No Pain, No Gain
I was speaking with someone recently about the influence of our ‘therapeutic culture’ on Christianity in the U.S., and especially on the ‘healing’ movements that seek quick and easy and pain free paths to the healing of wounds that have been self- or other-inflicted. We continued talking about how the Catholic and Orthodox traditions privilege ‘redemptive healing’ which places high value on the role played by the struggle and trials, suffering and laboring under grace as one freely consents to God’s healing power in bearing ‘along the way’ the crosses these wounds contain. How important it is, we thought, to see the hard struggle as part of the healing, and not as a mere delay in obtaining desired relief. My friend said, ‘We aren’t looking for relief, we’re looking for redemption.’
No Charity, No Gain
But then, so as to avoid painting a merely white-knuckled, Stoic view of healing, we turned our eyes toward the healing role of Christ-commanded charity, i.e. love of God and neighbor. We pondered the central role of the Cross in healing, and mused that it was Christ’s ‘upward and outward’ charity alone that transformed the dark brutality of His wounds into redemptive portals of healing rays. We then concluded that healing of wounds must be intimately bound up with a life lived for God-in-others, as it’s theologically true that the deepest and deadliest wound we bear — Original Sin — is only truly healed when the inwardly turned Ego ceases to be our center of gravity and God-neighbor dawns as our new heliocentric Sun.
Then came an ‘aha’ moment. We both immediately thought of Isaiah 58:6-8, and decided to call our freshly uncovered ‘theology of healing,’ i58.
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed…
This flash of insight made us think yet again (here I paraphrase our rambles), ‘Wow! This means that any healing movement in Christianity must find its ‘soul of theology’ in Catholic social teaching, which manifests what a healed humanity looks like. If we are seeking peace, we must live in what St. Augustine calls tranquillitas ordinis, the ‘tranquility of order,’ which is a life founded on the practice of justice and charity.
This truth highlighted for us that my healing always must always include in its definition your healing. How theo-logical, since all grace is always given by Our Father.’
Now, this ain’t a new insight. But it’s exciting when you find that buried treasure you didn’t realize was right beneath your feet.
Prescribing a Healing Remedy
It all reminded me afterward of a psychotherapist I knew in Pennsylvania who always wrote two prescriptions for all his patients on the first visit:
1. Make 30 minutes every day for absolutely un-distracted silence. 2. Do something for someone else every day.
He said, ‘These two did more good for them than any pill I could ever prescribe. The first exposed their wounds, the second healed them.