Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


Q: Since you have assigned me to be in this service, in the infirmary, tell me, my Father: should I read certain medical books and teach myself to make medicines, or is it better not to be concerned about this, as something that causes the mind to wander, and abandon it (so that it will not arouse vainglory in me) and be satisfied with what I already know, doing whatever is possible with the aid of oil, flour, ointments, and in general simple remedies such as are used by those who do not read (medical books). How should I act? For my heart trembles in this service lest I sin in something and add to my passions yet other sins.

A: Inasmuch as we have not yet come to perfection, so as to be entirely delivered from the captivity of passions, it is better to occupy ourselves with medicine than with passions. But we should place our hope not in medicines but in God, Who kills and brings to life and says: "I will strike and I will heal" (Deuteronomy 32:39). While reading medical books or asking someone about them, do not forget that without God no one receives healing. And thus, he who devotes himself to the medical art should give himself over to the Name of God, and God will grant him help. The medical art does not hinder a man from being pious; but make use of it like a handiwork for the benefit of the brethren. Whatever you do, do with the fear of God, and you will be preserved by the prayers of the Saints. Amen. "Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990)

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