A relative of mine enjoys watching TV shows like “The Battle of Psychics” where wizards and sorcerers of all kinds “perform” miracles: they find lost persons, heal, resolve ghastly secrets, and help to investigate crimes. It was no use trying to convince her that it was all just for show, and that the people in the show were there for money. In a sense, I can see where she comes from: people tend to be fascinated by all kinds of mystical and wonderful things. Miracles are more likely to be used for influencing people’s minds and exploiting them. History knows a great many cases when people began honoring “saints” and invented lots of fantastic stories about them, but in the end their holiness was not recognized by the Church for lack of all grounds for canonization. Miracles did occur, though. Why?
A miracle, i. e., something that contradicts the natural course of things, easily captivates a human being and is a sign of authenticity and genuineness for many. And yet, it is worth remembering that miracles may have various nature and are not always hallmarks of righteousness and holiness. We know the Savior’s words: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23).
By the way, when asked “What power do unbelievers use to perform signs, miracles, and prophecies?” St. Anastasius of Sinai replied, “Even those who are unworthy can interpret omens, make miracles, and utter prophecies, because of some need or God’s providence, as was the case with Balaam and the sorceress.”
Demons can also work miracles, but their miracles would be an illusion, the main purpose of which is to convince a person that the Lord can hear him, and that he can relax and does not need to change anything in his life. In the end, the deceived person finds himself in an even worse condition than before.
True miracles are meant to strengthen the faith of a particular person or a small group of people so as to encourage their repentance and moral rebirth, rather than the assertion of their own selves. The miracle that comes from God affects the innermost aspects of one’s soul and makes the person change. If you examine the Gospel, you will notice that Christ did not use miracles as an instrument of propaganda. The Lord healed people out of compassion only, and often asked the healed not to make the miracles known to general public.
A passion for miracles can lead one astray. The more vivid and inspiring the initial infatuation with a false miracle, the more shattering and frustrating its consequences for an arrogant and unrepentant soul will be.
There was a parish priest in our parish, in the village where my parents live, who started to perform exorcisms. “Demon-possessed people” from all over the county started coming to him. They scream, faint, and even “fume” during services. Many people just come out of curiosity and ask where the “elder” is. Currently, the priest has been carried away by ideas like the fourth dimension, the sixth race, etc., and he is confident that the saints and the Mother of God attend his service personally. He constantly asks some of the “demon-possessed” people to confirm this; as a matter of fact, they turned out to be just mentally unhealthy people posing as possessed. Thank God that people contacted the Diocese on time. This issue is being looked into, and it is not yet clear what will happen to the priest who earned the ironic nickname “the wonderworker” from people who live nearby. Probably, it is better to live your whole life without anything supernatural, to pray to God in simplicity and humility, than to ruin everything you have built due to false miracles.
However, the Lord does not leave us without signs of His grace. He always reminds us of how precious we are in His Fatherly eyes. I guess everyone can share a story about a miracle that took place in his or her life. For example, some marvelous things happen to me quite often, and most of the time they are small: for example, I came back home from a long trip and couldn’t find out where I had put my warm jacket. According to the weather forecast, the weather was going to be pretty cold, and I was wondering what to do, because I didn’t have the money to buy a new one at the time. I was at a rehearsal at Sunday School. We were staging a Christmas show. One of the moms stopped by and said that she had found one of her coats, which had become too small for her, in the closet that day, and decided to bring it along in case someone needed it. Should I say that the coat was just my size? It was God who took care of it.
I suppose all that matters is that we should be grateful and draw the right conclusions from what goes on, instead of turning into “consumers of wonders”.
I shared the little miracles that have occurred recently in my life (and there have been quite a few of them) with a friend. I was genuinely impressed by the fact that they happened to me, a person who was not particularly advanced from the spiritual standpoint, to which she said, “It seems to me that when miracles happen, it’s as if God shakes a person’s hand, reminding them that He is always near.” It’s inspiring, isn’t it?