Illness and Healing in Orthodox Theology

Illness and Healing in Orthodox Theology

John Zizioulas

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The basic questions the author answers for discussion are: What, in general, is sickness, and what, specifically, is mental illness? What is therapy and what is a cure? When can we say that someone is healed or cured? What means or methods do we have at our disposal to effect treatment, as this is understood by theology? John Zizioulas provides answers to the questions based on certain fundamental principles of Orthodox theology. Among the Fathers of the Church, he turns particularly to St. Maximus the Confessor, a father of the 7th century.

For St. Maximus, the essence of sickliness is self-love. Self-love is not simply a passion: it is the root cause of all passions: If you want to be liberated from the passions, cast off the mother of the passions, self-love. The only real healing lies in the eradication of self-love, which is the root of all the passions. The only way to separate a passion from a “representation” is with love, self-restraint (i.e., self-mastery), and free will. On this point, theology can offer us some crucial principles.

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