Holy Fathers on Illnesses

Photo: Orthodoxy in Tartarstan. Photo: Orthodoxy in Tartarstan.     

Sicknesses are sent by God for the health of the soul.—St. Isaac the Syrian.

Spiritual wisdom teaches that sicknesses and other sorrows that God sends to people are sent out of God’s special mercy as bitter medicine. Healing cures for the sick, they cooperate in our salvation, our eternal well-being, much more surely than miraculous healings.—St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)

Although sickness enfeebles the body, it strengthens the soul. It mortifies the body but enlivens the soul; it weakens the outer man but renews the inner. But though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). How is it renewed? It learns humility, patience, and remembrance of death and from it heartfelt repentance, prayer, disdain for the world and worldly vanity. Who will want to be proud while sick? Seeing his end approaching due to sickness, who will desire honor, glory, or riches? Who will fearlessly dare to sin when he the coming fear of God’s Judgment? When but in sickness does a man pray more fervently? O, sickness is a bitter but healing medicine! Just as salt staves off the rotting of meat and fish… so does sickness preserve our spirit from sinful rottenness and corruption and does not allow the passions… to be generated in us.—St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.

Sickness and poverty humble a man to the finish. I came to sick Fr. S-n and said, “How are you?” But he was upset with his sickness and in place of an answer threw his cap on the floor. I said to him, “Thank God for your illness; otherwise you’ll die badly.”—St. Silhouan of Mt. Athos.

If sickness takes ahold of you, do not be despondent or fall in spirit, but thank God that through this illness He is providing for you to receive something good through this illness.—Abba Isaiah of Sketis.

Sicknessess come from the enfeeblement of the body through satiety.—St. John Chrysostom.

Confess your infirmity to God, so that the possibility for grace would shine forth for you…—St. Nilos of Sinai.

In sickness, before the doctors and medicines we use prayer.—St. Nilos of Sinai.

If you feel that your soul is troubled by your illness, then say to it: Isn’t this illness easier than Gehenna, where you’ll go if you are not steadfast and constant in patience?.—Abba Isaiah of Sketis.

Just as we should not completely avoid the medical arts, so also should we not place all our hope in them. But just as we make use of agricultural arts but ask the Lord for fruits… so in going to the doctor when it is reasonable, we do not leave off hoping in God.—St. Basil the Great.

If you will always remember your infirmity, you will not transgress the boundaries of cautiousness.—St. Isaac the Syrian.

Know that physical illnesses are a natural quality of the body, as corruptible and material. Thus, in the case of such illnesses, the soul trained in goodness should gratefully show courage and patience, and not reproach God, saying, Why have you created the body.—St. Anthony the Great.

He Who created the soul has also created the body, and it is He Who heals the immortal soul. He can heal the body also from temporary sufferings and illnesses.—St. Macarius the Great.

Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)

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