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Miracles?


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#1 Brad D.

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 11:20 AM

In the Orthodox tradition, are all accepted miracles of healing complete and instantaneous?

Example: If a person had a paralyzed arm, and they received partial use of the arm again, but not complete restoration.

Example: A person is blind, but they receive only very limited sight after prayer, and then perhaps it gets slowly better over time.

Are situations like that considered miracles, in the "proper" sense, by the Orthodox tradition?

Thanks for your thoughts,
Brad

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 12:46 PM

My sense of it Brad is that we have to be very open to whatever God provides. God may provide after all for complete healing, or for more partial healing. But it could be that God will not provide for us any healing at all. This is according to His will and for our good.

But since this always involves faith or growth in faith, then this brings us too to the point over time during our lives that we ask rather for God's mercy than for specific things such as healing, which can turn our relationship with God into something mercenary.

This growth over time isn't clear cut since we continue to pray for healing. But it does decribe a general pattern.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#3 Brad D.

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 05:58 PM

Thank you for your thoughts Fr. Rapheal!

#4 Christina M.

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 06:31 PM

This reminds me of Mark 8:23, where the Lord doesn't instantaneously heal the blind man. He makes it seem like the healing is part of a process that takes more than 1 step. The blind man seems partially healed at first, saying that he sees people "as trees walking around", and then the Lord continues the healing process.

Of course the blind man's complete healing takes place within a short period of time, but sometimes I think if we expand the timescale, sometimes we can notice a similar process happening in our lives.

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 07:55 PM

I know a man whose failing eyesight was restored to its previous state by the prayers of his wife. I know another man who was partially healed of tinnitus. If God heals, it is likely to be for some purpose rather than just because of our wish or prayer. In the case of partial healing, it may be that God is saying, so much is to strengthen faith and hope but what remains is your cross to bear. In the case of terminal illness, we may pray for healing but must pray more for God to grant His grace for the sick person to accept his illness and prepare for his meeting with the Lord. In extremis, the greatest miracle is our salvation.

#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 09:48 PM

I was struck by the following incident related among the miracles of the Akhtyrka Icon of the Mother of God (this is a quote from today's homily):

Before this official proclamation, in 1748, the Baroness Vedel came to pray before the icon asking for healing for herself. She had two young daughters who would be orphaned if she died and so she prayed ferevently to the Mother of God before this icon for help. That night in a dream she saw the Most Blessed Lady who told her that she would not be healed and that within a few days time she would die. The Virgin instructed the Baroness to distribute all of her worldly possessions to the needy in preparation for her death. The Baroness pled then for her daughters who would be orphans and without any means, but the Virgin promised her that she herself would care for the children. Trusting in the care of the Virgin, the Baroness did as she had been instructed and through her alms and charity built up for herself treasure in heaven in preparation for her death. Within 5 days she died. When the Empress heard of the death of the Baroness, she herself took the girls into her own household and raised them, arranging for favorable marriages with pious noblemen.


What struck me was that the baroness was not healed and in fact died within a very short time - the miracle is that learned of her impending death and the instruction she received from the Mother of God as well as the provision made for her children by the Mother of God. The point where this touches the conversation is that God's miracles do not always match what we want them to be. I constantly remind my spiritual children that God does not give us what we want - He gives us what we need for our salvation.

Fr David

#7 Michael Demin

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 07:25 AM

I'd like to add about the benefit of illness. When I was not baptized yet, I began to go to the church very frequently for about 6 months, but was delaying baptism and therefore did not took other Sacraments. And then I got ill and began to pray to Saint Nicolas. After that the illness ceased, but I did not understood what to do, did not feel what God wants me to do. So the illness resumed, and I was suffering for about a month, could not sleep etc., then suddenly I came to reason. The next day after baptism I received complete healing from the doctor, previous method of healing that was used was wrong.

So when God stopped the illness on the first prayer when I did not understood yet, I did not get the profit. Furthermore, after that every time I get ill for more than one day I clearly see the profit, maybe I do not distinguish it right away, but always some profit is clearly seen to me later. For example, last year the illness lasted about 2 weeks and the profit appeared at the 10th day of illness, so if the illness would have stopped after 7 days I would not get it. The profit in that particular case was the disappearance of a passion for certain thing that I could not stop doing myself by any other means.

#8 Brad D.

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 12:11 PM

I was struck by the following incident related among the miracles of the Akhtyrka Icon of the Mother of God (this is a quote from today's homily):



What struck me was that the baroness was not healed and in fact died within a very short time - the miracle is that learned of her impending death and the instruction she received from the Mother of God as well as the provision made for her children by the Mother of God. The point where this touches the conversation is that God's miracles do not always match what we want them to be. I constantly remind my spiritual children that God does not give us what we want - He gives us what we need for our salvation.

Fr David


Yes! This is wonderfully true. Actually, on Sunday my sermon touched on this exact thing. I preached on the first portion of Psalm 34. The superscription says it was written after, or in memory of, the time David had to act insane in front of the Philistine King. The Psalm proclaims the glorious salvation of God in the situation...it talks about how our faces are never covered in shame when we look to God, and how he answers us when we need Him. David had to act like a fool, a madman, even having to let drool run down his beard. This also at a point in his life when he was running for safety, having left his wife and friends behind him. Even in the midst of that situation, David was able to sing this Psalm to God about His wonderful salvation. David saw a miracle, salvation from God, in that situation... God could have delivered him some other way, but that was the way He chose to do it. Miracles are all around us, but we fail to see them because we feel a miracle should look a certain way - or meet our own standards rather than Gods.

#9 Brad D.

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 12:20 PM

I'd like to add about the benefit of illness. When I was not baptized yet, I began to go to the church very frequently for about 6 months, but was delaying baptism and therefore did not took other Sacraments. And then I got ill and began to pray to Saint Nicolas. After that the illness ceased, but I did not understood what to do, did not feel what God wants me to do. So the illness resumed, and I was suffering for about a month, could not sleep etc., then suddenly I came to reason. The next day after baptism I received complete healing from the doctor, previous method of healing that was used was wrong.

So when God stopped the illness on the first prayer when I did not understood yet, I did not get the profit. Furthermore, after that every time I get ill for more than one day I clearly see the profit, maybe I do not distinguish it right away, but always some profit is clearly seen to me later. For example, last year the illness lasted about 2 weeks and the profit appeared at the 10th day of illness, so if the illness would have stopped after 7 days I would not get it. The profit in that particular case was the disappearance of a passion for certain thing that I could not stop doing myself by any other means.


Yes, yes...God uses these things for our strengthening. One of the current failures in my Protestant tradition is the common feeling that God would never do anything negative to a person such as send sickness, or plague, or misfortune. God does what he must to help us draw nearer to Him. I always remind my folks about the words of Amos:

6 “Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord.7 “I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered.8 So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord.9 “I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord.10 “I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord (Amos 4:6-10 NKJV)


Sometimes this type of thinking and speaking is offensive to people, however clearly God will do whatever is needed to sanctify us. Thanks be to God!

#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 08:09 PM

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD."

#11 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 12:16 PM

Brad wrote:

One of the current failures in my Protestant tradition is the common feeling that God would never do anything negative to a person such as send sickness, or plague, or misfortune. God does what he must to help us draw nearer to Him.


I don't think that God sends sickness or whatever is potentially destructive of our material being, as if it is His own. This would mean really that God sends death, but He is God of life and not of death.

Instead then we say that God allows trials which He knows can be for the strengthening of our faith. In other words what He allows is therapeutic and also pedagogical in that it points us towards Him and beyond what is merely materialistic.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#12 Brad D.

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 12:36 PM

Brad wrote:

I don't think that God sends sickness or whatever is potentially destructive of our material being, as if it is His own. This would mean really that God sends death, but He is God of life and not of death.

Instead then we say that God allows trials which He knows can be for the strengthening of our faith. In other words what He allows is therapeutic and also pedagogical in that it points us towards Him and beyond what is merely materialistic.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael


Well, to a certain degree that is a semantic difference, and to another extent that could be a theological difference.


  • There are statements as in Amos quoted above, where God says Himself "I sent ... " "I sent ...".

  • There is Exodus 32:35 where it says that, after the golden calf incident, "the LORD plagued the people", or He "struck the people with a plague" depending on translation

  • Also, in Numbers 11 we have two examples.
  • The Jews complained (again), and "His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.(v1)
  • Also in verse 33, after sending the quail to the congregation, "while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. 34 So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.

There are of course others, but those are some of the clearest I think. For me, there is little distinction between God allowing and performing certain actions. Obviously I do not think God is evil, or sends evil in the sense of evil "proper". I have no problem with a statement that God sends trials, or afflictions, that "feel evil" but are actually perhaps the most "good" thing to ever happen to us (i.e. - to produce a turning to Christ). Mechanically, or in practice, my understanding would be that God does in fact "allow" these things to happen at the hands of the enemy, or other evil spirits. When a King sends his army to fight in a battle, he is able to say "I attacked you" even if he himself was not present in any capacity.

Just my thoughts...very interesting subject. Please Fr. Raphael and others, share your reflections and thoughts.

Brad

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 01:10 PM

Yes- to us it is a crucial theological difference (although I wouldn't want to give the impression that the language we use to convey this is set to the same extent as our doctrinal language is; much of it comes from scripture for example which still allows for 'sent'). But that is why we do tend strongly towards referring to 'trials' or 'temptations' both words which come from the original Orthodox languages (in Russian we say ispitanie/trials; iskushenie/temptations) which have very strong associations towards how God's providence works. In other words these two words so commonly used by the Orthodox contain a huge amount of theological baggage about how God works in our regards in regards to what we often see as being difficult, excruciating, or just challenging.

The starting point in this though is the fundamental thelogical point that God is not the God of death, since only life is Who He Is. He allows death, but death is not directly from Him- so in this sense we are more attuned to referring to how God 'allows' death rather than 'sends' it.

Although where the message is of God's active chastisement I could perhaps see us tending towards more active words such as God 'sending death' upon earth. This isn't part of our normal Orthodox vocabulary for normally we stress how God works in a therpeutic and pedagogical manner through the various trials we experience (ie that as Clement of Alexandria says; His justice flows from the fact that He is good and loving; and this justice is to correct people). But even here in more extreme cases of hardened evil I could see some careful use of the word 'sent', as in 'God sent death upon earth'. or whatever.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#14 Brad D.

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 01:18 PM

Yes- to us it is a crucial theological difference (although I wouldn't want to give the impression that the language we use to convey this is set to the same extent as our doctrinal language is; much of it comes from scripture for example which still allows for 'sent'). But that is why we do tend strongly towards referring to 'trials' or 'temptations' both words which come from the original Orthodox languages (in Russian we say ispitanie/trials; iskushenie/temptations) which have very strong associations towards how God's providence works. In other words these two words so commonly used by the Orthodox contain a huge amount of theological baggage about how God works in our regards in regards to what we often see as being difficult, excruciating, or just challenging.

The starting point in this though is the fundamental thelogical point that God is not the God of death, since only life is Who He Is. He allows death, but death is not directly from Him- so in this sense we are more attuned to referring to how God 'allows' death rather than 'sends' it.

Although where the message is of God's active chastisement I could perhaps see us tending towards more active words such as God 'sending death' upon earth. This isn't part of our normal Orthodox vocabulary for normally we stress how God works in a therpeutic and pedagogical manner through the various trials we experience (ie that as Clement of Alexandria says; His justice flows from the fact that He is good and loving; and this justice is to correct people). But even here in more extreme cases of hardened evil I could see some careful use of the word 'sent', as in 'God sent death upon earth'. or whatever.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael


Very interesting discussion... I am not certain I see the "crucial theological difference" between our views?

#15 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 01:38 PM

Brad wrote:

Very interesting discussion... I am not certain I see the "crucial theological difference" between our views?


Sorry- I meant this in general terms of the Protestant tradition referred to in your original post (#9).

One of the current failures in my Protestant tradition is the common feeling that God would never do anything negative to a person such as send sickness, or plague, or misfortune.


In other words we try to see this manner of how God works as being positive and adjust our language accordingly.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#16 Brad D.

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 01:54 PM

Brad wrote:


Sorry- I meant this in general terms of the Protestant tradition referred to in your original post (#9).

In other words we try to see this manner of how God works as being positive and adjust our language accordingly.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael


Ah, I see...definitely a good practice and very helpful. What happens sometimes though, in my tradition, is that people fail to ever use any language that would indicate God's will may be specifically FOR a given trial or adversity. So when trials come they are mostly seen as negative acts of the Devil, instead of accepting circumstances as from God for our betterment. I think that exclusively using language such as "God allowed this or that thing" can be destructive if not coupled with a discussion of the potential purpose. Often times our common Protestant view is that "Well, God just allowed that to happen", without focusing on the potential benefit. God is sometimes portrayed as just "up there somewhere allowing things to happen", rather than focusing on his immanence and providence in a given crisis.

Brad

#17 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 02:19 PM

Here's where my own use of language with all of its assumptions, can get in the way! From what you write Brad I can see that you are absolutely correct. If by 'God allows' we leave out God's purpose then there is a real problem. Or (as often happens) we take this to mean that in given situations of difficulty and pain God is not actively present at all- as if there is a reality quotient that to the degree that pain is present to that degree God is absent. Pastorally this question is one of the most serious challenges that we face in modern times, and the instinctive sense that our pain equals God's absence is at the heart of our spiritual struggle.

In any case when we say that 'God allows' a situation of trial, we mean that God's will is actively involved in a particular way.

#18 Brad D.

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 02:28 PM

Here's where my own use of language with all of its assumptions, can get in the way! From what you write Brad I can see that you are absolutely correct. If by 'God allows' we leave out God's purpose then there is a real problem. Or (as often happens) we take this to mean that in given situations of difficulty and pain God is not actively present at all- as if there is a reality quotient that to the degree that pain is present to that degree God is absent. Pastorally this question is one of the most serious challenges that we face in modern times, and the instinctive sense that our pain equals God's absence is at the heart of our spiritual struggle.

In any case when we say that 'God allows' a situation of trial, we mean that God's will is actively involved in a particular way.


Yes! From a Pastoral perspective, this is quite tricky. For me, when people are in a time of crisis and need help, sometimes the most comforting words SHOULD be that we can find comfort in the fact that God is in the situation, striving with us to make us more like Christ and to bring us nearer to Himself. However, because of the association with crisis as almost an absence of God ("God just allows things to happen sometimes....") it is almost impossible to provide that comfort because the foundation is not laid. I then find myself either having to provide a less substantive form of comfort, or engaging in a theological discussion - which is not always ideal with a person in the heat of agony.

Brad

#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 07:57 PM

I found it significant that post #12 quoted entirely from the OT. I know I quoted from Isaiah, but in thinking about suffering, miracles, and healing, we need to be aware of the totality of the Church's understanding. In recent times especially (and I am thinking of the theology of Elder Sophrony), we have the teaching that it can only be in suffering that we can follow Christ. If Christ is, as Apostle Paul tells us, the pioneer of our salvation, we have to follow His way which goes by the cross. Hard as it sounds, I was taught (by Bishop Ireneaeos and Archimandrite Zacharias) that praying and hoping for a miracle of healing, whilst certainly permitted and to be received with all due thanks if it happens, is, nevertheless, a sign of our weakness.




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