Beloved brothers and sisters in the Risen Christ,
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη!
"Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God!' And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, 'Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.' And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, 'Who then can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said, 'with men it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible." (St. Mark 10:23-27).
Indeed miracles are real and they happen with consistency and regularity throughout the centuries. The lives of the Saints of the Church are full of miracles. Orthodox Christianity teaches that we should not seek miracles, but miracles are very much a part of the Orthodox Church. Bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of our Lord. Is that not a miracle? Believers are healed of physical and spiritual illness all the time. "Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the disease left them and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11-12). "The miracles and events described here parallel and continue those of Jesus' earthly ministry: diseases are cured and the powers of evil are overcome. Such is the authority of the Kingdom of God. That physical objects (handkerchiefs and aprons) are instruments of healing demonstrates the truth of the gospel that God became Man in order to redeem all creation and make all creation a vehicle of grace" (Orthodox Study Bible).
"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles…" (1 Cor. 12:7-10). "The purpose of spiritual gifts is the growth of the whole Church. A charisma is a gift of the Holy Spirit given for the benefit of others. But no person possesses all the gifts' (Saint Basil the Great).
"And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up…" (St. Matthew 11:2-5). Prophet Isaiah predicted that at the coming of the Messiah the blind would see and the lame walk, lepers would be cleansed, the deaf would hear. Jesus fulfills the prophecies of Isaiah, bearing the fruit which only the Messiah can produce.
"Then one of the crowd answered and said,'I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.' He answered him and said, 'O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.' Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, 'How long has this been happening to him?' And he said, 'From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.' Jesus said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.' When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: 'Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!' Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, 'He is dead.' But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose" (St. Mark 9:17-27). "The presence of doubt does not imply the absence of faith. Christ honors whatever faith we have and will increase faith when we sincerely desire Him.
But what is a miracle? The Orthodox Study Bible defines it thus:"A sign whereby God supersedes the normal laws of nature in a mysterious way in order to manifest His power as Master of the universe. Jesus Christ performed many miracles--some showing His mastery over nature, others demonstrating His power over sin, disease, and death. The Apostles continued to manifest the power of God through miracles. Healings, weeping icons, and other miracles also show His power in the world today. See Matt. 8:1-34; John 11:1-44; Acts 3:1-9)
"For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect - if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time." [Jesus' warning to His disciple in St. Mark Chapter 13:22-23]
MIRACLES RECORDED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Creation of the world- (Genesis 1)
The great flood-(Genesis 7:8
The confusion of languages-(Genesis 11:1-9)
The conception of Isaac-(Genesis 17:17; 18:12; 21:2)
The destruction of Sodom-(Genesis 19)
Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt-(Genesis 19:26)
The closing of the wombs of Abimelech's household-(Genesis 20:17, 18)
The opening of Hagar's eyes-(Genesis 21:19)
The conception of Jacob and Esau-(Genesis 25:21)
The opening of Rachel's womb-(Genesis 30:22)
The flaming bush-(Exodus 3:2)
The Transformation of Moses' rod into a serpent-(Exodus 4:3,4,30; 7:10,12)
The pillar of cloud and fire-(Exodus 13:21,22; 14:19,20)
Passage through the Red Sea-(Exodus 14:22)
Sweetening the waters of Marah-(Exodus 15:25)
Aaron's rod buds-(Numbers 17:1-9)
Elijah is fed by ravens-(1 Kings 17:6)
Increases the widow's meal and oil-(1 Kings 17:9-16; St. Luke 4:26)
The deliverance of Sharach, Meshach, and Abed-nego-(Daniel 3:23-27)
The sea was calmed when Jonah was thrown into it-(Jonah 1:15)
Jonah in the belly of the great fish-(Jonah 1:17; 2:10)
[and many more]
MIRACLES OF JESUS RECORDED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Water converted into wine-(St. John 2:1-11)
Heals the nobleman's son-(St. John 4:46-54)
The catch of fish-(St. Luke 5:1-11)
Heals the demoniac-(St. Mark 1:23-26; St. Luke 4:38,39)
Heals Peter's mother-in-law-(St. Matthew 8:14-17; St. Mark 1:29-31; St. Luke 4:38,39)
Cleanses the lepers-(St. Matthew 8:1-4)
Heals the paralyzed man-(St. Matthew 9:1-8)
Raises the widow's son to life at the village of Nain-(St. Luke 7:11-16)
Heals a demoniac-(St. Matthew 12:22-37)
Stills the storm-(St. Matthew 8:23-27)
Cures the woman with the issue of blood-(St. Matthew 9:20-22)
Feeds more than four-thousand people-(St. Matthew 15:32-39)
Opens the eyes of a man born blind-(St. John 9)
Condemns a fig tree-(St. Matthew 21:17-22)
Resurrection of Lazarus after four days dead-(St. John 11:38-44)
Resurrection of the Saints-(St. Matthew 27:52-53)
His Transfiguration-(St. Matthew 17:1-13)
Heals ten lepers-(St. Luke 17:11-19)
Arises from the dead-(St. Matthew 28:2-15)
Appears in the midst of the disciples, when Thomas was absent-(St. Mark 16:14-18)
Ascends to heaven -(St. Mark 16:19-20)
[and many more]
MIRACLES ATTRIBUTED TO THE HOLY RELICS OF ORTHODOX SAINTS
Why do we venerate Saints and their holy relics? Certainly, the Saints do not need to be glorified by us as Saints. The only reason the Holy Orthodox Church glorifies Saints is to help us. The Lord's Saints manifest themselves to us who are still on earth in order to assist us. The Lord gives us the holy relics of His Saints as a means of grace for us--a visible and tangible means of contact, and as vehicle of innumerable miracles--just as He gives to us holy icons and the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) as vehicles of Divine Grace. The veneration of Saints' holy relics and their frequent incorruption affirm that the physical world indeed does have the potential for being transfigured and resurrected, as it participates in the restoration of humanity to the beauty of the Divine Image and Likeness.
From the earliest times, the Divine Liturgy has been celebrated on the tombs of the martyred Saints, (those who bore witness to the Faith), where, on the anniversary of the Saint's Martyrdom, the faithful Orthodox Christians would go to the catacombs (in Rome), or other places of burial, and celebrate the Divine Eucharist or Liturgy. This earliest Orthodox Christian tradition has been maintained by the Church--with a certain variation. Since we cannot usually go to the martyred Saint's graves, one might say that the Church brings the martyr's holy relics to us. How is the done? By means of an Antimension or Antimins. All Orthodox Divine Liturgies must be served on top of a special cloth, called Antimension, which is signed by the bishop and given by him to each church under his jurisdiction (and occasionally to an individual priest).
The Holy Fire is the most renowned miracle in the world of the Orthodox Church. It has taken place at the same time, in the same manner, in the same place every single year for centuries. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and so steadily over time. It happens in the Church of the Resurrection or Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the holiest Christian place on earth, where Christ was crucified, entombed, and where He finally Rose from the dead.
How the miracle occurs:
"I enter the tomb of Christ and kneel in holy fear in front of the place where Christ lay after His death and where He rose again from the dead...narrates the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Diodoros), I find my way through the darkness towards the inner chamber in which I fall on my knees. Here I say certain prayers that have been handed down to us through the centuries and, having said them, I wait. Sometimes I may wait a few minutes, but normally the miracle happens immediately after I have said the prayers. From the core of the very stone on which Jesus lay an indefinable light pours forth. It usually has a blue tint, but the colour may change and take many different hues. It cannot be described in human terms. This light each year behaves differently. Sometimes it covers just the stone, while other times it gives light to the whole Sepulchre, so that the Christian pilgrims who stand outside the tomb and look into it will see it filled with light. The holy fire or light does not burn. At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature, so that I am able to light my candles from it the Patriarch says. When I thus have received the flame on my candles, I go out and give the fire firs to the Armenian Patriarch and then to the Coptic. Hereafter I give the flame to all people present in the Church."
While the Greek Orthodox Patriarch is inside the chapel kneeling in front of the stone, there is darkness but far from silence outside. One hears a rather loud mumbling, and the atmosphere is very tense. When the Patriarch comes out with the two candles lit and shining brightly in the darkness, a roar of jubilation resounds in the Church. It sparkles, it flashes, it flashes like lightning, it flies like a dove around the Tabernacle of the Holy Sepulchre, and lights up the unlit lamps of olive oil hanging in front of it. It whirls from one side of the church to the other. It enters some of the chapels inside the church, as for instance the chapel of the Calvery and lights up the little lamps. It lights up also the candles of certain pilgrims.
The first written account of the Holy Fire (Holy Light) dates from the 4th century, but authors write about events that occurred in the first century. So Saints John Damascene and Gregory of Nyssa narrate how the Apostle Peter saw the Holy Light in the Holy Sepulchre after Christ's Resurrection.
Every time heterodox have tried to obtain the Holy Fire they have failed. Three such attempts are known. Two occurred in the 12th century when priests of the Roman church tried to force out the Orthodox church but by their own confession these ended with God's punishment. But the most miraculous event occurred in the year 1579, the year when God clearly testified to whom alone may be given His miracle.
"Once the Armenians paid the Turks, who then occupied the Holy Land, in order to obtain permission for their Patriarch to enter the Holy Sepulchre, the Orthodox Patriarch was standing sorrowfully with his flock at the exit of the church, near the left column, when the Holy Light split this column vertically and flashed near the Greek Orthodox Patriarch."
A Muslim Muezzin, called Tounom, who saw the miraculous event from an adjacent mosque, immediately abandoned Islam and became an Orthodox Christian. This event took place in 1579 under Sultan Mourad IV, when the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem was Sophrony IV. (The above mentioned column still exists. It dates from the 12th century.)
"From thy Holy Icon, O Lady Theotokos, blessed myrrh has flowed abundantly. Thou hast thereby consoled those, in exile, faithful unto thee, and hast enlightened the unbelievers by thy Son's Light. Therefore O Lady, with tears we bow down to thee. Be merciful to us in the hour of judgment. Lest having received thy mercy we be punished as those who have been contemptuous of it. But grant us through thy prayers to bring forth spiritual fruit, and save our souls" [Troparion to the Iveron Icon, Tone 7.
The Myrrh-Steaming Icons of Hawaii
"By now all our parishioners living in Honolulu have heard about the blessing that has been bestowed on us sinners, unworthy though we may be, by the grace of the Almighty and the love and concern for us by the All-Holy Theotokos. I have asked our Reader Nectarios, in whose home the two holy icons began steaming myrrh, to describe in his own words what has happened." Priest Anatole Lyovin
The icons in question are two: One is a mounted-print made, I believe, at the Sofrino Church factory near Moscow. It is an exact copy of the Montreal Myrrh-streaming Iveron of the Holy Theotokos. It is a small icon, roughly 7x9 inches and approximately one inch thick. My parish priest, Fr. Anatole gifted it to me for my Name's Day in 1997.
The second icon is a hand-painted icon in the shape of a Cross, with the Image of Our Lord's Crucifixion and the traditional Byzantine style of iconography. A Greek monk from the Holy Mountain Athos painted it. It is roughly 8x11 inches and approximately 1 1/2 inches thick.
Before I relate to you the full story of the icons, let me say how it all began...
Over three months ago, sometime around May, June or July or 2007, my wife and I noticed a hint of the scent of roses in the area surrounding our icon corner in our home chapel. Something made us look at our Cross icon of Christ, we noticed a small bead of liquid around the side wound on the image of the Christ, where the "soldiers pierced His side with a lance". The liquid smelled very sweet, like myrrh. We told no one of this and proceeded to "keep an eye" on the icon for any new developments or any possible continuation of the "streaming". The bead of myrrh eventually dried out and we eventually forgot about it.
Then the first of October, my wife and I were extremely ill and missed Vespers that night. I noticed a smell coming from reliquaries in my home. It was so strong, even overwhelming. Never have I smelled anything like that in my life. It was like a thousand roses had fallen into the room. I crossed myself and guarded myself with the Jesus Prayer. I finally came to the icon of the Cross and noticed that the bead of myrrh by the side-wound of Christ was still dry, for a split second I regained some composure, even as the smell or roses was getting stronger. I then looked down and my hand was wet -- it was myrrh. How did it get there? The icon was dry? Or was it? I then noticed that the left knee of the image of Our Lord was forming a bead or myrrh right before my eyes. My wife and I stood on our toes to reach for the other icons at the top of my bookshelves. Finally I grabbed the icon of Iveron given to me by Father Anatole. It was completely wet. And then the smell got even stronger. I put the icons back where they were; we took a few pictures with our digital camera. Then I said an Akathist to the Mother of God in honor of her Iveron Icon and went to bed, or at least tried to.
The next day, Sunday October 7th, after much debate, we left the icons at home and went to church. After the Liturgy we spoke to our kuma, who instructed us to speak with the priest immediately. We told Fr. Anatole what had happened. He listened patiently and said, "Bring the icons to church!" We then arranged with the priest, to bring the icons to church the next Wednesday, October 10th. Up until that Wednesday, the icons continued to stream. I collected the myrrh on cotton and before them I said prayers for my sister who was ill and for several other people. [Fr. Anatole's Note: The next day, his sister called her father to say that her doctor cannot explain it, but that her pancreas, which had completely stopped functioning had returned to its normal state and that her diabetes was under control.
Please note: The Orthodox Church has been blessed by numerous miraculous icons over the centuries throughout the world. Many miracles have taken place by the Grace of God and the holy prayers of the Ever-Virgin Mary the Mother of God.
Over 43 years as a priest of our Holy Archdiocese of America I have witnessed many miracles among my parishioners when doctors had predicted their death. And also I have had a number of miracles that I have encountered personally even before I was ordained a priest. Our faith is true and real and the love of God and our Theotokos, the Saints and Angels have and will continue to confirm that very fact and bestow us their blessings.
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God