In continuing our series of reflections, we have repeatedly emphasized that our Orthodox Christian faith is imbued with a spirit of joy and reassuring hope, for we rest secure in the knowledge that our victory over sin, evil, and death has been secured by Christ. Despite the spiritual comfort that comes from this knowledge, however, we would be remiss if we were to overlook and fail to consider the very real presence of stress, anxiety, and depression in the lives of so many people.
Here, a pressing question arises: How is it that people who are genuinely committed to living their lives in the Christian faith, a faith which has the "power to move mountains" (Matthew 21:21), can continue to experience considerable levels of stress and anxiety, even to the point of being emotionally overwhelmed? Several answers to this question may be offered.
As members of a highly advanced technological society, it is not surprising that the hyper-saturation of stimuli available to us through so many channels results not in feelings of satisfaction, but rather in feelings of uneasiness. These stimuli place heavy pressures upon us. For example, popular magazines place strong pressures upon women to "look a certain way" or upon men to "have a certain job" in order to meet what society has deemed as "appropriate standards for success." These pressures are particularly heavy upon young adults who live in an increasingly professional, complicated, and mobile world. For newly married couples, the balancing of work and family life is a stressful adjustment indeed; and for all married couples, the financial pressures associated with family expenses, child education, or elderly care indeed carry enormous stress.
Our closer attention and appreciation of the invaluable remedies offered by our Orthodox Christian Church may provide us with the additional inner strength and wisdom that we need in order to overcome pressures, to deal with all sorts of stressors, and to ultimately arrive, in the midst of painful feelings, at a level of tranquility that St. Paul describes as "the peace of God which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). One of these remedies is our participation in the Sacraments of the Church, especially our regular receiving of Holy Communion, where we partake of the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Other means through which we may be recipients of the healing grace of God are our encountering of His Word in reading the Holy Scriptures, our prayer, our spiritual exercise of fasting, especially during this period of Holy Lent now at hand, our fellowship with our neighbors, and our expressions of love and philanthropy to others in need.
This short reflection has attempted to deal with some of the sources of stress, anxiety, and uneasiness in our lives. It is by no means exhaustive. It has, by way of offering two or three examples, tried to explain concisely some of the remedies offered by our Orthodox Church concerning these potentially debilitating feelings. Ultimately, it is our faith in the God of peace and love that constitutes the absolute remedy to any anxiety, stress, uneasiness, or depression. It is in this spirit that I fervently pray that we may remain confident in the love of our Lord for us always, encouraged by the eternal joy and unlimited hope of our Christian beliefs, and unbridled in our capacity to grow as human beings fully alive and forever protected by His infinite mercy and care.
Archbishop of America