Kamal Hourani is a first year student in the Religious Studies Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
The Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion (OCAMPR) is an organization endorsed by the Assembly of Bishops that provides sustenance, dialogue, and growth for Orthodox Christians in professions that minister to the health of their fellow human beings. OCAMPR stresses the symbiotic relationship between incarnational, kenotic theology and healing of the person. This association hosted their annual conference from November 5-7 at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The conference theme was: “Caregivers as Confessors and Healers.”
To close their conference on November 7, OCAMPR had several sessions of Paper Presentations where professionals from around the country not able to give full-length talks during the conference could present brief papers on a subject of their interest.
Dr. Pia Chaudhari, a psychoanalyst in training and an adjunct faculty member at Fordham University, delivered a presentation called: “Surely the Lord is in This Place, And I Did Not Know It: When the Unconscious Seeks Confession.”
She recounted the Old Testament of Jacob’s dream of the ladder rising from the earth to the heavens, upon which the angels were ascending and descending. Jacob had this vision while in exile in a foreign land. To him, it was unfathomable that God dwelt anywhere beside his homeland, but God proved Jacob wrong.
Dr. Chaudhari pointed out that Jacob’s vision is an image of ascesis. The spiritual struggle is to make our souls open to God’s kenotic descent, manifested in the descending angels. Just as Christ descended into the depths of Hades to destroy it with the lightning of His divinity, He deigns to descend into the darkness of our souls and fill it with his light, so that nothing is left unhealed. At the same time, by descending into us, Christ also raises us up to heaven’s heights by His grace, manifested by the ascending angels.
Christ’s healing is like that of a shepherd. Just as a good shepherd goes out of his way to find a lost sheep and bring it back into the fold, Christ takes those parts of us which have become defective and disintegrated from the rest of us and brings it back into communion with the rest of the human conscious.
Jacob thought the land he was in was alien and unclaimed by God, but, through his dream, he realized the error of his thinking. The land did indeed belong to God; Jacob simply didn’t see it. In the same way, the defective parts within us seem foreign and wild, but when Christ descends into our souls, he makes what is foreign and wild his own.
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