after 46 years dealing with this issue, I was able to de-transition in 1990 after I had psychotherapy, the very same psychotherapy [transgender activists] are trying to prevent people from having. Why? Because they don’t want them to de-transition,” he said.

The LGBT lobby is adamant in their opposition to any sort of “conversion therapy,” despite the testimony of numerous individuals who have benefited from it.

Walt Heyer, now 78 years old and married to his wife for 22 years, tells a grim autobiographical story of abuse and gender confusion, sexual reassignment surgery, a short respite from anxiety, and eventually deep regret at his decision.

“Changing genders is short-term gain with long-term pain,” Heyer has written. “Its consequences include early mortality, regret, mental illness, and suicide.”

Incorrectly diagnosed and pressured into a sex-change operation in 1983, Heyer is especially sensitive to the plight of the many young people who are confused about their own sexuality and receive mixed messages from a society very eager for them to take steps that can never be undone.

Heyer is the founder of an organization called Sex Change Regret and says he is hearing from many people who are living similar experiences.

“We get letters from parents or the transgenders themselves asking for help, after they’ve lived the life like I did for five, six, 15, 18, 20, all the way up to 30 years,” he said. “And they are saying ‘Walt, can you help me de-transition. This was the biggest mistake of my life.’”

Children need help sorting through their confusion, not being confirmed in it, Heyer says. Their body is not the problem and they should not be led to believe it is.

“We are manufacturing transgender kids,” he said.

“We are manufacturing their depression, their anxiety, and it has turned into a huge industry that people are profiting from after kids’ lives are completely torn apart,” he said.

“It’s really beyond my understanding why we are even having this discussion because it shouldn’t be happening. I don’t believe any doctor who injects a young person with hormone blockers should have a license to do so,” he said.

Research suggests that many of those who suffer from gender dysphoria do so as a result of sexual abuse, thinking that by changing genders they will protect themselves from more abuse, he said.

“Boys who were abused at a young age come to the conclusion that the only way they can prevent themselves from being sexually abused again is to cut off their genitalia and become females,” he said. “In their mind that is their defense mechanism for sexual abuse.”

“Girls who were sexually abused want to be men as a way to fend off any intruder or sexual abuser so they will no longer be attractive for sexual abuse,” he added.

“We’re ruining an entire generation of young people, and it’s serious business. I’m not pulling any punches anymore. And you shouldn’t either,” he said.

Source: Pravmir