When we surrender ourselves to Christ, our spiritual organism finds peace, with the result that all our bodily organs and glands function normally. All these are affected. We become well and cease to suffer. Even if we have cancer, if we leave everything to God and our soul finds serenity, then divine grace may work through this serenity and cause the cancer and everything else to leave.
Stomach ulcers, you know, are caused by stress. The sympathetic system, when it is subjected to pressure, is constricted and suffers harm and so the ulcer is created. With stress, pressure, distress, anxiety, an ulcer or cancer comes about. When there are confusions in our soul, these have influence on our body and our health suffers.
The most perfect way is not to pray for our health — not to pray to become well, but to become good. That is what I pray for myself. Do you hear? I don’t mean to be good in the sense of virtuous, but in the sense of acquiring divine zeal, of abandoning ourselves in trust to God’s love, and of praying rather for our soul. And we mean our soul as it is incorporated in the Church, whose head is Christ, along with all our fellow men and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And I open my arms and pray for all people. When I am about to receive Holy Communion, as I am standing before the Holy Chalice, I open my soul to receive the Lord, and I bow my head and I pray for you, for this person and that, and for the whole Church. You should do the same. Do you understand? Don’t pray for your health. Don’t say, ‘O Lord, make me well.’ No! Rather say, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, with selflessness, with love and without expecting anything. ‘Lord, whatever Your love desires…’ Only in this way will you act from now on, loving Christ and our brothers and sisters. Love Christ. Become saints. Throw yourselves into becoming friends with Christ, into His love alone, into divine eros.
Isn’t perhaps this what is happening to me, since I feel this zeal and adoration? Even though I feel that my body has rotted away, I don’t succumb to my illness, not even to my cancer, I shouldn’t speak, but my love for you and for the whole world doesn’t allow me to remain silent. When I speak, my lungs remain without oxygen and that’s very bad because the heart is harmed. I have suffered something much worse than a heart attack. And yet I live. Isn’t that an intervention of God? Yes, and I am obedient to God’s will, to my illness. I suffer without complaint and… with annoyance at myself because no one is devoid of uncleanness. [Cf. Job 14:4.] I’m in a bad state. My spirit is also sick.
I say to a hermit with whom I am in contact, ‘Pray for me. I love you. Love me too and pity me and pray for me and God will have mercy on me.’
‘You’re the one who should pray,’ he says to me.
‘I’m beginning now to be unable to do all that I did for so many years,’ I tell him. What does the hymn say?
My mind is sorely wounded, my body has grown enfeebled,
my spirit is sick, my speech has lost its power,
my life is brought to death; the end is at the door.
And so, O wretched soul of mine, what will you do
when the Judge appears before you to investigate your deeds?
This hymn reflects my present state. I think that if I hadn’t done this or that I wouldn’t be in pain now, I would be close to Christ. I say this about myself because I’m thoughtless…
If you want to enjoy good health and live for many years, then listen to what Solomon the Wise has to say: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the counsel of saints is understanding; for to know the law is the mark of a sound mind, for in this way you will live long and years of your life will be added to you.’ [Proverbs 9:10] This is the secret: for us to acquire this wisdom, this knowledge, and then everything functions smoothly, all things are put in order and we will live with joy and health.
Footnotes The holy Elder suffered from the following illnesses: myocardial infarction (anterior diaphragm with lateral ischaemia), chronic kidney disease, duodenal ulcer (with repeated perforations), operated cataract (loss of lens and blindness), herpes zoster (shingles) on the face, staphylococcus dermatitis on the hand, inguinal hernia (frequently strangulated), chronic bronchitis and cancer of the pituitary gland. Cf. Dr. Georgios Papazachou in an article in the periodical Synaxis, 41 (Jan–Mar) 1992, 93.