God's existence as a Trinity of Persons speaks directly to the relational nature of all things, with the Creator of all things existing in constant and perfect relational union with Himself and with His creation, all bound together by love. As creatures made in the image and likeness of God, the Trinity, human beings are most human when embedded within a matrix of loving relationships, involving mutual self-sacrifice and the joy of shared life. Human beings are most themselves, and most God-like, when they are in communion with one another.
The Eastern Orthodox Church sees the human being's ability to connect with the loving God as taking place through the nous. The nous, which is the Greek word for mind, is considered to be the part of the human that perceives plainly God's presence in all things, times, and circumstances. The nous is the eye of the soul, the organ that sees the Life-giver, sees the majesty of its Creator, and leaps for joy because of it. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there is much competition for the nous's attention. There are powerful and seductive images that call the nous away from its home in the human heart, darkening it and distracting it as it attaches to temporary material gods.
Repentance-in Greek, metanoia (meta = change; nous = mind)-is the way in which the human being personally confronts the ways in which the nous has been darkened and distracted away from God. This is accomplished through both personal effort akin to athletic training (askesis = struggle) and collaboration with a spiritual elder or confessor (the Sacrament of Holy Confession). Prayer, fasting from meat and dairy products at certain times of the week and year, and alms giving are concrete ways in which the Orthodox Christian moves toward repentance. Seasonal rhythms attach this process to both the Church's cycle of feasts and fasts, as well as to the meteorological and seasonal changes of the earth.
THE POWERS OF THE SOUL
The human being also has been endowed with what St. Gregory of Sinai called the powers of the soul. These are the life energies that give human beings the fire of life, or the passion to create. When harnessed and tutored, they are a source of power, life, and light. When distracted and misdirected, they can be destructive forces of darkness, selfishness, and exploitation. The first power is called thymos, the Greek word for anger. It can be the source of human courage, motivation, and self-assertion, but it can also be the source of rage and violence. The second power is called epithymia, the Greek word for desire. It can be the source of creativity, devotion, and loving attraction, but it can also be the source of lust, destructive impulsivity, and betrayal. These powers of the soul work together with human intellect, reasoning, and imagination to fulfill the human destiny of reflecting God's love back into the world in unique and personal ways. Darkened and misdirected, however, they can be used in more selfish and deceptive ways.
HOW DO I DEAL WITH SUFFERING?
Two useful approaches to this second question, from an Orthodox Christian perspective, come from the Passion and Resurrection of Christ and from the simple but powerful Jesus prayer. These two icons are laden with meaning which direct human beings to their source of life, hope, and healing in the midst of brokenness, confusion, and distraction.