Revista Studii Teologice


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Metafizica suferinţei

The metaphysics of suffering

Autor(i): Pr. Ioan C. TEŞU

The actuality and universality of human suffering is one of the most painful truths of human existence; man’s life may be described as a constant struggle against physical and moral afflictions, hardships, suffering and pain, illness and death. In this respect opinions, beliefs, behaviours and conduct range from denial and rejection, to despair and despondency or, on the contrary, acceptance in the Christian spirit, understanding their deep significance and consequently facing and overcoming them with dignity and and spiritual loftiness. Therefore Orthodox spirituality has developed a teaching full of Christian optimism and trust in God’s assistance, which lends hardships, pain and suffering a positive and salvific quality.
A major truth stressed by the Holy Fathers of Eastern Orthodoxy, in discussing this issue and meditating upon its spiritual significance, is the fact that suffering is neither wanted nor intended by God, but has afflicted the created nature and human life as a consequence of the ancestral sin and is enhanced by personal sins. Suffering should not be sought nor asked for, but once it has entered one’s life it should be accepted or, as the God-inspired Fathers teach, one should develop a „philosophy of suffering”, that is, strive to avoid it through discernment and watchfulness, bodily and spiritual self-control; however, once we experience suffering, we should find its salvific dimension, identify its causes, and attempt to manage it or limit its effects; when this is no loger possible, we should bear it patiently hoping for the assistance and reward of our Heavenly Father.
The general purpose of all „unwanted” suffering in this life is turning from sin to virtue, from spiritual death to spiritual life. A genuine „martyrdom of consciousness”,a „school of Christian virtues” and „laboratory of salvation”, „unwanted” suffering and pain is a path towards the recovery of spiritual health, lost through the sickness and blindness, through ontological damage caused by sins and passions, as spiritual disease and forms of spiritual cancer. According to St. John Chrysostom, afflictions and hardships are „good teachers”, awakening people from their self-contentment and complacency and occasioning self-knowledge and insight, as well as the opportunity to discover God, the Supreme Healer, the Source of mercy as well as comfort for body and soul.
Orthodox spirituality also teaches us that God never allows us to suffer beyond our endurance, which means that all suffering is bearable; however the „limit of bearability” or ability to accept, stand and overcome suffering differs according to each person’s psychological structure, character and temperament, and especially spiritual beliefs. However hard and long our suffering may seem, it never goes beyond the human capacity to endure. What makes it seem easier or, on the contrary, terrifying, is our perception of it, our spiritual state accompanying it. Moreover, as St. Isaac the Syrian points out, God grants the afflicted man a special „gift” - „the spirit of grace”, proportionally with the hardships. Its results are varied and multiform: it helps us receive or accept suffering without revolt, bear it patiently, it strengthens our hope in the aid of God and our neighbours, it prompts us to repent, weep and shed spiritual tears, it enables us to hope for help and reward from our Heavenly Father; in brief, it grants the suffering man the strength of a rock before the waves of life.
Present suffering is also proportional with one’s personal sins or virtues, so that the most afflicted ones are either the most sinful or the most righteous. For the latter hardships are greater and frequent, testing their love of God and the rich spiritual world. To both the former and the latter, earthly pain and suffering are not signs of God’s punishment and „wrath” and even though they are called the „Judge’s Stick”, they prove divine love and wisdom, and express God’s all-merciful love for world and man – the king and priest of the created world, his dearest creature.
Ultimately, pain, suffering and illness may be considered enemies of our present life. Although unwanted, they enter it sooner or later, when we are not ready or prepared for such a „visit”. Once we set out together down the narrow and harsh road to salvation, we should attempt to transform suffering – if not into a friend, at least into an ally, grasping the deep salvific significance of all life events, be they good or bad, enabling us to find happiness; however, not a bodily, transient happines, but spiritual, eternal bliss.

Pagini: 25-45