Wow! The Chapel’s three-part series on healing, led by Dr. Michael Attas – retired cardiologist and Episcopal minister – has truly been a game-changer. Two of the sessions are now finished, but I would urge you to consider attending the wrap-up healing and communion service (with music) on Wednesday, June 29th at 7 PM. In the meantime, I would like to share with you some of the insights I’ve taken away from his series. I hope they will be helpful to you!
Dr. Attas reminded us that in primitive cultures, the tribal shaman/healer combined the roles of herbalist, counselor, psychologist, doctor, priest, therapist and probably more! Over the centuries, these roles became separated to the point that current doctors are responsible for only the biological condition of the patient. However, if we look back at the Greek word haelan, from which our word healing comes, we find that healan means “to re-integrate”. Even the much-used Christian term salvation harks back to the Greek root word salvas which means a “journey to wholeness.” Dr. Attas’s point is that true healing (contrasted with solely physical curing) involves a multi-faceted return to health. Ironically, healing work today is headed back towards its roots of attending to the many aspects of a care receiver’s life. Even the conservative World Health Organization now defines health as involving vigor in one’s biology, one’s social community, one’s psychological makeup AND one’s spiritual life. So much for the one-dimensional definition of health!
Dr. Attas then turned to some specifically Christian issues he has encountered in his practice. The most common is “I prayed. Why didn’t my loved one get better?” Statistically, prayer changes the course of a minority of medical conditions prayed for. Biology usually runs its course. To this, Dr. Attas responded that God is not Santa Claus and the purpose of prayer is not solely biological cure. His belief is that prayer is about building relationship. Prayer changes the one who prays. Prayer builds relationship with God, which is a cornerstone of healing. Remember how often Jesus said, “…your faith has made you whole.” (Matthew 9:22)
Summing up this idea of healing vs. biological curing, Dr. Attas recounted a story of a patient of his who had lived a life with disconnected relationships, discord at work and other unresolved issues. The man was diagnosed with fourth stage lung cancer, with six months to live. He used that time to resolve, as best he could, the relational wounds in his life. Happily, much was accomplished. At his funeral, the man’s wife said to Dr. Attas, “My husband died healed.”
May we all, and our nation, be healed.