Understanding and Living Our Orthodox Faith: Embracing Woundedness
“The more we become clear about our places of wounding, the more freedom we gain because we are no longer controlled by unconscious impulses.” (St. Zosimas)
We all bear wounds. Some of our wounds are physical and apparent for the world to see. But most of our deepest wounds are spiritual, hidden from others, and even ourselves. They are often the sources of shame, pain, and pride. Much as open physical wounds need to be treated and covered to avoid infection, so do spiritual wounds. Often, however, they remain untreated and can fester and become the single greatest barrier to our relationship with Christ.
We learn in Genesis that man wounded himself through sin. In Orthodoxy, we understand sin as sickness, an infection within us. It causes us to run from God, mistreat ourselves, and mistreat others. It is a wound of the nous, the deepest part of who we are, that needs healing. We cannot bring about this healing through our own power. Only God can heal us.
In Genesis 3:15, God pronounces the consequences to the serpent, Adam, and Eve due to their choices. He says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall be on guard for His heel.” Some translations read, “He will strike your head and you will strike His heel.” This Scripture, the first messianic prophecy in the Bible, teaches us that we will either follow Christ (“her seed”) or the devil (“your seed”). Christ teaches us the same in the Gospels when He tells us we are either with Him or against Him at any given moment, and that there is no in between despite what we may think (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23). Genesis 3:15 also predicts that Christ will defeat and destroy the devil (“bruise your head”) but that in doing so He will be wounded (“you shall be on guard for His heel”).
Finding Healing Together with Christ in the Orthodox Faith
Christ voluntarily accepts and embraces this wounding on our behalf. He endures being beaten, scourged and crucified. Adam and Eve in their shame and pride ran from God to hide their nakedness. They would eventually die in their sins. Christ, who was without sin, hung on the cross naked, suffering shame and humiliation out of love for us. We see in the Gospels in His resurrected state that He still bore the physical wounds of His suffering. They are a permanent part of who He is. Yet, because of Him and the wounds He willingly embraced, we have the opportunity to unite with Him, be healed of our sin (our great wound) through His grace, and becomes transformed.
We are loved and redeemed by a wounded healer who also demonstrates what we now should do with our wounds. We are created in the image of God and are to grow in His likeness. Part of growing into His likeness is to understand our own deepest wounds, our deepest source of pain and suffering, and turn them into compassion for others. Hiding our wounds, the equivalent of leaving them untreated, leads to the infection of pride. Healing them leads to loving others. It serves us well whenever we are tempted to be feel so embarrassed or shameful about our failings that we wish to hide them, that in the Gospels Christ treated some of the deepest wounds caused by moral and ethical failure with great gentleness and compassion. He held people accountable as He loved them, forgave them, and set them on the path of redemption.
Through the daily commitment to the sacramental life of worship, prayer, fasting, reading the scriptures, and the spiritual disciplines of the Church, we heal and transform our wounds. But it is the often-neglected sacrament of repentance that is the best medicine for healing our deepest wounds. Regularly confessing the Christ as the Lord and bearing our souls to Him is what transforms us over time and allows us to channel our own pain into grace for others.
“He [God] heals the brokenhearted. And He binds up all their wounds.” (Psalm 146:3 LXX (Psalm 147:3)
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