Saturday, November 3, 2012

Met. Paul Yazigi on Suffering and Death

Arabic original here.

The Christian Confronting Suffering and Death

In the text of the Gospel [Luke 8:41-55], there are two miracles. The first is the healing of the woman with the issue of blood, which was achieved while Jesus was on the way to heal the daughter of Jairus, the chief of the synagogue. As Chrysostom says, Jesus hesitated on His way, just as He did with Lazarus, in order to raise Jairus' daughter, not from her illness, but from death. Thus the second miracle was achieved as a resurrection from the dead.

At root, illness is the beginning of death. Some philosophers say that birth is the first step towards death. Man is born into the world of corruption, that is "wearing out", and he grows in order to go back, weaken, and come to an end. All healings just delay death; they do not eliminate it. Death is the final enemy of man. It is born with man as a child, in illnesses, grows up, and finally becomes a mature master in old age. Human medicine treats illness-- it extends the years of life and delays death for a bit. But the enemy remains standing and victorious. Human hope for liberation from death is hopeless in the end. For this reason, in these two miracles there is a clear indication that the Lord Jesus is not simply an able physician or someone with the power, authority, and impressive miracles. He is the final hope in the face of the failure of every other hope. This is in regard to the question of illness and death at its most profound.

God has given us reason and intelligence so that we can face the reality of suffering and alleviate it. We build a better world, but who destroys it? Death is an inevitable destiny. Death comes to us by surprise or we go to it with firm, sure steps.

Man, without God and the reality of the Resurrection is a being whose origin is perhaps a monkey and whose end is nothingness. Christ is our hope in the face of death. He is our victory. His presence in these events, and afterwards in His glorious Resurrection and is entrance with His body and our luminous body while the doors were locked, these realities are our healing and our resurrection.

In light of this hope, we understand that birth is not the first step towards death. So we realize that life is a bridge, a passage, and an experience and that suffering in it is not final, but rather one of the shades of experience within it. Man, then, according to our hope in Christ does not die, even if we are worn out through the most difficult illnesses and infirmities, even unto death (that is, falling asleep): he shall rise.

So what is the meaning of suffering, so long as this hope of ours is alive?

First of all, suffering reminds us this condition of ours is not what we were called to. Through suffering we know that we are held hostage by the reality of our sin and through it we are called to repentance. Thus suffering is not the beginning of death, but the beginning of life. The suffering of the present age reminds us while we are here of the eternal city and the awaited eternal state of being. It strengthens our steps towards them. Suffering pushes us to escape from our laziness and to bear the responsibility of using the intellectual gifts that God has granted us, so that we can life in confrontation with the self, creatively striving against it, in order to ensure a better life.

Here Jesus did not give the woman with the issue of blood a promise of being healed. Rather, He treated her suffering as a reward for her faith. As specific cases, these healings and raising from the dead do not eliminate the general condition prevailing over all humankind. However, they indicate God's will to do away with them. We are partners with God in two things. The first is in eliminating suffering and facing death. The second is that we are His partners in the Resurrection and the hope of eternal life.

Thus we must live in earnestness, trying to improve the condition of life and alleviate suffering. In this way we contribute to realizing the divine will and preach the good news of our God's salvation and the hope of the Resurrection. Amen.

Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of Aleppo
October 29, 2012

No comments: