Revista Studii Teologice


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Boala şi suferinţa în tradiţia liturgică a Bisericii

Illness and suffering in the liturgical tradition of the Church

Autor(i): Ciprian STREZA

Illness and suffering are closely related to post-adamic human existence. To every person, they represent meaningful experiences that challenge one’s inner resources, faith and the relationship with God. Modern society, however, perceives suffering as a repugnant reality; nowadays, the industry of affluence and instant gratification has engulfed all aspects of human existence, while biological life, psychological and physical health, the pursuit of pleasure and analgesia seen as a value of civilization and goal of society – these are the ultimate values sought by man, who expects salvation from medicine and turns the physician into the new priest of modern times.
Due to the major impact of illness and suffering on human life, the Church attaches great importance to them, including them in its theologizing as well as its religious services, in order to help man understand and overcome them through communion with the crucified and resurrected Christ. Man can be healed from the afflictions of his body and soul by participating in the liturgical life of the Church and by relating these important experiences to God, as the only answer and solution to human problems. The Church also teaches man that nothing can be overcome unless it is first accepted. Thus man discovers that the meaning of suffering is that of partaking of the passions of Christ, and then suffering becomes a ladder ascending towards heaven.
The meaning of illness and suffering must be understood, so that man may accept this harsh reality of life. Thus, the Church’s rich euchological tradition concerning the healing of disease and suffering contains the entire patristic theologizing about the emergence of illness and suffering in man’s life, as well as their cure through the work of the crucified and resurrected Christ. He is the only „Doctor of bodies and souls” who, by means of the matter employed in the Holy Mysteries, touches the ailing man and grants him the healing of both body and soul.
Patristic tradition shows that by His sacrifice, our Saviour abolished the tyranny of the devil, sin and death, but did not suppress the possibility of man’s sinning and falling prey to the devil’s temptations, thus allowing human free will to choose between good and evil and strengthen communion with God. Illness and suffering remain in man’s life, as consequences of his sin, even after the Resurrection; however they acquire a new meaning, because they are no longer punishments but instruments of divine pedagogy, by which man becomes closer to God and his faith is strengthened.
As early as the apostolic times, the Church imbued its prayers for the sick with the hope of resurrection and eternal life, relating any prayer for the sick to the celebration of the Holy Liturgy. The eucharistic gathering (synaxis) has been, since the very beginnings, the core of Christian worship, onto which were grafted all the sacramental works of the Church. The Holy Mysteries have always been celebrated within the Holy Liturgy, in full awareness of the invisible presence and agency of Christ through them. The Church celebrated a single extended Liturgy by which man’s entire life was called to saintliness and partaking of the grace of the Kingdom.
In the Mystey of Holy Unction, the prayers for the sick do not necessarily require bodily healing and good health, but rather the ailing person is entrusted to the mercy and care of God, who in His providence knows all that one needs for acquiring eternal bliss and salvation. This is why the early Church celebrated this Holy Mystery together with the Mysteries of Penance and Eucharist, with a common goal: man’s sanctification as body and soul, by partaking of the pure life of Christ. The hardships allowed by God, illness, suffering, afflictions, become signs of „divine visitation”, of God’s attention and care. By participating in the dynamics of Christ’s life, by reiterating the Savious’ life sacramentally, ethically and ascetically, every Christian may state together with the Apostle to the gentiles: „Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Col 1,24).
To any Christian, suffering is an occasion to deepen his communion with Christ, for our Saviour ceaselessly assumes the pain and suffering of all people, to the end of times, as sufferings of his mystic Body; thus He becomes even closer to the human soul thirsting for salvation and the bliss of eteral life. Thus the Mystery of the Holy Unction should not be perceived as a „thaumaturgical”, magical or medical act, but rather as a living way of coming into contact with Christ, Who imparts His life to the members of His Body, to strengthen their communion with Himself.

Pagini: 47-66