My gut response is that miracles, although good at confirming our weak faith, is no foundation for it. What matters most is the dogmatic content, not the “signs and wonders” that our Lord rebuked his generation for seeking. Why do there seem to be miracles outside of the Orthodox Church? That’s a mystery of the next age. Perhaps God, who is all-good and makes it to rain upon the just and unjust, also bestows other gifts. I don’t know. I have a feeling, though, that Thomas Aquinas would ask himself, hearing tales of miracles outside of his communion, “But, is their doctrine true?”
Thank you for the observation...but if those who are experiencing true miracles (for whatever purpose, as you said) are Catholic, then what would that say of the anti-Catholic Orthodox who are uncharitable to their Roman brethren in every sense, even refusing them the title "brethren"? It would make one think twice before having that attitude.
You see, this isn't a SuperMario game, where there are levels, lives, stars, etc. I don't see how miracles make one person different from the other; it is GOD who makes miracles, after all! The saints do not 'possess' grace, they humbly ask God for grace, and thanks to the purity of their hearts, God gives it to them, just like He would give it to us, if only we asked Him in earnest...
I appreciate the analogy :-), very much so.
Regardless of where others have or have not found grace, where do you find Christ? That is where you need to be.
Maybe both places? That's my point in asking the question, obviously if the Holy Spirit is in the Catholic Church, then so is Christ...or can the two be separated? If you claim such for Orthodoxy, then you have the question, could the blessed possibility that He exists in both be true? Certain of our clergymen seem to think so, and theirs (the Catholics).
Dear Fr. Raphael,
We mustn't then begin from fruits before we understand what the Tree, ie the Church is. If we do this we might miss the boat entirely. After all good exists everywhere, and striving for it also. But this kind of good is not yet the Church although we would not want to deny it of its own worth.
Please bless. I appreciate what you're saying. I was raise Protestant/agnostic, so I certainly came to Orthodoxy having considered in the order you mentioned, finding the Tree, then the fruit. I did so through lifeless, boring church history (kind've a nerd), but it made sense to me to start there. However, through that same fascinating subject, I've begun to wonder if I (fallible me) chose wrongly in Orthodoxy. So instead of looking at church history, which can lead to either conclusion (if one looks at it objectively): Orthodox or Roman Catholic...I tried looking at the fruits first instead of the Tree. Do you still think it was unreasonable to do so?
I appreciate your observations, but just want to respond to a few that I took exception to:
Also this Tradition belongs not only to the saints but is active in the people at large. This is why we don't have a Pope or a teaching magistarium to make decisions, rather we trust to the Spirit (sometimes directly, but mostly through Tradition guiding the people and the leadership at large) without any central authority.
What really bothers me, though, is that certain men that we Orthodox acknowledge as having spoken with the Spirit we're supposed to trust, seemed to be all about Roman primacy. I believe the following could be said to have done so, though I understand it's open to debate (quotation wars): St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Augustine of Hippo, Pope St. Leo the Great....etc., and others who appealed to Rome as to a court of last appeal, against their own Eastern fellows....such as even St. John Chrysostom; and since when did an equal court ever appeal a case to another equal court, or a lower court? You could argue that it doesn't work that way in conciliarity...but I would then wonder why it had to be Rome to which to appeal such important things, as though they were a bastion of Orthodoxy over against the entire East in some cases. Neither one sounds good. So you say we must trust the Spirit, but what if those inspired by the Spirit endorse the Papacy you're discrediting? That's quite the pickle.
Here is a concrete example. Catholic tradition has accepted Thomas Aquinas' theology as a standard against which others' theology is measured. But what happened after his mystical experience? We don't hear about him after that. And yet in Orthodoxy, we don't accept people's rational theology as the standard. Rather we see it simply as part of their striving toward real knowledge of God.
That's almost fair, but it seems you're assuming that he was somehow completely changed even theologically from his mystical experience. He didn't say that, he just said his theological works were straw in comparison, not false. Who's to say he wasn't a sanctified individual who "prayed truly," which, if I'm not mistaken, is the de facto Orthodox definition of theology? He dealt with many temptations, and his extremely annoying, worldly family with what seemed to be Grace, and pursued Jesus in the Dominican order, very frowned upon by establishment cronies.
In fact St Maximos the Confessor when talking of St Paul's theology uses the analogy that St Paul at times is leaving the mystical theology in a spiritual form for those who can partake of it this way, and at other times takes this word and makes it flesh for those who are still babes in Christ and mostly fleshly.
In this way, because in Tradition the Word has become flesh, even the faithful are able to recognize which spiritual people and teachings belong in the Church and which don't.
That's a cool observation. St. Maximos is also a Roman Catholic Saint.
As to your second paragraph...I used to be on board with you, especially when I was a Protestant, but that's something I'm realizing may not be so cut and dried. I would love to believe that was the case, but there were many times when basically the entire East fell into heresy, and the Pope came to save the day. And regardless of who errs and who saves the day, the problem is that if we leave it entirely to the faithful, heresy will get mingled with truth. Even Orthodoxy recognized Ecumenical Councils to solve these problem...but the problem currently is that their ability to call these has been retarded, because Rome is out of the picture. In any case, the faithful alone aren't sufficient to quash heresy and falsehoods.