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Suffering (Mystery of)

“There is a mystery in suffering – by which I mean to say that there is more to it than meets the eye. This is evident in the crucifixion of Christ. It is evident in how the tradition speaks of it. The story in Genesis, all that we call the “Fall” points to an understanding that there is something within suffering that begs for an explanation. The book of Job is perhaps the most complete example in the Old Testament that explores the topic – though it does not exhaust it or complete an explanation. In the Gospels, there is a different approach. There is no attempt to explain (even as our imagination thinks that explaining solves things). In the Gospel, we are presented with a different central point: the loss of communion with God. In the Genesis story, that loss of communion is the beginning of suffering. In the Gospels, the restoration of communion does not end suffering – it transforms it. The crucifixion gathers all suffering into one, and in that one, becomes the means of communion with all.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Sickness, suffering, and death are the inevitable result of the separation between God and humanity that took place when humanity disobeyed God’s command, when it chose to please itself rather than God. Sickness, suffering and death are the lot of all humanity in this fallen world—we all share the same fate, saint and sinner, young and old. Even Jesus Christ, who was totally without sin, shared our fate when He condescended to suffer and die – this is the very essence of the mystery of the incarnation.” (Paul Meyendorff)

“St. Ephraim the Syrian, once wrote: “Let us patiently suffer hardship, in order to avoid the hardship of empty suffering.” Because despite all the false promises of the modern world — despite even its many wonders of science and medicine and technology — nevertheless it is absolutely certain that our lives in this fallen world will always and inescapably remain full of suffering and pain and death. In fact, the modern world proves to us beyond any doubt that the more we try to insulate ourselves from external suffering, the more our inward suffering inexorably increases — eventually becoming all but impossible to bear. No, my brothers and sisters, the profound words of St. Ephraim remind us of the great truth that the choice we face is by no means whether or not to suffer, but rather whether or not our suffering will have any meaning.” (Hieromonk Gabriel)

“Man had been created to desire God, the Uncreated Source of his joy. But, in falling in love with himself he had instead begun to desire created things. Because of all this, God allowed suffering to enter the world. He did this not out of vengeance, but out of love for man, so that through suffering arising from self-love, sensual pleasure, and the resulting desire for created things, man might see through the illusion of his self-sufficiency and return to his original designation: the state of pristine simplicity and communion with the Way.” (Hieromonk Damascene Christensen)

“Suffering, our own and that of others, is an experience through which we have to live, not a theoretical problem that we can explain away. If there is an explanation, it is on a level deeper than words. Suffering cannot be “justified,” but it can be used, accepted—and, through this acceptance, transfigured.” (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware)


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