There is one word in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 2 Cor1:1-7 that cannot be missed, it is used ten times in a short passage. That word is encouragement. Whenever a word in this type of writing is used with an obvious and deliberate repetition, there must be some underlying reason why that word is given such emphasis. After given an introduction of himself, he begins “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement.” The blessed be is the beginning of many Jewish prayers, this is the start of a prayer of thanksgiving. In counterpoint to Gods encouragement or consolation are the human experiences of affliction and suffering. Paul mentions the encouragement he received in God throughout his personal sufferings; that his faith in God was strengthened through suffering. What Paul writes makes much sense, but the way in which he wrote it is puzzling. It begs one to ask “what do those words encouragement and consolation mean?” and “why does Paul use that word to describe God?” Why did begin that letter in the manner that he did? Finding the answer takes a bit of research.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement,
who encourages us in our every affliction,
so that we may be able to encourage
those who are in any affliction
with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.
For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us,
so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.
That English word, encouragement, was translated from Greek. The Greek word is paraklēsis, and that is an important word. It is a word that today has special meaning in the Christian Orthodox Churches. In those Orthodox communities church services are called paraklēsis, and in some regions the church or chapel also goes by that name. That bit of information offers an interesting clue. Church, encouragement, consolation, comfort are all related through the word paraklēsis. But how? For that I think of when the Church was formed, and there is one day that specifically is known as the birthday of the Church; at least in the Latin Rite. That day is Pentecost when the Apostles, Mary, and the disciples received the Holy Spirit in the upper room. That Holy Spirit has many names, one of which is Paraclete, and Paraclete is a variant of Paraklēsis. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit sent by Christ following His ascension. That God of Consolation, and of Encouragement is the Spirit sent by Christ that strengthens Paul throughout his trials of bringing the Gospel to those communities. His encouragement is the Spirit and the Trinity.