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Can bodily illness affect the powers of the soul


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#1 Christina M.

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 04:49 PM

Can anyone offer some information regarding Orthodox teaching on how a bodily illness can deplete the powers of the soul, making it more difficult for that person to live spiritually?

I'm not asking about how bodily illnesses can be viewed as blessings, which help us acquire precious humility and patience - there are many good books on that subject. I'm asking are there any good writings or quotes from saints that mention how a serious illness can make it more difficult for someone to live spiritually, i.e. to pray, to avoid sin, to be purified, etc.

Thanks

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 03:31 PM

Can anyone offer some information regarding Orthodox teaching on how a bodily illness can deplete the powers of the soul, making it more difficult for that person to live spiritually?

I'm not asking about how bodily illnesses can be viewed as blessings, which help us acquire precious humility and patience - there are many good books on that subject. I'm asking are there any good writings or quotes from saints that mention how a serious illness can make it more difficult for someone to live spiritually, i.e. to pray, to avoid sin, to be purified, etc.

Thanks


Sometimes an illness or condition can be to a blessing if submitted to completely and without other forms of support. Sometimes though illness needs to be taken care of by more active means.

That is why then discernment is always needed so as to follow God's will. If we do not submit patiently to God's will, then we lose a lot of His blessings. But if without any discernment we rely only on ourselves, then we can break ourselves in two without any good result.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Paul Nurmi

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 03:59 PM

What Father Raphael said is so true. As someone who is diabetic and also has a seizure disorder, I know that lack of forgiveness or focusing on something other than God affects me both spiritually and physically. The two are inseparable. Maybe I would not be as close to God if I was not so needy, so to speak. But at the same time, the temptation to become bitter and focus on the difficulty sometimes raises its head.

Yet if I surrender everything I feel and think to Him like a trusting little child, the fact that I have to discipline myself physically can help me to discipline myself spiritually.

In the risen Lord, Paul Nurmi

#4 Lisa Krauter

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 03:16 PM

I don't have a book but I'll reference a story from Beginning to Pray by Fr. Anthony Bloom. He speaks of a woman who developed an incurable disease: She said, 'Since my body has begun to grow weak and to die out, my spirit has become livelier than ever and I perceive the divine presence so easily and so joyfully.' I wrote her again and said: 'Don't expect it will last. When you have lost a little bit more of your strength, you will no longer be able to turn and cast yourself Godwards and you will feel that you have no access to God.' After awhile she wrote again and said 'Yes, I have become so weak now that I can't make the effort of moving Godwards or even longing actively and God has gone', but I said 'Now do something else. Try to learn humility in the real, deep sense of this word.'

In Christ,
Anysia

#5 Christina M.

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 03:41 PM

I don't have a book but I'll reference a story from Beginning to Pray by Fr. Anthony Bloom. He speaks of a woman who developed an incurable disease: She said, 'Since my body has begun to grow weak and to die out, my spirit has become livelier than ever and I perceive the divine presence so easily and so joyfully.' I wrote her again and said: 'Don't expect it will last. When you have lost a little bit more of your strength, you will no longer be able to turn and cast yourself Godwards and you will feel that you have no access to God.' After awhile she wrote again and said 'Yes, I have become so weak now that I can't make the effort of moving Godwards or even longing actively and God has gone', but I said 'Now do something else. Try to learn humility in the real, deep sense of this word.'

In Christ,
Anysia


Wow. Thanks a lot. That's exactly the kind of story I was looking for. I just ordered a copy of that book because I had never heard of it before, and it looks interesting.

It seems that there are not many examples in Orthodoxy of physical illnesses that can make someone lose spirituality. As Fr Raphael has said in a different thread, illnesses are generally viewed by the Fathers as beneficial. Of course even in the example that Lisa gave above, we can see that although the sick woman was eventually unable to pray, she was still able to gain the benefit of humility in the end, so technically this also was beneficial.

I am personally interested in stories of illnesses that make it difficult to pray, because I've had such illnesses, and I think they are the most difficult things to go through. I think that the lesson at the end of Lisa's story is very meaningful: If you can't pray, at least you can have humility.




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