Friday, February 22, 2008

Christ, Our Life

Here is a man suffering on his bed of pain and the Church comes to him to perform the sacrament of healing. For this man, as for every man in the whole world, suffering can be defeat, the way of complete surrender to darkness, despair and solitude. It can by dying in the very real sense of the word. And yet it can be also the ultimate victory of Man and of Life in him. The Church does not come to restore health in this man, simply to replace the medicine when medicine has exhausted its own possibilities. The Church comes to take this man into the Love, the Light and the Life of Christ. It comes not merely to "comfort" him in his sufferings, not to "help" him, but to make him a martyr, a witness to Christ in his very sufferings. A martyr is one who beholds "the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). A martyr is one for whom God is not another -- and the last -- chance to stop the awful pain; God is his very life, and thus everything in his life comes to God, and ascends to the fullness of Love.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crewtwood, NY, 1995), p. 103.

(But of course the church does also pray for the healing of this person, and healings do happen...)