Mission of Christianity: Therapy

Current Study: Orthodox Psychotherapy: The science of the Fathers by Metropolitan Hierotheos
I am undertaking a new book and discussing it here as I read it.
When I finished reading Chapter 1 Section 1, I wanted to just copy and paste the entire thing as my blog. I can already tell this book is going to be significant in my own journey. Again if there is any error in what I have written below, please take it as my own misunderstanding of Metropolitan Hierotheos and do not count it against him. Also, forgive any rambling that may occur.
I want to start with a quote from this chapter that really stuck out to me.

“Faith in Christ without undergoing healing in Christ is not faith at all.”

~ John Romanides

Since I entered the Orthodox Church, I have been told that it is a hospital. Father Phil loves to say this phrase during his homilies and at Bible Study. Why? Because so often I think we forget that we are not perfect people who have it figured out.
If the Church is a hospital, who are its people? We are both the sick and the physicians at different times and sometimes at the same time.
Christ is the Great Physician. The story of the Good Samaritan symbolizes Christ. Though the injured man was passed by “good church people”, it was the Samaritan who helped him.

“So the work of the Church is therapeutic. It seeks to heal men’s sicknesses, mainly those of the soul, which torment them.”

What a powerful image. This made me stop and consider every way I had ever imagined the church’s responsibility. I had seen it previously as primarily a work of salvation, “go and make disciples”. The words of Hierotheos struck a chord in me, our primarily role in the world is therapy.
There is a Greek term, “nous”. It is considered to be the highest level of intellectual capacity, but when used by many church fathers, it is also known as the “eye of the soul”. Orthodox believe that a person’s nous has been clouded by the fall.

Man fell from the heavenly state to the state of the devil’s deception and needs Christs healing, which is received through the church

How does this all relate to Metropolitan Hierotheos’ work?

Because our nous has been darkened, we are in need of healing. This healing, according to Hierotheos, is found in the church.

Why Christianity over other religions?

What is religion?

Though this is simplifying Metropolitan Hierotheos’ words, religion can be summed up one of two ways:

  1. There is a wall of separation between God and man, and religion helps man scale that wall to reach God.
  2. Man feels powerless in the universe and needs a mighty God to help him, man creates God.

Though there are many Christians and churches who definitely fall into one of those two summations, Metropolitan Hierotheos argues that “Christianity is higher. God is not a demanding God, or a fabricated God, but a Living Person in organic communion with man… Orthodoxy is not the ‘opium of the masses’, because it does not postpone the problem.”

What is the problem?

Our nous has been darkened. What darkens our nous?

Sin.

Maybe its depression, (affects 350 million people world wide, according to WHO).
Maybe its anger.
Maybe its lust.
Maybe its one of numerous vices that man falls victim to.

We all have something that darkens our nous. We all are in need of healing. For me, a large part of my own healing is from depression. I am one of those 350 million people.

“Orthodoxy offers: life, transforms biological life, sanctifies and transforms societies.” Of course that occurs when Orthodoxy is lived in the right way in the Holy Spirit and in communion with God.

But Orthodox Churches are full of sinners!

Yes, and because our churches are filled with sinners, we are going to find sick people within its walls. But that is why the church exists. It is a hospital. And the healthy do not go to the hospital.

Christianity is not philosophy or religion, but therapy. The church helps to heal a person’s passions that they may attain communion and union with God. I know that I am in deep need of therapy. Because I’m not okay. and it’s okay to admit that.

Our spiritual lives are a dynamic journey. It begins with a purified image at baptism and continues with ascetic living aimed at theosis.

The Patristic tradition is neither a social philosophy nor an ethical system, nor is it religious dogmation; it is a therapeutic treatment. In this respect it closely resembles medicine, especially psychiatry.  ~ John Romanides

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