I am deeply thankful to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God made man, and to the most powerful intercession of His Beloved and Our Mother Mary, the Mother of God, for living and working as a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. The more He gives me the grace to live and work there the more I realize the great actuality of His saving grace!
I never forget the first Byzantine Mass we celebrated at the chapel of this state of the art hospital specializing in cancer treatment. The priest told me: Pray a lot to the Mother of God for healing here. I took this advice to heart and, from there onwards, I always sought the help of the Mother of God, Mary, to intercede for the patients, the family and us, staff members.
A powerful prayer I came across in my search is that of the great St Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), the great Orthodox monk, theologian, intellectual and leader of the famous Hesychasm movement, which is an ascetical method of mystical prayer which integrates repetitive prayer formulas with bodily postures and controlled breathing. In 1368 he was proclaimed a saint and was named Father and Doctor of the Orthodox Church.
The theological content of the prayer to the Theotokos for healing is so rich. To begin with, the first line magnificently asserts that God’s patience and rest prevail over bitter sorrows. Furthermore, when our souls are tormented with the torment of despair the indescribable Light of Divinity has the last say.
Then, the prayer turns immediately to a direct address to Mary, the Mother of God, Theotokos, and presents to her the ardent appeal to console those who feel discouraged and to heal those who are suffering from embittered hearts by strengthening them with softening and enlightenment. In the Litany of Loreto we call Our Lady Comforter of the afflicted, Seat of Wisdom, Refuge of Sinners and Health of the Sick.
The prayer insistently pleads with the Mother of God to heal her sick people. She is the All-merciful Queen. Even here two titles which the Litany of Loreto gives to Mary, the Mother of God, fit so perfectly, namely Health of the Sick and Mother of Mercy. An interesting detail this prayer provides us is that of the Mother of God to bless bless the minds and hands of our physicians so that they might serve as instruments of the All-powerful Physician, Christ our Saviour. Thus, our physicians are the instruments of the One Almighty Physician who, solely in his hands, rests the healing of people.
We are addressing our prayer to her through her icon, which sacramentally brings her presence amongst us. We, at the Oncology Centre, have a copy of the twelfth century Icon of Our Lady of Damascus, as portrayed in the photo of this article. The prayer reminds us that Mary is the Sovereign Lady, the Mother of the All-powerful Physician, Christ Our Saviour. Hence, the prayer ardently asks Our Lady to stretch out her hands, which in themselves are filled with healing and cures. Mary is the Joy of the Sorrowful and the Consolation in afflictions. Her maternal miraculous intervention is swift in the same manner with which she responded at Cana when the wine finished. She immediately appealed to Jesus to do his part in that awkward situation for the poor spouses.
Interesting is the fact that the Mother of God’s miraculous helpful intervention is a cause for us to extol he Life-creating and Undivided Trinity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. This verse reminds us of what we find in the Matthean Gospel when Jesus says: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16). How Mary, the Mother of God, is in herself the perfect disciple and model for discipleship of Christ! She is the one in whom her light shines before all men that we, by her maternal help, may see her good work and give glory to Our Father in Heaven.
Here is the mighty Prayer to the Theotokos (Prayer to the Mother of God) for Healing, given to us by the Orthodox tradition:
Where bitter sorrows overcome us, there will Patience and Rest be revealed. Where the torment of despair dwells in the soul, there will shine the ineffable Light of Divinity! Console the fainthearted, strengthen the weak, bestow softening and enlightenment upon embittered hearts. Heal Thine ailing people, O All-merciful Queen! Bless the minds and hands of our physicians, that they might serve as instruments of the All-powerful Physician, Christ our Saviour. We pray before Thine Icon, that Thou mightiest truly live with us, O Sovereign Lady! Stretch out Thy hands, filled with healing and cures, O Joy of the sorrowful, Consolation in afflictions, that having speedily received miraculous help, we may glorify the Life-creating and Undivided Trinity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
I heartily encourage to pray this prayer before your Icon of Mary, the Mother of God, Theotokos, for you and your family and other’s healing, as we do here, at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, in the apostolic island of Malta.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap