In light of the recent church closings due to the COVID-19, some are wondering whether or not the Church is in fact a place of healing for soul and body. Fr. John offers the following reflection on the topic.
The Church is indeed a hospital. It is also a military base, a university, an ark, etc.. These metaphors are not just “symbolic” but also very true; the Fathers using earthly phenomena to reveal higher spiritual realities. Yet, the Church is also not a hospital, military base, etc.; see St. Gregory the Theologian on the use of metaphors and why they are both helpful and insufficient. To lose sight of the fact that we are healed first and foremost spiritually through the Church and physically through the hospital (though not exclusively), is to forget that all healing comes from God Himself, who works through both miracles and medicine, both in the Church and in the hospital. Orthodox Christians do not oppose Faith and reason, theology and science, as both when done correctly point and lead to Him.
We hold that God is the Author of all spiritual laws and physical laws. We are not Platonic dualists, respecting only the spiritual. The laws of science in general and medicine in particular, should be studied and followed, honoring the Creator of both. When we disregard any of God’s laws, we suffer and ultimately die; this is why in our return to Him who is our Life, we offer two-fold repentance, in both soul and body, humbling ourselves in obedience to all of His laws whether they be spiritual or physical.
As Orthodox Christians, we acknowledge both the doctrine of God's absolute incorruptibility and healing power in Holy Communion, The Cross, Icons, etc. and also, at the same time, the established teaching on man's corruptibility, both spiritual and physical through sin, not only shared as the consequences of the ancestral Fall but also in the present from person to person. These two doctrines, which balance our spiritual life, should guide us at all times, including and especially during our current pandemic. The saints were ever mindful of the Lord's divine power to heal us through divine-human interaction and likewise our own potential to harm each other, even if unintentionally, through person-to-person interaction. The Church therefore seeks ways to maximize the one while avoiding the other; hence a call for increased repentance through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and self-sacrifice, while at the same time temporary church closings except for small groups to slow the spread of the virus, reduce the strain on the medical system, "flatten the curve" and save lives.
Those who think they cannot pass along their sicknesses to others, might either be unaware of the consequences of the Fall or, God-forbid, may be confusing themselves with an incorruptible saint or a living miracle. Worse yet, those who don't care if they pass their sicknesses along to the "least of the brethren", ironically and tragically, may also be lacking in true love for their own Divine Physician Who identifies Himself with such brethren. Thankfully, there are very few in our churches with these mindsets. Much more, people earnestly seek and prayerfully entreat the Lord for an end to the pandemic, doing everything they themselves can to help bring it about. May the Lord grant it together with a speedy return to deeper communion with Him and each other.
Glory to God who give us Faith and reason, the Church and the hospital!
Glory to God who heals both soul and body through miracles and medicine!
Glory to God who provides opportunities to grow in sacrificial love for both Him and each other!
Glory to God for all things!
Christ the Savior Orthodox Church
10315 Carey Road
Berlin, MD 21811