Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


The patristic and undivided church has always understood humanity’s main problem to be the illness or disease of the soul.  This spiritual disease has symptoms which the bible calls sin or “missing the goal”.  Perhaps sin should be translated in the English word “miss”.  The cure for this disease according to the apostolic church is “conversion,” or perhaps in contemporary English “reorientation”.  I know these words are not commonly used for these terms, but they nevertheless get at the heart of the meaning of the original terms (sin, conversion) that are in today’s English speaking world weighed down with other connotations.  The ancient church also prescribes a medicine to obtain this cure, it is a therapy applied by the church’s doctors, or priests.  Consider the unanimous teaching of the undivided church on this matter:

It behoves those who have received from God the power to loose and bind, to consider the quality of the sin and the readiness of the sinner for conversion, and to apply medicine suitable for the disease, lest if he is injudicious in each of these respects he should fail in regard to the healing of the sick man. For the disease of sin is not simple, but various and multiform, and it germinates many mischievous offshoots, from which much evil is diffused, and it proceeds further until it is checked by the power of the physician. Wherefore he who professes the science of spiritual medicine ought first of all to consider the disposition of him who has sinned, and to see whether he tends to health or (on the contrary) provokes to himself disease by his own behaviour, and to look how he can care for his manner of life during the interval. And if he does not resist the physician, and if the ulcer of the soul is increased by the application of the imposed medicaments, then let him mete out mercy to him according as he is worthy of it. For the whole account is between God and him to whom the pastoral rule has been delivered, to lead back the wandering sheep and to cure that which is wounded by the serpent; and that he may neither cast them down into the precipices of despair, nor loosen the bridle towards dissolution or contempt of life; but in some way or other, either by means of sternness and astringency, or by greater softness and mild medicines, to resist this sickness and exert himself for the healing of the ulcer, now examining the fruits of his repentance and wisely managing the man who is called to higher illumination. For we ought to know two things, to wit, the things which belong to strictness and those which belong to custom, and to follow the traditional form in the case of those who are not fitted for the highest things, as holy Basil teaches us.       Quinixext Ecumenical Council,  Canon 102

Spiritual therapy is the medicine appointed by the church, and while actual therapeutic medicines are not mentioned, historic practices show these to be “reorienting forms of worship”.  The medicine may be “times of quiet”, making the soul still, or particular times of prayer, spiritual readings, fasts, & c… The point being, the medicine of the soul is the reorienting worship of the true God in Christ. It is only our willful presence before the Lord that heals our souls from its disease. Consequently, the Christian should be not only proficient in worship, but eager to participate in it.

For the reason the church has put together its main prayer book, the “Horologion.”  In it the therapy abounds, and it behooves every Christian to it understand thoroughly, and to use it regularly under the guidance of a spiritual therapist.



No comments:

Post a Comment