Christ is in our midst, my dear readers!
Today (June 27) at the divine services we heard the words of Apostle James, which are read during Unction for the sick: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (Jas. 5:16). On the one hand, illnesses are understood in the Church as a punishment for sin. Death and suffering are ancient penances placed upon us by God. On the other hand, we know that there are no uncrucified people in heaven.
Some of the most widespread crosses, which open for us the gates of paradise are sorrows and sicknesses. St. Ambrose of Optina, who himself suffered greatly from various illnesses, said that “a monk doesn’t need to be cured [of illnesses], but only treated [for them]. That is, to always remain in a state of slow-burning illness, so that the soul would be “boiled out”, cleansed from passions. St. Porphyrios the Kapsokalvite suffered terribly from cancer of the cerebellum, eczema all over his face, hernias, and other illnesses. But he never complained and only thanked God. St. Paisius the Athonite rejoiced when he found out that he had cancer. After all, he himself had asked God to send him that disease, because it is the best teacher of humility.
We do not have such strength of spirit and courage that we could follow the example of these great saints. But we should at least understand that God does not send us something for no reason. He does not punish us with sickness, but to the contrary, heals our souls with them. Apostle James calls us to not be ashamed to confess our mistakes before other people. This is not weakness, but testimony to maturity of soul. He also talks about the power of prayer, which can change not only the earthly but also the heavenly lot of a person’s soul. But in order for this to happen, those who pray need to raise their prays to God from their whole soul. And so that the one who asks for prayers would himself repent and strive to change his life, so that his soul would become closer to God.