The Church as a Hospital for Those in Need of Healing

An important tenant of Orthodoxy is the idea of the “appetitive function”. This is the concept that God, (quite intentionally) gives each of his human creations an appetite. Not just an appetite for food and drink, sex and security but literally an appetite for God himself. A deep, pervasive desire that can only be fulfilled in communion with him.

Through our lives, we try to fill this desire with created things. These things can fulfill for a moment (or at least bring forgetfulness of our deep, desperate thirst for Christ) but ultimately lead us down a path of wanting more and more of what can’t possibly satisfy us.

Addiction to drugs, alcohol, pornography etc… are seen in Orthodox thought not as “the problem” in themselves but symptoms of the problem. The problem being this insatiable desire for communion with Christ. In the secular world, when we begin to experience concerning symptoms if they become severe enough we go to the hospital (or the therapist if the issue is mental rather than physical). We go because we recognize something is wrong, something is not functioning as it should. Likewise, in the Orthodox world we go to church not only to interact with a dynamic social community but to seek healing. As Orthodox, we see the church as a hospital and the Priests, Bishops and Deacons much as the secular world sees doctors and therapists. God himself is the director of this hospital and though the methods may vary from person to person, the cure is always the same….. deeply connecting people to Jesus through the sacrament of sacred communion and the ongoing ministrations of the church body from laymen to bishops.

We see in the story of “The Woman at The Well” (John 4:5-42) a perfect expression of this concept in action. The Woman (Saint Photini in Orthodox tradition) has a transformative encounter with Jesus at a lonely well in Samaria. She arrives thirsty and leaves satisfied…. going on to become the first and one of the greatest evangelists in history. She arrives looking for water… to satidfy her physical thirst. She leaves, filled with the Holy Spirit, with Christ (The Living Water) thoroughly satiated in a way that only comes in that first hand encounter with the the Living God.

The Orthodox recognize our thirst and we acknowledge our need for and solution to the appetitve function. It points us to the true source of our deepest satisfaction. We attend to this need through the sacrament of communion each week. We lean into the support of our Priests, and Deacons when our needs are greater knowing they will help draw us closer to Christ. There is no addiction that can stand in the face of this power. No thirst deeper than our thirst for our Lord.