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Dorotheos of Gaza and the Discourse of Healing in Gazan Monasticism

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Kyle A. Schenkewitz

Serving as a dynamic figure in the monastic school, Dorotheos of Gaza transformed the traditional understanding of healing in the spiritual life. Gazan monastic teachers, Isaiah of Scetis, Barsanuphius, John, and Dorotheos, utilized this discourse of healing to instruct and guide their followers in the monastic life.
As a predominant part of human existence, sickness and suffering were sought to be understood and interpreted. For some teachers, healing was purely a metaphor for spiritual renewal brought about through illness and pain. For others, physical distress was instructive for renewed endurance and trust. Driven by a new distinction, Dorotheos pursued the concept of healing as an extension beyond the metaphor and into the physical reality experienced in the body. Encouraging his followers to pursue this idea, he further developed the importance of healing in his tradition by emphasizing the significance of physical and spiritual well-being. The life of healing he envisioned was a life full of virtue, carefully navigating all disruptions of life, and strengthening the soul and the body.
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Chapter Four: Healing in the Drama of Salvation

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  CHAPTER FOUR

Healing in the Drama of Salvation

The discourse of healing was pervasive in the Gazan monastic literature, and Dorotheos stood well within this tradition. He was concerned with distinguishing the sources of humanity’s illness and its cure. The metaphor of healing allowed Dorotheos to develop a rich explanation of the drama of salvation through which Christ the Physician offered the cure for humanity’s ills and Christ the Teacher provided the prescription for continuing in this life of health.1 Dorotheos’s vision of humanity’s health benefited from this broader approach. Additionally, this matrix earned Dorotheos a distinctive position within the monastic school of Gaza because of its rich texture and sustained employment of the metaphor of healing.

According to Bitton-Ashkelony and Kofsky, “Dorotheos wished to integrate his ascetic teachings on sin into a patristic theology of salvation history.”2 In Dorotheos’s explication, the salvation narrative moved from healthy creation to sickness incurred from sin,to the remedies provided by God and, finally, to Dorotheos’s own justification for the monastic life. In this chapter, I will analyze Dorotheos’s contemporaries in light of Dorotheos’s own discussion of the creation, fall, and healing of humanity and justification of the monastic life.3 This chapter concludes with a final comparison of each teacher’s approach to the passions. The conclusions drawn in this chapter will provide the lens through which to ascertain Dorotheos’s distinct vision of the Christian life of virtue and the interrelation of healing...

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