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.
We know that Christianity is mainly a therapeutic science, and the Church is rightly called a hospital. This would make our priests doctors and us their patients.
These priest-doctors work through sacraments like confession, the Eucharist, worship, and counsel in order to help work healing in us.
One thing I liked from Metropolitan Hierotheos, was his explanation that confession is not simply a way to avoid God’s wrath, and that it magically solves everything. Rather he compared it to Moses leading the people out of Egypt.
Confession allows the priest to understand the journey the sick person must go through, and then the priest provides guidance into the Promised Land. This journey can’t be done by the priest, it has to be done by the sick individual, and this journey requires work on our part.
Hierotheos also quoted St. Symeon who spoke about his own spiritual father,
He came down and found me to be a slave and a stranger and he said: Come my child, I will take you towards God! He brought me close, he clasped me tight and again he kissed me with a holy kiss and there was a scent of immortality all about him. I believed, I loved to go with him and I longed to serve him alone. He took me by the hand and walked before me and in this way we began to travel the road. Come I said, my lord, I will not part from you, I will not disobey your commands, but will keep them all.
Confession is also important for our priests. How can they heal others if they have not yet been healed themselves?
I like that Metropolitan Hierotheos starts with the sacrament of confession. I need to know that my spiritual father has gone through the same cleansing process that I will be going through, because it will be a difficult journey and I need someone who can guide me along the way.
Hierotheos then lays out some prerequisites for priests; and an important point is a reminder that it is the Holy Trinity that accomplishes the cure, the priest is simply a servant the Trinity uses.
- Must already have the Holy Spirit within them. This is not a role for novices.
- Must be blameless or have been purified.
- Must safeguard the purity of the priesthood.