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The Medicine of Souls

...a physician who will not prescribe life-giving medicine to sick patients ought to find other work.

Here begins the Prologue of the health-giving medicine of souls.

- The Penitential of Cummean (Irish, 7th century)

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yeilds the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

- Hebrews 12.11

Cummean begins his handbook of penances with the simple statement that these are the "health-giving medicine of souls." Three convictions underlie that statement.

First, our souls need amending. Which of us will deny that our hearts, minds, and consciences are in need of improvement? No one is perfect, and, since unhealthy thoughts and senitments stream at us all day long, it makes sense to recognize that our souls need some mending regularly, like the strong fences that separate the lands of good neighbors.

Second, penance is a discipline that, like medicine, is not pleasant to consume. This is what the writer of Hebrews admits. There is pain and sacrifice involved in "curing" what is "contrary" in our souls by contrary behaviors that move us in the direction of righteousness. We all need this, and, while it may not be pleasant, it yields the fruit of holiness if we persevere.

Third, like any medicine, penance should be prescribed by a physician - in this case, a physician of the soul. Pastors and soul friends must take on the duty of calling us to repentance, showing us the way to renewal, and holding us accountable for progress. Many pastors these days seem to be afraid of sin, which is why, I suppose, there's so little mention of it in contemporary preaching. But a physician who will not prescribe life-giving medicine to sick patients ought to find other work.

If we want to grow in the Lord and work out our salvation in fear and trembling, we will need to take a good bit of this medicine of penance. It might taste bad when it is administered, but if we take it faithfully, and settle into the care of a trusted physician, we will grow to see Jesus more consistently. That will make it all worthwhile.

Today in ReVision: Waivers - Here's a cool new way to make laws. Except that it erodes the very concept of law.

This Week's Download: Soul Friends

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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