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On Illness


Being that we are now in the season of colds and influenza, I felt it proper to reiterate the position of many of the holy fathers regarding illness and its spiritual benefit. Today's example is from our dear St. Seraphim of Sarov.

The body is the slave, while the soul is the sovereign. Therefore it often happens that by God’s mercy the body becomes exhausted by illnesses and the passions become weaker. As the result of this one comes to one’s senses. In addition, an illness itself is sometimes caused by some passion or other. Remove sin and there will be no more illnesses : they affect us because of our sins, as Saint Basil the Great states. ‘Where does the disease come from? What causes the injuries of the body? The Lord created the body, not the disease; He created the soul and not the sin. What is then the most useful and necessary thing for us? Union with God and contact with Him through love. When we lose this love we fall away from Him, and when we have fallen away from Him, we undergo various and divers diseases (On the notion that God is not the cause of evil.). If one endures one’s illness patiently and gratefully, then it is regarded to him as a feat, and even more than a feat. An elder who suffered from dropsy, said once to his brethren who visited him having a wish to apply to him one or another medical treatment: ‘I beseech you, fathers, to pray for my inner man, so that he would not undergo such an illness. With regard to my physical suffering I pray to God that He would not free me from it too soon, for ‘though our outer man perish, yet the inner man is renewed.’ (2 Cor. 4, 16)

Life and Teaching of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. Translated by Nicholas Puretzki 1903

St. Seraphim, pray for us!

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