"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Theology and Therapy of Spiritual Illness

The Orthodox scholar Jean-Claude Larchet, whom LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies published in 2009 ("La théologie des energies divines: l’enjeu, les dificultés et les perspectives du dialogue entre catholiques et orthodoxes") has been working for years on any number of important projects, including the ecclesiology of Maximus the Confessor as well as the letters of, and studies on, the Confessor's wider importance. But I think Larchet is best known for being a rare and very important voice seeking to integrate Orthodox theology with insights from the Fathers and modern psychology, particularly on questions of suffering and illness. This latter trajectory was perhaps best introduced to anglophone audiences in 2002 when we saw the publication of his The Theology of IllnessThis book, from Oakwood Publishers, we are told:

offers us fresh insight into the mystery of evil, sin, and illness, and their place within our struggle toward holiness... It gives us renewed hope, by locating the "problem of pain" in a profoundly theological framework, in which ultimate resolution of the mystery of illness and suffering is provided by the healing touch of Christ Himself, the Physician of our souls and bodies.... The Theology of Illness, already translated into several languages, now appears in English and explores biblical and patristic perspectives on sickness and redemptive suffering. The questions Larchet considers are fundamental: the origins of sin in a fallen world, its impact on physical health, and the healing of human nature by the incarnate Son of God. He explains healing as a means of glorifying God, stressing again the crucial role of prayer and sacramental grace in promoting genuine health. When illness plunges us into unfamiliar territory, even to the point of death, Larchet teaches us to marshal spiritual reserves in a society dominated by technology and materialism. In a time when the physician has been dubbed the high priest of the god of Modern Medicine, Larchet encourages us to situate these crucial experiences within the framework of their relationship to the unique reality of the Holy Trinity.
In 2005, we had his Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian East. Also that year we had two other works in French: L'inconscient spirituel and Le Starets Serge. In 2008 we had a work on icons: L'iconographe et l'artiste. In June of 2010, we saw the publication of Une fin de vie paisible sans douleur sans honte.

Now Alexander Press is bringing out a handsome boxed trilogy of Larchet's Therapy of Spiritual Illness. For further details, go here

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