by Tudor Petcu
A Romanian writer, Tudor Petcu is a graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest, Romania. He has published a number of articles related to philosophy and theology in different cultural and academic journals. His work focuses on the evolution of Orthodox spirituality in Western societies as well and he is going to publish a book of interviews with Westerners converted to Orthodoxy. In this article, he interviews Dr. Albert Rossi.
TP: First of all, please do tell me how did you discovered Orthodoxy and what does Orthodox spirituality for you as a way of living?
Dr. Rossi: God brought me into Orthodoxy. It was He who wanted me to convert and convert I did. I had been a Roman Catholic monk for 11 years. I left because of Vatican Council II, but I left all organized religion and became a Quaker. I had a crises of faith. I met my wife year later and we married. She was Orthodox as a child but when we met she was not practicing any religion so we got along fine. After the birth of our first child, Beth, my wife began going to St. Vladimir’s Seminary chapel for Vespers. She asked me to go to the Divine Liturgy with her and, of course, I said fine. I was not deeply touched at the time but I also knew that something extraordinary was present there. In a couple of years I came to be aware of the truth in Orthodoxy and chose to convert. At that time I had no idea of the depth of the truth of Orthodoxy. That was 36 years ago. I now know that Orthodoxy has the fullness of Truth. Not for one moment, ever, have I regretted my conversion to Orthodoxy.
Now I realize that my entire life after conversion has been formatted and guided by Orthodoxy. Without Orthodoxy I have no idea what my life would be like except that I do know that with Orthodoxy I have great peace and joy. Basically, I describe myself as a happy camper. My entire life I would say is based on the way Orthodoxy teaches a person to live life. Orthodoxy is not a system of morals to keep. Orthodoxy is not a set of laws to follow. Rather, Orthodoxy is about cultivating an intimate relationship with a Person, the Person of Jesus Christ, who dwells within me.
Orthodoxy resolves the age-old paradox of a transcendent God and an immanent God. Orthodoxy, based on the teaching of the early Church fathers about Jesus Christ and the bible, resolves the paradox with a vivid and living example of the Person of Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy does this through its radiant liturgical services, beautiful icons, reverent music, and her sound teaching on the interior life, the life of stillness and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
As a clinical psychologist I’ve come to learn the truth of many peoples’ deepest desires. People, regardless of status,, desire peace and joy. Orthodoxy delivers what no other religion or philosophy offers. We Orthodox believe that sanctity equals sanity, as found in the valid understanding of Jesus Christ, and His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
TP: I would be very interested to find out how an Orthodox medicine is possible. On the other hand, which would be the unicity of Orthodox medicine?
Dr. Rossi: In Orthodoxy we believe in the fullness of the truth that includes the wonderful discoveries of the truths found in medicine. The medical arts are based on the scientific method that simply finds facts and truths originally planted there by God. As a clinical psychologist much of my work involves working with medicine for the brain, called psychotropic medication. I have discovered that for some people with disturbed brain chemistry psychotropic, medication can be an enormous help to empower them to live and become the person they were created to be. So for me there is no disharmony between Orthodoxy and medicine. Orthodoxy relies heavily on the early fathers who, in their own way, advocated medication for those who need medicine. These truths are particularly true for Saints John Chrysostom and Basil the Great.
My mother had a low functioning thyroid gland. She took thyroxin for her entire life, lived vigorously and died at the age of 102. I have a schizophrenic friend who had been in and out of a half-dozen mental institutions. She is now taking anti-psychotic medication, lives alone, and manages life rather well. Again, for me, Orthodoxy and medicine work together for life in its fullness.
TP: I would appreciate it a lot if you could highlight your oppinion on the link between medicine and Orthodox spirituality. Do you think that there could be any Orthodox foundation of the medicine?
Dr. Rossi: For me, there’s a clear link between Orthodox spirituality and modern medicine. Orthodox spirituality, for me, means seeking Jesus Christ above all. Jesus Christ was the most saintly and the most sane human whoever lived. And, yes, I do believe that Orthodoxy is the foundation of medicine simply because God is the Creator of all and it is he who provides all wisdom to be found in medicine.
TP: Given the medicine that you practice and that you have chosen the conversion to Orthodoxy, what is the role of Orthodox spirituality in your work?
Dr. Rossi: In my work as a clinical psychologist I have much interaction with psychiatrists and with physicians generally. It’s almost hand in glove, so to speak. My Orthodoxy is based upon the truths as found in the early church fathers and expressed in the Divine Liturgy and personal spirituality that we are taught. In the personal spirituality, stillness and silence are paramount. As psalm 46 says,
“Be still and know that I am God.”
TP: In your opinion, how an evolution of Orthodox medicine would be possible in the US?
Dr. Rossi: For me, the evolution of an Orthodox medicine is quite organic in the United States, and worldwide. Orthodoxy is an incarnated religion. Orthodoxy firmly attests to the relationship of the body and the soul, of the psychosomatic relationship. Orthodoxy supports and guides people to full health, physical, mental, and spiritual while they are alive on this planet. Medicine, as we now know it, has progressed geometrically in the last few decades. The wonders of modern medicine are profound. The great plagues, leprosy, and many major illnesses have been modified greatly, if not eliminated. Orthodoxy supports medical research, medical advances and medical knowledge. The reason is quite clear. Jesus Christ, when He was on earth has a living human, healed people and wanted them to live a full, healthy life, as far as possible. He was compassionate. He did not want persons to be blind, deaf, or crippled. It also must be clearly stated that medicine is limited. Persons who are helped medically are also persons who will eventually die, and medicine can do nothing about the fact that everyone will eventually die. So, Orthodoxy believes in medical advances as a God-given way for humans to have a more human life, in Christ. Of course many people don’t understand things this way but, in my opinion, this is the way real things really are.
Dr. Rossi is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. Dr. Rossi has a brief, bi–weekly podcast on Ancient Faith Radio titled Becoming a Healing Presence.
This interview is one of many that will be published in the book “The rediscovery of Orthodox heritage of the West” by Tudor Petcu, containing interviews with different Westerners converted to Orthodoxy. It will be published in two volumes and the first one will appear by the end of this year.