On Illness: I feel the illness as the love of Christ
‘My Christ, Your love knows no limits!’ I thank God for granting me many illnesses. I often say to Him: ‘My Christ, Your love knows no limits!’ How I am alive is a miracle. Among all my other illnesses I also have cancer of the pituitary gland. A tumor appeared there which has grown and pressed against the optic nerve. That’s why I don’t see any more. I am in dreadful pain. But I pray, taking up the Cross of Christ with patience. Have you seen what my tongue is like? It has grown; it’s not as it used to be. That’s also a result of cancer I’ve got in my head. And as time goes on, things will get worse. It will grow even more and I’ll have difficulty speaking. I’m in great pain, but my illness is something very beautiful. I feel it as the love of Christ. I am given compunction and I give thanks to God. It is on account of my sins. I am sinful and God is trying to purify me.
When I was sixteen years old I asked God to give me a serious illness, cancer, so that I would suffer for His love and glorify Him through my pain. I made this prayer for a long time. But my elder told me that this was egotism and that I was coercing God. God knows what He is doing. So I didn’t continue with this prayer. But, you see, God did not forget my request and He gave me this benefaction after so many years!
Now I do not pray for God to take away from me the thing I asked Him for. I am glad that I have it so that I can participate in His sufferings through my great love. I have the chastisement of God: For the Lord chastises the one he loves. My illness is a special favor from God, who is inviting me to enter into the mystery of His love and to try to respond with His own grace. But I am not worthy. You’ll say to me, ‘Don’t all these things that God reveals to you make you worthy?’ These rather condemn me. Because these are things that belong to the grace of God. There is nothing of my own. God gave me many gifts, but I did not respond; I proved myself unworthy. But I have not abandoned my efforts, not even for a moment. Perhaps God will give me His help so that I can give myself to His love.
That’s why I do not pray for God to make me well. I pray for Him to make me good. I’m certain that God knows that I am in pain. But I pray for my soul, for God to forgive my transgressions. I am not taking medicines, nor did I go for surgery, not even for tests, and nor will I accept surgery. I will leave God to sort things out. The only thing I do is try to become good. This is what I ask you to pray for me. The grace of God sustains me. I try to give myself to Christ, to approach Christ, and to be one with Christ. This is what I desire, but I haven’t succeeded. and I don’t say this out of humility. But I don’t lose my courage. I persevere. I pray for God to forgive my sins. I’ve heard many people saying, ‘I’m unable to pray.’ I haven’t suffered this. Only on the day that I was disobedient on the Holy Mountain did I suffer that.
It doesn’t concern me how long I will live or whether I will live. That is something I have left to God’s love. It often happens that you don’t want to remember death. It’s because you desire life. That, from one point of view, is proof of the immortality of the soul. But whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. Death is a bridge that will lead us to Christ. As soon as we close our eyes, we will open them for eternity. We will appear before Christ. In the next life, we will experience the grace of God more intensely.
An Excerpt from the book: Wounded By Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios