June 2, 2016
Spirituality and Health
Over the past years a great emphasis has been given on what has been termed as spirituality, particularly in the area of health care. The use of this term is so widely used to the point where, only too often, its meaning is incomprehensible and obscure. On the other hand, it seems to ascribe a centrality of position amongst health care professionals. The term includes the existential concerns of Man in relation to suffering and death. This type of spirituality identifies itself with the psychological support of the ill so as to give “meaning” to pain and death and provide techniques so one can deal with the difficulties of life without burden. It is not necessarily confined to a specific religious belief system and can include a wide framework of beliefs from different “religious” and “non-religious” sources of reference, borrowing teachings from Christian tradition, including elements from Buddhism and Hinduism and transcendental secular philosophies. It tries to broaden one’s sensitivities by natural and artificial stimuli. In some cases, it even condones using drugs and alcohol, so as to experience a new sense of freedom. It focuses on concentration, meditation, and contemplation as its main practices.
Because today’s spirituality is all-inclusive, it attempts to incorporate and facilitate all spiritual care workers as being one, neutralizing any differences amongst them. Thus, in our times, this type of spirituality is “practiced” with great reverence by thousands of people who will never think of going to a church or consulting a priest.
This form of spirituality has nothing in common with Orthodox spiritual life. Spiritual life cannot be limited to being a crutch or a means of attaining good health. It can neither be used to escape one’s self and the world nor a means of attaining a self-centered “well-being”. Spiritual life is the participation in Life as lived in the Eucharist within the union with Christ’s blood and body. Through it we can come to know the Truth – to know God’s true love and to know the truth of our self in relation to Him in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual life is our struggle not to allow materialism or the flesh to designate our being, our salvation and our relationships. More so, spiritual life is to lay our self as a sacrifice for our fellow man (Jn. 15:13). In worshiping God in “spirit and truth”, we rejoice in the world in acknowledging its goodness, in spite of the “brokenness” and spiritual poverty that seems to prevail. Living within the Spirit, we can detect the essential nature and vocation of Man and of all that exists.
“Thus”, As Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes, “ mutilated and deformed, bleeding and enslaved, blind and deaf, man remains the abdicated king of creation, still the object of God's infinite love and respect. And to see this, to detect this, to rejoice in this while weeping about the fall, to render thanks for this, is indeed the essential act of genuine Christian spirituality, of the "new life" in us.”