Pastoral Healthcare

One of the most important ministries of the Church throughout its history has been providing spiritual care to the sick. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has always being sensitive to the needs of this ministry from the years of the Byzantine Empire up until now. Its clergy are active in providing pastoral care to the ill, both on a parish level and in specialized facilities.  read more...

Pastoral Thought of the Week

April 5, 2020

Prayer during pandemic illness
(of the new Coronavirus that has fallen upon us)

Wrestling with our faith

Because of the paralyzing crisis that has now beset Mankind, our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings is being tested in a unique way. Ultimately, that which is being tested is our faith in both.

We must here clarify what faith means. For a Christian, faith means that I believe in someone and not in something.  For many, faith – believing “means the unqualified acceptance of rules and regulations, the affirmation of an unverified theory or a teaching; to lower my head and submit to an authority, who may not always be religious, but could also be ideological or political...”

Contrary to this, “if you believe in God, you do so, not because you have been dictated to do so by some theories or principles, or because some institutional order has assured you that He exists. You believe in Him because of His Personhood, because of the personal existence of God that sparks up trust in you. His works and His historic “action” – His intervention within the history of time – make you want to form a relationship with Him…. Believing in someone means to develop a bond of trust upon meeting the other, to come to know the other, to interrelate with the other…. For if faith is trust, eros is the peak of trust, the zenith of faith, because in eros, one surrenders oneself to the other” (Christos Yiannaras).

When you love someone, (have eros for someone), you not only die for the other person but for the relationship as well. Thus, “faith is to die for Christ and for the sake of His commandments, believing that this death will stimulate life in you” (Symeon the New Theologian).  These are the two commandments of God: “to love God with all of your heart and your neighbor as your own self” (Mat.22:37). When you truly bear witness to your faith, you offer your life to God and sacrifice your life for Mankind, just as He became incarnate and gave His life for the salvation of the world.    

Man’s faith, though, is not static. It is a relationship with God that develops and goes through different stages until it is perfected by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Our faith will only mature if we wrestle with it; if we struggle to keep our loving relationship with God and our fellow human beings alive. It is a struggle with our self, a struggle with God and our fellow human beings. It is compared to the struggle that Jacob had with God, who appeared to him as a stranger. In this struggle, Jacob was wounded, but at the end, after his bout, he won. Injured, he returned to his birthplace, having received the blessing of the “stranger, determined, hence forth, to stand up worthily to the circumstances he had to face.

When we wrestle with our faith like Jacob did with God, we gain the ability to put the things of this world in perspective to death and eternity;  “to bear all our daily trials that may bring us sorrow, distress, or unhappiness, and to bear them patiently for as long as God wishes and until He comes to visit us. For it is said, ‘I waited on the Lord and He came to me'” (Simeon the New Theologian).

In these difficult hours, it would be beneficial if we could see this crisis as an opportunity to wrestle with our faith –with our relationship with God and our fellow human beings. And when we have doubts, to cry: “I believe oh Lord, help me in my unbelief”.

What is required in this struggle is to remain silent in prayer and in the hope that God will resurrect us into a new life. But let us not deceive ourselves: when this tragedy ends, we will enter a new life, having been injured – crucified –yet resurrected! We must though be determined, henceforth, to stand up worthily to the circumstances we will have to face with a renewed faith.

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