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Keynote Address - On Pain and Suffering

OCAMPR 2016 - On Pain and Suffering

With the theme “On Pain and Suffering” the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion conference was held November 3-5, 2016 on the campus of Holy Cross/Hellenic College in Brookline, MA. OCAMPR exists to facilitate Orthodox Christian fellowship, dialogue and education of professionals in religion, psychology and medicine.

These 27 lectures, workshops, and papers were recorded by Ancient Faith Radio in partnership with OCAMPR and are made available here for free access and download. All of the talks are in audio format but In some cases a video version is provided as a way of showing the slides associated with the talk.

November 2016

Keynote Address - On Pain and Suffering

The Right Reverend Dr. Alexander (Golitzin) is Bishop of Dallas, the South, and the Bulgarian Diocese, Orthodox Church in America.

November 9, 2016 Length: 55:20

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Gayle Woloschak, Ph.D., D.Min.: My next task is a joyful task. I get to introduce tonight’s keynote speaker. I’ll give you a little bit of his formal background, and then I’ll say a little bit more about him. Our keynote speaker this evening is His Grace Bishop Alexander. He is the Bishop of Dallas, the South, and Bulgarian Diocese; he’s in the OCA. He has his Master of Divinity from the other competitive school, St. Vladimir’s Seminary. [Laughter] He pursued his doctoral studies at Oxford, so he was at Oxford [and] worked with Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), got his Doctorate of Philosophy. He then became a deacon, he then was ordained to the priesthood, and finally was tonsured a monk.

Where I got to know him was where he was at Marquette University. He was a professor there for a number of years. He became full professor, he wrote many books, is really a well-known, noted scholar. Where I first met him was when he was at Marquette. We had an interaction going on between some of the scholars in Chicago and some at Marquette, and he would often come down and tell us some of the things that he was working on. Really fascinating. He’s published a number of books that are some of the best. I really recommend them to you; they’re incredible.

He was finally consecrated as Bishop of Toledo in 2012. He was elected to fill the vacancy of the Diocese of the South, so he tells me he has 20-some states under his omophor, so he clearly has a lot of responsibility. We’re really happy that he was able to take the time out to come and be with us tonight and talk with us. So with that, I’d like to welcome His Grace Bishop Alexander. [Applause]

The Right Reverend Dr. Alexander (Golitzin) of Dallas, the South, and the Bulgarian Diocese: When I was a young man—regarding Gayle’s introduction—and 21 states… Can I talk into this, or does this work? This works better.

When I was a young man, I wanted to be a bishop. [Laughter] It seemed pretty splendid, and I remember the old priest that I was made deacon for—the old Latvian priest—catching me eyeing the bishop’s mandiyas once and saying, “Well, every private dreams of being a general.” [Laughter] And then, years and years later, when I was professor at Marquette and sitting in my study at my apartment, surrounded by my books and my notes and blissfully happy, this occurred to me. I thought, “Alexander, what were you thinking?” [Laughter] “What are the three things in life that you really loathe, detest? They are the telephone (to which I would now add email), travel, and meetings.” [Laughter] And tell me, what else is the life of a bishop? [Laughter] And the second one is a peculiar curse now. Now to today’s topic, speaking of, if not curses, then at least problems.

There is no greater problem in Christian theology than the question of theodicy. You’re all aware, I’m sure, or you’ve heard the word “gnostic.” That refers to an ancient Christian movement or movements—nobody’s quite sure any more, and some scholars doubt the utility of that term—but still, I’ll go with the older version. A characteristic of this movement, or movements, or whatever they were, was a conclusion based on experience, that is, the experience of the world as wretched, as suffering, as misery, as unrequited pain, reasonless, unthinking misery, and the conclusion they drew was that the author of this misery could not possibly be the same as the Father of Jesus Christ. So they ended up with two gods, as it were: a nasty demi-urge that made the current horrors that we see all round us, and then the good God, beyond the circles of the material earth, whom Jesus comes [from] to bring us back to.

Now that is not a clearly Christian orthodoxy. And the ancient bishops fought tooth and nail against this movement, to insist that the Creator of the world and the Father of Jesus Messiah are one and the same. But that left the problem that the Gnostics had rightly perceived. The world is a crying horror, a basket of misery, and how do you reconcile that fact, that fact of experience, which I’m sure many of you have had, especially as physicians, psychologists, and pastors. I was particularly moved by this year’s theme by the recollection of an old, old, old friend. We’ve known each other since first grade and before. She’s Greek, by the way, and it was her brother who was my oldest friend who recently died, but both families became acquainted and fond of each other. She’s a physician and for some time worked at the children’s ward in the oncology section of her local hospital until she could not bear it any longer. All those little bald heads, the eyes full of uncomprehending pain, and she couldn’t take it after several years—I fully understood—and became a psychiatrist. Child psychology, but a psychiatrist.

So, remembering her experience, I thought: Well, how can we address this theologically? What is the answer in the scriptural tradition? First of all, to make a short answer is: There isn’t. There is no logical or philosophical, philosophically satisfying reply to this question. Any number have been essayed. Books—libraries have been written, poems constructed—Milton’s Paradise Lost—to justify the works of God to man. But none of them really work. They all have holes you can drive a truck through. So what are we to do?

I would propose that tradition, as evidenced in holy Scripture, offers us two replies, two profound replies: one in the Hebrew Scriptures, and then all the New Testament is about the Christian reply. Let me begin with the Hebrew Scriptures, specifically with the book of Job, which is perhaps the most profound—not perhaps: it is the most profound meditation on this question to be found in ancient literature. You might remember the book? It starts with a bet. Satan, who at this period is less the devil we know than the kind of prosecuting attorney, says, “They’re all crummy, and they’re all out for their own good.” God says, “You see my servant Job? Hey, he’s pretty good.” “Ha! Ha!” says Satan. “Touch his family and he’ll curse you to your face.” So God says, “Okay, take his family out.” And Satan does. “Take his money out.” Satan does. And Job blesses God and says, “What he has given, he has taken away.”

So God says, “See? I win.” Satan says, “Ah-ah! Touch his flesh. Make him physically miserable. Then he’ll curse you.” Then God says, “Okay,” and covers him with boils from head to toe, makes him a stench and an abomination. We see him scraping at his running sores with potsherds, sitting on a dung-heap, and his wife’s saying, “For God’s sake, just curse the bugger and die, will you?” [Laughter] He says, “Nope, nope. Nope, nope.”

And then that’s the kind of prologue, of course, and then the rest of the book until the very end—which I’ll come to because that’s where the profundity, as it were, emerges—most of the book is devoted to a series of friends—so-called: such friends, you don’t need enemies—who come and say, “Look, you must have done something really awful for this to happen to you, because God is just.” Of course, in the background is the theology of Deuteronomy in particular: If you do good, God will bless you and give you the outdoor barbecue and the three-car garage and whatnot, and if you are bad you will suffer; you disobey the commandments you will die. Of course, we all know that the reality is much the opposite.

Job, in a way, is a polemic against this shallow theology, let alone the prosperity gospel that some of the televangelists are pushing. I don’t know how they pulled that out of the New Testament, but people are infinitely creative. [Laughter] So this series of friends come and argue with him for the bulk of the book, as I said: “You must have done something, otherwise this couldn’t have happened to a just man.” And Job refutes them one after the other.

But finally toward the end of the book he does kind of weaken and in effect say, “Why? Why? Why has this happened?” And here’s the beginning of God’s own answer, and it’s not one that immediately provokes sympathy and agreement. This is chapter 38.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man. I’ll question you and you shall declare to me: Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know. Who stretched the land upon it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid the cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

And it goes on like this for a couple of chapters. Basically: What the hell do you know? You’re just a man, yes? And I’m God and you can’t figure it. And the initial response, I think, for a fair-minded person—I don’t know if any of you know the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett? [Sounds of agreement] Well, I’m a great fan, too, but I saw him on an interview, a YouTube interview, and the question of God came up, and he referred to the God of the Old Testament as a raving lunatic. A good Gnostic answer, you could say. But this fits! This fits that description; it seems to. This is a bully. Here’s God the Creator: Where were you? What do you know, dummy? You’re just a little thing; I’m the Creator.

As I said, it goes on for a couple of chapters, but the profound part comes at the very end. Because to this apparent bullying, here is Job’s answer.

Then Job answered the Lord, “I know you can do all things, and no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have spoken what I did not understand, things too wonderful which I didn’t know. Hear, and I will speak. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you and therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Now that’s extraordinary. What? And you think: What? What!? What’s he got to repent? The whole book’s about his righteousness, yes? He unfailingly defends God’s honor and his own before his friends. He defends truth. He appears wholly the wronged, yes? The innocent sufferer, the object of a bet. And yet he says, “I repent in dust and ashes. I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

Here one might think of—who was it who said, “Before God, all our righteousness is rags and dust”? [Isaiah 64:6] Well, that’s true. What’s the answer? This is the answer to the innocent sufferer. What is the answer? Because it’s not spoken; it’s not articulated as an answer answer, the kinds of answers we’re usually looking for when we ask questions, yes? The answer is the vision. He sees God and knows. We don’t know what he knows, yes? Because he’s seen God and we haven’t. But he sees God and repents. The answer is in the vision, the experience of God.

I am reminded of several things, but one of them is the close of Eliot’s Four Quartets, when he quotes Dame Julian of Norwich: “And all shall be well, and all manner of [thing] shall be well,” but we don’t know how. We trust that in God all will be made right, and we don’t know how. I think Job is a fundamental clue to that.

Then, of course, the second profound answer is the revelation of Messiah Jesus, where again we encounter a mass of, if not contradictions, then at the least paradoxes. The paradoxes speak to our problem, our question. “Messiah” itself is a title—it means “anointed,” hence its rendering into Greek as Christos from chrio, to anoint, so in Hebrew meshach; maybe I’m doing the Syriac; I can’t remember: different syllables, different accents, but it’s the same word: shach: anointed, or “buttered,” you could even say—because the kings of Israel were anointed, as David by Samuel in 1 Samuel 16 has the horn of oil poured over him. He is the meshach, the anointed. The Lord and his Christ in the Psalms, it means the king: the Lord and his king, the anointed king.

The title is a royal one, therefore, and yet Jesus’ life is obviously most unroyal. He’s born in a stable, according to Luke. Luke, by the way, is the gospel of the oppressed and the poor and the outcast. I don’t know how a Republican can read it. [Laughter] Sorry. [Laughter] “Woe to you, rich!” Yes, that’s in the Lukan Beatitudes. He’s born in a stable, and I think maybe that fact, that reality is hidden a bit by our use in English of “manger.” We think “manger,” we think something kind of cute: little plaster Josephs and hay and angels and things, but it just meant stable, yes? A stable is where horses poop, yes? And pee. One of Hercules’ great tasks, if you recall, was to clean out a particularly nasty stable, and that was by diverting a river. [Laughter]

And this is where Messiah is born, the King, yes? On a stable floor. They must have cleared away a bit of the filth, but… And how does he die? He dies as a criminal, naked, beaten till the bones show—that was the Roman knout, made especially to tear the flesh—abandoned, and mocked. St. Paul puts it well; he might actually be quoting, in [Philippians 2], sort of the whole thing in a nutshell. He is commending humility among his Philippians who are apparently not.

Have this in mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God didn’t count equality with God a thing to be held onto, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being found in the likeness of men, and humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

The self-emptying of God… This, by the way, in connection with humility, which would take me down a slightly different path, where I’d like to go but we haven’t the time… I will note, though, that when the Aramaic comes to translate that word, the Syriac Bible, it renders the Greek “empty” with the Syriac “strip”: he strips himself and is found in likeness of a servant. (Oh, more water! Good Lord! I’ll be floating. [Laughter]) And just a further note—I can’t resist; sorry, it’s the pedant in me—the root of that word for that Syriac rendering of “empty,” the Greek kenoō, in noun form, becomes the technical term for Christian asceticism for the monks: msarrqûtâ. What the monk is doing is imitating the emptying of God, yes?

But to our point, this emptying has a fundamental and profound significance. It is another non-answer answer, in the sense that this isn’t philosophy now. This is the reply that God, God’s self, enters into the depths of innocent pain and loss. And God, God’s self, makes that part of God’s self. We think, of course, the crucifixion only lasted three hours, then he’s dead. Sixth hour to ninth hour; noon to three. But then we’re talking about God, right? God in the flesh. Slain, as the book of revelations has it, slain from before the foundations of the world, of the universe, which is to say it is made part—this is the paradox, again, of Christianity, one of the paradoxes—it is made part of God’s eternal being. It is not momentary; it is forever, and he is depicted with the wounds still in his hands, as at the resurrection in Luke and John. “Put your finger in the print of the nails, and your hand into my side.”

That means to our sufferers, and to us when we face ourselves the moment of pain that will only have a bad ending, that God himself is there in that pain, in that moment. God himself has made it God’s own, and in it, if we are open to it, we may meet him.

In fact, the spiritual tradition of the Church, the old men often said, “You know, suffering is good for you,” and they didn’t mean it like it’s understood: “Oh, suffering is good for you; it builds character.” No, they didn’t mean it that way, I don’t think. They meant, I think, something like this. No, it’s to break you down into something like this self-emptying of God, to break you down to open you to the divine presence, to disabuse you of belief in your own strength and independence, of your own autonomy. In that sense, and in that sense only—pain itself is only an evil—well, obviously an evil subjectively; of course it’s important for the body that you don’t touch the stove and you don’t damage your flesh irreparably. But subjectively it is an unquestioned thing that we’d prefer to avoid.

In particular, I began with a notion of innocent suffering, and that, as Alyosha says to Ivan Karamazov, in perhaps the most searing portrait, that of Ivan’s, of innocent suffering, the most searing portrait that exists in literature (that I’m aware of), Alyosha replies, “But Christ is innocent, too.” To which Ivan has no answer—and that’s my answer. Job, and then Christ. As I repeat, as I said before, it is a non-answer answer. It’s not an answer that will satisfy the philosopher or Terry Pratchett, God rest him, or others, but I find it satisfying. I rest in it, as I rest in faith, that all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well, in Christ.

I think I’m done. [Applause]

Dr. Woloschak: Can we have some questions?

Bishop Alexander: Sure!

Q1: Hi. Thank you very much. I love it that you talked about Job as a polemic, and I’m wondering if you would comment at all on Job 3, where Job actually goes to the—in my opinion—to the very edge of cursing God, because he calls for a reversal of the night that he was born, he calls basically for a reversal of creation, I think.

Bishop Alexander: “Let me be dead”?

Q1: Yeah, yeah, and I was wondering if you could…

Bishop Alexander: No, I don’t have a comment. [Laughter] I have a lot of sympathy, but I don’t have a comment, I’m afraid.

Q1: Okay. Thank you.

Bishop Alexander: Sorry.

Q2: Just a comment, and I don’t know if you want to comment on this, but your question and what you said reminds me of Fr. George Calciu, responding about how often he was speaking so badly that he would betray Christ in his words just to stop it, and then he said that there were times during the week, sometimes once or twice a week, where the sweetest time of his life was the forgiveness he received from Christ for that. I think that that somehow is connected as an example within this.

Bishop Alexander: That reminds me of the story I heard from Fr. Roman Braga, one of our American staretsi—Romanian. He was, I think, some years in solitary in prison in Romania. Years! The dark and the cold and no one to talk to. When they came to take him out, he told us, finally, he kissed the floor of his cell. He said, “Because it has taught me everything.” I don’t know if that’s precisely related, but I guess it is, in the sense that here suffering works to educate in a way that is more than simply superficial but profound. One could see it in him, a kind of glow.

Q3: Thank you, Your Grace. That was very interesting and helpful. That helps us, I think, understand our suffering and pain. Many of us here are healers—physicians, nurses, social workers—people who work with people who do have pain and suffering. How can we help them, other than giving them medicine-things. Is there some way that the things you’re mentioning—can we use that to help the pain and suffering of those that we’re caring for? Does that make sense to you?

Bishop Alexander: Yeah, I think the last thing you should do is preach at them. No, I think the deepest communication with others comes not through words. Words are important, and I made my living talking, right? And I was an English major, like Garrison Keillor. I’m all for words, but… Well, let me give you an example from my own life, unrelated to suffering, but about education.

For one year I lived, by invitation of its abbot, at an Athonite monastery, and that year changed my life. I wouldn’t have written my dissertation without that. I wouldn’t be here now, doubtless, in this position, with its telephones and travel and meetings. But this abbot influenced me fundamentally. I am convinced to this day that he is a modern Father of the Church. And here’s the curious thing. I read now his talks that were tape-recorded and then transcribed, and I think: That’s what I’m after in my academic work, or when I did academic work. That’s what I want to put across, of course with footnotes and all the other apparatus of the academic.

But here’s the odd thing: I do not remember a single thing he said to me theologically. Not one thing. I remember rebukes, vividly. They were never harsh, by the way, and they never hurt at the time. An example within an example: I’m at the monastery for a couple of months. To beginners in Greek they would give the post-Communion prayers to read after Liturgy, so I am there at the end of Liturgy one Sunday and reading. I’m thinking to myself, “Ah, Alexander, that’s not bad. Got a good accent, fluent.” And he comes up. He’s there about to process into the refectory, splendiferous of an Athonite abbot, and he comes up cloaked in the purple of the mandiyas and just beaming ear-to-ear like the sun coming out. That smile, and he says to me, “Alexander,” he says, “you read beautifully, like a Greek. Now study to be a Christian.” [Laughter] And the smile was so huge that I didn’t feel any pain until about 20 minutes later when over the meal I notice I am bleeding. Where’d that come from? It still didn’t hurt, but I remember it. I remember it.

So theologically he shaped me. I am his… but he never, ever forced it on me. He never, ever beat it into me with words. Yes? It was just in what he did, how he did it, how he shaped his monastery, what he insisted on as its fundamental aspects, its rhythms. That was the source of my theological inspiration. And then, surprise, surprise, like when you’re walking on a street and you pass a department store window and you see out of the corner of your eye your reflection and you see your father, yes? That was how I felt when I read his talks years later. Well, there it is.

So that’s how we affect people most profoundly: by what we do, how we behave, and how, also, we preach Christ most effectively. We can’t enter into their pain. We can’t make it ours as he does, but we can show at the least in our actions that our heart’s with them. I think that’s the best we can do.

Q4: Dr. John gave the identical question I had, and I think the answer is in your delivery as you gave to us a spell-binding talk, and I hope that maybe we can follow your lead and do that with our patients. Again, without being preachy. That’s the hard part. That’s the dilemma. That’s why we’re here.

Bishop Alexander: Never be preachy. It’s death; it’s just death.

Q4: But thank you for showing us through your talk how to be with our patients.

Q5: Vladyka, on that last point that you said: We can never enter into somebody’s pain? In caregiving positions, sometimes we use the concept of empathy…

Bishop Alexander: Empathy, of course.

Q5: Maybe you can tell a little bit of what you mean when you say you cannot enter somebody’s pain as opposed to…

Bishop Alexander: I mean it’s not ours. Something very simple: It’s not ours. We are not they. We can never enter into another human being. They are a mystery, yes? Each one. The rabbis put it in a kind of negative way, a negative phrasing of the golden rule, for example, but I think nonetheless very profound and very patristic: Whoever slays a man slays a world. Each of us is a world, a universe, and we can’t enter into that. We can empathize altogether, of course; that’s incumbent on us to cultivate, to cultivate the springs of empathy, but entering into another’s pain we cannot do, as we cannot enter his or her world, a world which is he or she.

Q6: I wonder… You haven’t used the word “love” yet… You’ve talked around it somehow, and I wonder if you have anything to say about that as another kind of response to the question of how do we help the other?

Bishop Alexander: I suppose I’m a little chary of that word because it has so many false connotations to it and associations from sexual romance to a kind of sentimentality that is the antithesis of spiritual perception. But of course it’s a scriptural word, right? “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that it may live.” So it is all about love, but the love which is not sentiment. Here the ancient Fathers and the monastic tradition generally have a very useful word, though it’s not immediately comprehensible, as a kind of pole, love as a double-faceted—at least double-faceted—thing in the spiritual literature of the Church. (Sorry. The microphone; I keep forgetting.) ...the spiritual literature of the Church, a double thing.

The other unvoiced pole is what they called apatheia, which sounds awful. Of course, it’s not “apathy,” as the English rendering, but also “passionlessness” doesn’t sound especially exciting either. But what it means ultimately is a freedom, a freeing of the human spirit to love with God’s love which shines on just and unjust alike, which is like the sun, as our Lord says in the gospels, like the sun. That’s, again, something whose meaning I came to understand with that abbot, because God’s love was obvious, the pouring-out of him, but it wasn’t a sentimental, it wasn’t an attaching or an investing love, yes? It was just there, like the sun. So that’s why I’m careful with that word. I will use other expressions, but I have to go into, as I just did, a whole kind of theological song-and-dance, if you will, to explain how I think it ought to be used, or what it means at least in the Christian tradition.

Q7: Your Grace, I just want to express my own gratitude for the style—for lack of a better word, silence—within your words now, as was said, the manner of your speaking. Downstairs when we met an hour and a half ago, I said to you, “I will say a prayer for you,” and you said, “Oh, I’m just going to talk off the top of my head.” From my point of view, you talked off the top of your heart, and I’m very grateful for that.

I also would like to expand just a little on the wonderful comment from Fr. Roman Braga. How can a guy get that and kiss the floor of his cell? Well, I happened to have a little intimate conversation with him when I was giving a retreat there one year, and he said to me, “Al, you know, they came and they took all of the priests and the teachers, and they decided that they would render them impotent by putting them in cells alone—no books, nobody else to talk to: go crazy.” And many did. And he was there, whatever years it was, five years, however many it was. He said, “However, I went into my inner universe.” And when he said, “inner universe,” for me it was like he said, “Let me tell you what it’s like to walk on the moon,” like he was someplace I knew I had never been and was never going to get to. So his time in his cell prompted him, gave him opportunity to go into his inner universe so that when he was freed he could kiss the floor for the locale. Thank you.

Bishop Alexander: There are wonderful lines about that in the Macarian homilies, these wonderful monastic exhortations from the late fourth century, whose author we don’t know his name; he was a Mesopotamian of some kind. But I’m thinking in what you said of one passage where he talks about the heart as a universe, yes? Where the angels are and the demons are, where God is and the devil, where is everything. Where there is everything. With Christ, he adds later on; everything is within.

I think he had in mind several things, and I won’t go into them now. That’s another lecture. But one of them is this, what you mentioned. Okay, anyone else?

Q8: Could you speak a little bit about the place of sorrow within suffering and the place of sorrow within Christianity, and then how we are supposed to be in times of sorrow?

Bishop Alexander: Okay. There’s an important book. Well, it’s kind of [an] academic book, but still good, by a Roman Catholic scholar of Eastern Christianity, the late Fr. Irénée Hausherr, who did a huge amount of work for the Eastern Christian patrimony. He said a couple of silly things along the way, but he regretted it in later life. The book is called Penthos (sorrow or grief). Now on the one hand “sorrow” is one translation for one of the deadly sins that Evagrius of Pontus lists: the eight thoughts. One of them is lypē or sorrow.

There’s a godly grief and a godly sorrow, and an ungodly sorrow in the tradition. Now, the ungodly one is, I think, easier to get. That has a lot of self involved in it, self-pity. Remember, he’s writing in—you wouldn’t know; why would you? who Evagrius was, but some of you might—but he was writing for other anchorites, actually; not just monks, but anchorites. So he was talking about that sorrow, that self-pity, that comes when the anchorite is sitting in his cell and it’s 125 outside, and he’s plaiting his palm-leaves for the umpty-umpty-umpty-umpty-umpty-umpty-umptiumth time, and he’s thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? Why am I here? What have I done with my life? It’s gone!” That.

Penthos, on the other hand… Well, maybe it could also be translated, rendered maybe as something of contrition? The piercing, yes? The piercing of the heart’s complacency. That’s not, I think, what you were asking about, though. You were asking about grief? [Unintelligible] I am? Okay, okay.

There’s a godly sorrow which is, as, I think it was, Barsanuphios, the old man of Gaza… You know there were Christians in Gaza, right? Fifth century. Great saints. Barsanuphios, John the Recluse. And the most astounding answers to spiritual questions, but I think Bishop Kallistos is translating. Someone has. I’ve seen some of them. He says the only thing that merits our tears is paradise lost, and that’s part of the contrition, yes? that piercing moment which begins the turning of the heart to God, a turning which is metanoia, change of mind, change of attitude, change of direction. There is no healing without repentance.

Again, somebody might mention that to our politicians. [Laughter] All of them. When they talk about our country as if it’s indefectible and infallible and immaculate.

There’s no healing without repentance, and that’s common to both the rabbis and the Fathers, to the sages and the Fathers. Both of them say, actually, Irenaeus and the contemporary rabbis: “If Adam had just repented…” And he didn’t; that’s part of the point of the story. He didn’t. In fact, he did worse than not repent. He blamed God. “The woman you gave me”—your fault.

Okay. That all?

Dr. Woloschak: Thank you, Your Grace. [Applause] Thank you so much, Your Grace.


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