Monday, February 28, 2011

Learning Patience through Difficulty

St. Paul the Apostle wrote, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 5.3-5, NKJV)

 St. John Chrysostom's commentary:

  "And what he says is not 'you should glory,' but we glory, giving them encouragement in his own person. Next since what he had said had an appearance of being strange and paradoxical, if a person who is struggling in famine, and is in chains and torments, and insulted, and abused, ought to glory, he next goes on to confirm it. And (what is more), he says they are worthy of being gloried in, not only for the sake of those things to come, but for the things present in themselves. For tribulations are in their own selves a goodly thing. 

How so? It is because they anoint us unto patient abiding. Wherefore after saying we glory in tribulations, he has added the reason, in these words, 'Knowing that tribulation worketh patience.' Notice again the argumentative spirit of Paul, how he gives their argument an opposite turn. For since it was tribulations above all that made them give up the hopes of things to come, and which cast them into despondency, he says that these are the very reasons for confidingness, and for not desponding about the things to come, for 'tribulation,' he says, 'worketh patience.'

St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, NPNF:
Icon of St. John Chrystostom - public domain.

More on the Physicians of the Church

Visit the Full of Grace and Truth blog for a post including information on many of the Physicians of the Church.  The post provides an impressive list of Saints who practiced the healing arts according to the Orthodox Christian Faith and in the context of the ancient Church.  You can also look under the Holy Unmercenaries label on the same site for valuable information.  The Saints serve as role models for those in the medical field who desire to care for their patients with love and prayer and contribute to the healing of the whole person, body and soul.

Friday, February 4, 2011

St. John Chrysostom: When You Suffer, Do Not Blaspheme, but Give Thanks

"Some people, if they stumble at all, or are slandered by anyone, or fall ill with a chronic disease, gout or headache or any such ailment, at once begin to blaspheme.  They submit to the pain of the disease, but deprive themselves of the benefit.  What are you doing, man, blaspheming your benefactor, savior, protector, and guardian?  Or do you not see that you are falling down a cliff and casting yourself into the pit of final destruction?  You do not make your suffering lighter, do you, if you blaspheme?  Indeed, you aggravate it, and make your distress more grievous.  For the devil brings a multitude of misfortunes for this purpose, to lead you down into that pit.  If he sees you blaspheming he will readily increase the suffering and make it greater, so that when you are pricked you may give up once again; but is he sees you enduring bravely, and giving thanks the more to God, the more the suffering grows worse, he raises the siege at once, knowing that it will be useless to besiege you any more.  A dog sitting by the table, if it sees the person who is eating continually throwing it scraps of food from the table, stays persistently; but if stopping at the table once or twice it goes away without getting anything, it stays away thereafter, thinking that the siege is useless.  In the same way the devil continually gapes at us; if you throw to him, as to a dog, some blasphemous word, he will take it and attack you again; but if you persevere in thanksgiving, you have choked him with hunger, you have chased him away and thrown him back from you.  But, you say, you cannot keep silent when you are pricked by distress.  I certainly do not forbid you to make a sound, but give thanks instead of blasphemy, worship instead of despair.  Confess to the Lord, cry out loudly in prayer, cry out loudly glorifying God.  In this way your suffering will be lightened, because the devil will pull back from your thanksgiving and God's help will be at your side.  If you blaspheme, you have driven away God's assistance, made the devil more vehement against you, and involved yourself even more in suffering; but if you give thanks, you have driven away the plots of the evil demon, and you have drown the care of God your protector to yourself."

St. John Chrysostom, "Third Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man," On Wealth and Poverty, trans. by Catharine P. Roth (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984), 69-70.