Monday, May 17, 2010

Bishop Atanasije on St Justin

Here is a brief excerpt from an interview with Bishop Atanasije entitled "The Mystery of Touch: Holy Relics in Serbia – A True Physical Love," which appeared originally in Synaxis, vol. 4 (Fall 1982), pp. 45-49 and reprinted in Christ – The Alpha and Omega:
Question: One final question, Fr Athanasius, which preoccupies man. Since the body had this place in the spiritual life, man should also develop himself physically in order to attain to union with God. What sort of physical development should we be striving for?

Answer: The question is not clear. I could easily answer in a theological fashion, so to speak, but I don't know if that would express what my people feel. Better to answer with an example. A Serbian bishop who lives abroad came recently to a monastery in Serbia. He saw people at the All-night VIgil who were kneeling, their heads down on the ground, resting on the floor of the church, and he said, "You will never see such a thing in the West. Here, people worship God whole-heartedly and whole-bodily."

The participation and "development" of the body in Orthodoxy is expressed in asceticism, which is certainly not a rejection of the body but a development of it in unity with the soul. I remember Fr Justin [Popovich], who when he was ill and was given medicine, and he would bless them before he took them, saying: "Blessed be those who make these medications, because they too are serving God." We ought to preserve our health, he would advise us, if by doing so we can serve God better. We should not be enemies of the body.

1 comment:

Athanasia said...

This is quite helpful at the moment as I find myself taking various medications for my 'life'. I am grateful because it gives me a measuring stick to hold the doctor's advise and prescriptions against.

Thank you.