This is the first article in our On the Incarnation series for the Nativity Fast.
What does it mean for me that God has become man? How does it affect the way that I am called to live and relate to myself and other human beings? I would like to answer this question from a Pentecostal perspective that is being ever so transformed by Orthodox theology. Being both from a Pentecostal background and as a practicing psychotherapist, the idea of Christ coming as a healer and physician is of utmost importance to me theologically and practically.
The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us to identify with us and to assume fully what we are, so that He can transform a broken people into His image. Or, as St. Irenaeus of Lyons says, “Jesus Christ, in His infinite love, has become what we are, in order that He may make us entirely what He is.” The Word becoming flesh then, is the first act in bringing healing to humanity and the entire cosmos. This assumption of the flesh opens the door for others to partake by grace of what God is by His very nature.
God becoming man provides a window for His light to shine in the darkness of our pain, exposes our woundedness, shares in our suffering, and embraces us in His presence, which itself is healing and transformative. As a Pentecostal, an important part of my experience and knowledge of God is that He is a healer and wants to heal all that is broken, sick, and dying—even if, after we pray for healing, it does not come to fruition on this side of eternity.
A few years ago, I attended an Orthodox service in Toronto where they brought out a “myrrh-streaming icon” and held a special healing service for those who were sick, dying, or barren. While many are skeptical of such a thing, the Pentecostal part of me had no problem believing that Christ could heal others through this means. In my own experience, we have often prayed over cloth or other items that we would use in our prayers for the sick, in addition to anointing people with oil.
I have witnessed a number of healing miracles, too, which have become an important foundation to my belief that God’s love is a healing love. While Pentecostal ways of praying for the sick may not be Orthodox, we do share a belief in the purpose behind the healing, and that miracles of healing can and do happen today.
It follows, then, that my profession as a psychotherapist and counsellor is an extension of His healing love which I can put out into the world and “be” Christ to those around me. Those who are afflicted with mental illness can be met with a counsellor who allows them to share their suffering, pour out their broken hearts, and journey together towards healing and restoration with a non-judgmental attitude and embrace of who they are, wherever they happen to be in their journey through life. In essence, being a psychotherapist is like being a sort of Christ-figure to those who are suffering.
Whether a person experiences a physical healing or a mental one, they are experiencing Christ’s healing power in their lives, a taste of heaven on earth, because Christ who is in Heaven has united Himself to those of us on earth. In that sense, the incarnation is very much about God becoming fully man.
But on a deeper level, His incarnation is a way for us to become more truly human as He is—transformed by His healing power that we may radiate from His glory and experience theosis.
The Word has become flesh and dwelt among us. To dwell among us is to suffer with us, to relate to us, and to heal us.