The Holy Transfiguration College, the school of History, Philosophy and Religion at Agora University, hosted a webinar last night entitled “Orthodox Christianity and Contemporary Mental Health.” The talk was thought-provoking and insightful. It explored how God loves us through our period(s) of suffering. The keynote speaker's words, “our humble prayers direct God’s gaze on us” stayed with me and I reflected on them for hours.
Mental Health struggles are both universally common and equally disabling to men and women worldwide. They affect our beliefs, emotions, identities, relationships and they impact the very essence of our human experience. They are associated with stigma and prejudice, and disproportionately affect the poor and marginalized groups within our societies worldwide. Yet they have some much faith and gratitude.
The kingdom of God is at the heart of Jesus’ teachings. He teaches us in parables, uses metaphors and draws vivid visual images for us. The kingdom is like yeast that leavens bread; it is a priceless treasure – like a precious pearl; it is a seed that grows into a great tree; a net that catches many fish; it belongs to the poor, to the women, to the children, to the sinners, and to the marginalized. To find solace in suffering can seem impossible. Saint Mary is the ultimate example of obedience and faith in what seemed to be the most difficult of situations.
I thought about Saint Mary, the lady of us all. Her faith, her confidence, her obedience and the power of her prayer. At the Wedding of Cana (John 2: 1-12), Mary went to Jesus and confidently said, “they have no wine.” She knew that Jesus could save the hosting family from disgrace and humiliation. Jesus replied, “My hour has not yet come.” Yet, He obeyed His mother. Mary was not discouraged by Jesus’ word. She confidently told the servants, “Do what He says.” (John 2:5)
“Do what He says.” The perfect prayer. The most humble, confident prayer uttered with unwavering faith. Never has there been a more perfect prayer that directed God’s gaze.
Those words are like a bright beam pointing the way to our joy and the way to the heart of Christ. It was not by chance that John the Beloved was the Apostle who recorded them, who, at the Last Supper, rested his head near Jesus’ heart. John was the only Apostle present at the foot of the Cross and the one to whom Jesus entrusted His mother, not only to be His mother but our heavenly mother too.
“Behold your mother!” When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27)
In the moments before He took His last breath, He clearly uttered three simple words: “Behold, your mother” His words — part of the Seven Last Words He spoke from the cross.
Jesus added this honor to His mother, our mother, even as He hung in agony, nailed to the cross. He paused to honor His mother. A moment honoring the sanctity of motherhood.
In His unspeakable agony, in His own suffering, He beheld her. He looked beyond Himself to make provisions for His mother; the woman who so humbly served the Son of God, in the most human of ways, from His conception and birth, throughout His childhood, to His crucifixion. God became human through her, and He grew up surrounded by her guidance, her love, her sacrifice, and her prayers. “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”
As a mother, I am all too aware of the heaviness that we carry in our hearts for our children, for their well-being, and for their salvation. If we fervently and sincerely pray and, “Do as He says,” we direct God’s gaze upon our children and all those we hold in our hearts.
If we genuinely want to experience inner healing in our lives, we must first invite Christ in. He is waiting to be invited into our lives so that He can reveal how extraordinary His love and mercy are. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) We are an integral spiritual and psychosomatic unity created to be in a relationship with God.
I am reminded of Dr. James Allen Francis’ words that were written decades ago:
“Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned--put together--have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.”
….… “Do as He says…”
Silvia Farag, MSW, LSW, runs the Christian Center for Counseling and works with adolescent and adult clients in individual, couples & family therapy. Her personal philosophy is that through human connection, we can foster the encouragement needed to take courageous steps toward creating positive change. She uses evidenced based and strengths-based approaches & believes in the inherent ability of each individual to overcome, when they are willing to step into their potential. Therapy illuminates the path so the client can make conscious steps towards emotional health. Her attitude is one of respect and acceptance of each client’s individuality, allowing for the creation of a safe, therapeutic space. Silvia serves with Coptic Women Fellowship, an archdiocese ministry focused on enriching, supporting and strengthening the lives of Coptic Orthodox women, along with the clergy and several accomplished women of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.