“It is not medicine that heals, it is love.”
I’ve said it to people in conversation, even to my personal physician on my last visit. I’ve written it to my closest friends in messages and emails. I’ve thanked God for it, the healing that comes from love, not just from the feeling of love, but from the actions that love inspires. I’ve reminisced how I used to hold my sons when they were very young, and sick with fever, sitting on my lap facing me, bare chest to bare chest, rocking them gently to calm them and to absorb the fever from their hot bodies into my cool one, or how as a sick and frightened child, one of them would slip into papa’s bed, to sleep in safety. And I’ve thought about the strange sharing of others’ sicknesses and distress by holding them close to my heart, spiritually, by prayer, and how they have done the same for me. As holy apostle Paul writes, ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it’ (1 Corinthians 12:26), to which verse my experiences have given very personal meaning.
Elder Païsios, one of my teachers, describes this same idea, that it is love that heals. The elder writes,
“You must make the other person’s pain your own, and then pray from your heart. Love is a divine attribute, and informs the other person [that you are praying for him]. Even in hospitals, when doctors and nurses feel genuine compassion for their patients, this is the most effective of all the medications to give to them. The patients feel they are being cared for with love, and have a sense of certainty, security and consolation. You do not need to say much to someone who is suffering, or try to instruct him. He understands that you feel his pain and care about him, and he is helped by this. Feeling his pain is everything. If we feel compassion for others, we forget ourselves and our problems.”
— Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Athos)