That Church as hospital blog is right up my street. Whilst not denying any of the other understandings of the Church perhaps my own favourite emphasis is the Church as spiritual hospital. I would have directed any interested to a posting I put in the Education section of the Forum some months ago but it is now one of a number of my old postings that although still there by name have no content when I click on them, so for those who appreciate the emphasis on the Church as spiritual hospital, an extract from what I posted:
The Great Physician, at great personal cost to Himself, has provided the medicine for our healing, our salvation, even His own Body and blood. And He has founded a great spiritual hospital, the Church, where we can receive this medicine. The bishops and priests are the doctors who administer this medicine of Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ. They are not some âholier than thouâ elite though â no, these doctors also are afflicted by this same spiritual epidemic and they themselves partake of this same medicine. As well as the spiritual doctors who administer this medicine, there are also specialists who have spent years studying the spiritual life and can offer us insight into our own condition and guidance and help. Orthodox Christianity is some not isolated individualistic âme and my Godâ thing, something we can do all alone â rather it is something we do in communion with others, with the help and support of our spiritual brothers and sisters, and with the guidance and wisdom and prayers of a spiritual father.
When people learn they have a potentially fatal illness they will go to great lengths to save their lives, perhaps travelling abroad for specialist treatment. At one time people suffering from chest diseases such as consumption would go to live where the air was considered healthier and better for them. Some Christians become monks or nuns and withdraw from the world and its temptations, going to live far away as they fight this disease of sin. Whilst we might not all do that, though some of us may, we are all called to work out our salvation together with God, to make changes in our lives, to repent from our sins, to make time for prayer and to partake of the heavenly medicine.
As with all medicines it is important that we receive the body and Blood of Christ in the right way not just any old how as the fancy takes us. We want to benefit from it not to harm ourselves as can happen if we ignore the instructions for taking medicine.
If we are taking medicines for our lungs or heart or liver then along with that medicine we will be advised to adjust our lifestyle by quitting smoking, cutting out greasy fatty âjunk foodâ or abstaining from excessive alcohol â otherwise our lifestyles will counter the effect of the medicine and we may not get better but rather continue to grow worse. We may well also be advised to exercise for our health. Likewise in the spiritual life as Orthodox Christians as well as receiving the medicine of the Body and Blood of Christ we are called to practice fasting and abstinence from certain foods and we are called to pray as part of the therapeutic exercises to make us spiritually well and whole. Orthodox Christianity is not something to be enjoyed on Sundays only whilst in Church and then forgotten about the rest of the week. We must get up early enough to pray at the beginning of each day and make time to pray in the evening as well. This is a whole way of life we are talking about here.
What we are trying to do, what we are striving or struggling to do, is to be saved from our sins, to be healed, to overcome our sinful habits, to be changed and transformed. There is an important word in Christianity â repentance. This means actually changing, giving up our sins, overcoming our sins, sinning those sins less, even less and lessâ¦ We are striving to be saved from our sins. We are striving and struggling to attain some measure, however feeble it may seem to us, of holiness without which we cannot hope to enjoy God.