The ARM of St. Michael
Sin translated from the Greek hamartia means “missing the mark” or misuse. Stating the obvious time to time is helpful : sometimes humans in fact make mistakes, misuse things, sometimes do the opposite of what is wise or beneficial, and sometimes haplessly, repeatedly. The Church, the Infirmary of Jesus, who came not for the well but for the unwell, is a place where all can go to be saved from this error sickness, sin.
When Jesus was asked what is man’s work, as the work of God, he replied, “to believe in the one God sent”. To be a believer is a continuous act, and we return to Jesus, in His Church, again and again, to overcome weakness and frailty, turning to his every Way of grace. Jesus himself is the perfection of wellness and has given us the sacraments so that He can enter us and order us aright from within.
Addiction is a passion, that is, a lust. St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662): “Self-love is an impassioned, mindless love for one’s own body.” When addiction becomes chronic, it may even take on an involuntary nature seemingly outside culpability, but it remains no less grave. Fr. George Morelli:
“The demon of lust, the Church Fathers tell us, may take over our lives. Modern society facilitates this malady. Sex is broadcast everywhere for almost every use: art, fashion, music, news, pornography -especially on the Internet, and the sale of almost any product, from automobiles to computers. The secular world flagrantly exposes body parts, especially the erogenous.
The Church Fathers knew about such enticements a thousand years ago. St. Isaac of Syria wrote: "Passions are brought either by images or by sensations devoid of images and by memory, which at first is unaccompanied by passionate movements or thoughts, but which later produce excitation.
St. Maximus describes the path of forgiveness and repentance: “The first type of dispassion is abstention from the body's impulsion towards the actual committing of sin. The second rejection is of impassioned thoughts; the third is quiescence of passionate desire; the fourth type of dispassion is the complete exclusion from the mind of sensible images.” Psycho-spiritually, the path of repentance involves deciding to stop sinning, acting in accordance with Our Lord's counsels, and doing all we can to remove ourselves from events and images that arouse us to sin. This means substituting all that leads to sin, to have available, the works of God, that is, exercising and practicing Godly, virtuous thoughts and acts. The goal of repentance is that all we have in our heart and mind and all that we do in our actions are based on prayer and the Holy Mysteries. Vigilance and discernment are the chief virtues to be acquired by those seeking Christ’s indwelling in them and who desire to overcome the power of passions.
Ilias the Presbyter tells us: "Demons wage war against the soul primarily through thoughts." (Philokalia III) Ideally, Christians will make a "spiritual desert" for themselves, removing them from the "enticements" so prevalent in modern life.”
- from http://antiochian.org/content/healing-infirmity-sin-spiritual-nutshell
Sound familiar?! The battle plan of progressive victory over lust was laid out close to 1,400 years ago in this passage from St. Maximus. Yet where do we acquire its final virtue and the final compunction to trample this erring aspect of humanity? In Christ alone, the progenitor of all virtue, the creator of chastity.
The Twenty Ways are all means by which the body, the mind and heart are healed from sin, through faith and the all surpassing precious power of Christ’s blood, which comes to us as grace through the sacraments, through his word and by his very name.
After the essential helps are sought and obliged, there remain those of advanced resort. If we are already doing everything we can, such as the first 18 of the 20 ways, and including a good look at our compliance with God’s will for our life and direction, ever besieged, comes the desire for a new heart altogether.
St Paul: What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. - Romans 7: 15-20
How can this sin that dwells in me be removed? I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. -Ez. 36:26
“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” -James 5: 14-15
“After the Council of Florence had described the essential elements of the Anointing of the Sick, the Council of Trent declared its divine institution and explained what is given in the Epistle of Saint James concerning the Sacred Anointing, especially with regard to the reality and effects of the sacrament: "This reality is in fact the grace of the Holy Spirit, whose anointing takes away sins, if any still remain to be taken away, and the remnants of sin; it also relieves and strengthens the soul of the sick person, arousing in him a great confidence in the divine mercy, whereby being thus sustained he more easily bears the trials and labors of his sickness, more easily resists the temptations of the devil 'lying in wait' (Gen. 3:15), and sometimes regains bodily health, if this is expedient for the health of the soul." -Pope Paul VI, Sacram Unctione Infirmorum
Vatican II presents the understanding of the sacrament of the sick, which before had been known primarily as “extreme unction” reserved strictly for those of serious physical debility, or in danger of death. What is recognized more obviously in our time, is the prevalence and understanding of those sicknesses which are not visible, but which have only increased in number and kind over the last 200 years, coinciding with the developing sciences of mental health. Isn’t it true that souls can be psychic victims (often early) in life which produces invisible wounds and maladaptive formations that can haunt for decades, for a lifetime, more miserably than physical afflictions: obsession, compulsion, addiction, immoral lifestyles.
This sacrament serves the behavior-disordered just as urgently, in accord with its very institution, since sin is the graver affliction, forgiveness of which was established as the greater mercy. May the Holy Spirit guide our Church always in the perfect use of this seventh sacrament. Amen.
God of all, we ask for graces of vigilance and discernment that we may know and remember our frailty truly, and seeing it not all rooted out, can know that we worthily approach the sacrament of the sick at the patient time and under the sovereignty of Your will. Through the mercy of Christ, Father, may this sacrament confer on us serene willingness to bear our cross, strengthen our faith and resolve to journey ever on sustained by your grace alone and our feeble but faithful efforts. We ask in Jesus’ name Amen.