Friday, June 4, 2021

Questions and Answers 185 - 190

Question 185: I've looked throughout your website to see if you have posted anything on the miracle of the Virgin Mary at Saydnaya Monastery in 2004 to a Muslim who was murdered and cut to pieces then miraculously restored and resurrected. As far as I know, this has never been confirmed as true, and wanted to know what you have to say about it. (If you are confused by what I'm referring to, the story can be read here:

Answer: Yes, I am familiar with this story. It received heavy rotation over a decade ago on the internet. No, I have not posted anything about it. The main reason I have not posted on it is because I wanted to see how things played out. To tell you the truth, I'm still waiting. That's not to say I don't believe the story, but I am skeptical of at least some details about it, to the point where I don't feel comfortable posting about it and even expressing my skepticism without any basis. However, I will point out two things of interest related to this story.

1. This story reminds me of another story written by Archbishop Timothy of Alexandria, who recorded the miracles of Saint Menas. It is as follows:
It happened that a merchant from the land of Isauria came to Alexandria to purchase wares. Hearing of the numerous miracles and healings which took place at the church of Saint Menas, he said to himself, "I will go to church, that through the prayers of His holy sufferer, God may have mercy on me." So the man took a bag full of gold and left for the church. Reaching Lake Mareotis, which lies near the sea, he crossed on a ferryboat to Loxonetus where he looked about for a place to sleep that night.  He entered one of the houses there and said to the master, "Friend, be so kind as to accept me as a guest in your house tonight, for the sun has already set. I am afraid to continue alone."
The man replied, "Enter, brother; you may sleep here until morning."
The traveler entered the house, lay down, and fell asleep. The master of the house saw that the merchant was carrying a bag of gold, and was filled with desire for it. Urged on by the devil, he resolved to murder his guest and to take the gold. Arising at midnight, he strangled the merchant with his hands, cut his body in pieces, placed them in a basket, and hid them in the innermost room of the house. Soon, however, the man's spirit became greatly troubled, and he began to look about everywhere to find a place where he could bury his victim.
While the man was fretting thus, Christ's martyr Menas appeared riding on a steed, like a soldier sent to do his king's bidding. The holy martyr came to the door of the murderer's house and asked for the guest who had been slain. The murderer pretended to know nothing and said to the Saint, "I do not know what to say to you, my lord. No one has been here."
The Saint dismounted, entered the innermost room, and found the basket. Bringing it out, he asked the murderer, "What is this?"
The man was terrified and fell at the Saint's feet as though dead. Meanwhile, the Saint joined the dead man's severed limbs together and prayed, and the merchant arose. Menas said to him, "Give glory to God," and the dead one awoke as if from sleep. He understood that he had been killed by the master of the house, and he glorified God, falling down before Menas and thanking him. The Saint took the gold from the murderer and returned it to the man whom he had resurrected, saying, "Continue on your way in peace!"
Then the martyr turned to the murderer and beat him severely until the latter begged forgiveness. The Saint forgave him his offense, and after praying for the man, Saint Menas mounted his horse and became invisible.
This story of Saint Menas has some similarities to the more recent story of the Muslim man in 2004. On the one hand you can say it confirms the possibility that such a miracle can take place, but it also can be said it served as an inspiration for the more recent story.

2. There is one piece of evidence this miracle from 2004 may be true. On July 10, 2017 the abbess of Saydnaya Monastery was in Greece and was speaking to pilgrims at a monastery, and she spoke to them about this miracle. She confirmed it was a real miracle and that she knew the Muslim man, who payed back his vow to the monastery. You can watch the video here, but it is only in Greek and Arabic, and unfortunately it cuts off when people start asking questions about it:

Though in this day and age there should be more information about such a miracle, based on what we have one can choose whether or not they want to believe it.

Question 186: Can you explain this quote to me by St. Maria of Paris: "At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked."

Answer: Yes, this is one of those quotes some Orthodox love to repeat, for one reason or another. I will just say five things about this quote:

First, this is a personal quote of St. Maria. This is her coming to a personal revelation about her own struggles and her own personal ministry. This does not apply to everyone, at least in the context she writes about it here. When people quote this, it should only be quoted within the context of the biography of St. Maria, and not as something she supposedly exhorted for all.

Second, if this quote applied to everyone, then what of the ascetic who lives alone in asceticism, and what of the priest who prostrates before the holy altar? Do they do those things in vain? Of course not. I don't think St. Maria would disagree. Instead what she is talking about is her own personal form of asceticism, which is one based on total philanthropy, being a nun who chose to live in a cosmopolitan city.

Third, if this quote applied to everyone, what of the one who is hungry, or the one who is in prison, or the one who is sick? These are called to another personal ministry and piety, and not necessarily one that requires going out of their way to help others beyond their means and ability.

Fourth, when Jesus says to the rich young man that to be perfect he was to give all he has to the poor and to follow Him, this is the path to perfection for the rich man. Jesus didn't say to him that all he had to do was give his riches to the poor, but he also had to follow Christ. Giving his riches to the poor was only the first step, the second step was to actually begin following Jesus completely unburdened of worldly things. When you are left with nothing and trust wholly in the providence of God, and live your life with the purpose of becoming a worthy vessel of the Holy Spirit, then you only need to help others when the opportunity presents itself, but the purpose of the Christian life is not merely to extend mercy, but to glorify God by being gloried in His Grace.

Lastly, these questions of the parable are only derived from this one parable and within the context of this parable. In other places Christ teaches us other aspects of the Christian life which will help people attain their divine purpose, such as how to pray properly, to fast properly, to undergo spiritual warfare properly, to strive for virtue properly, to please God properly. In other parables Christ asks what we did with the talent/grace that was given to us, or if we sought the pearl of great price, or if we repented of our sins, or if we forgave the one who sinned against us, or if we humbled ourselves before God. One parable does not replace or overshadow the rest.

This quote of St. Maria reveals her own path, her own personal revelation, and her own ministry and it says only something to us about herself rather than it being a general instruction for all Christians. In fact, if it teaches all Christians anything, it should teach us to strive to attain union with Christ in the way God calls each of us, and to pray for our own personal revelation as to how this should be done.

Question 187: What is the significance of repeating phrases from the Paschal Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom?

Answer: People in ancient times participated in sermons more than they do these days, sort of like a music concert today where the crowd will sing out the refrain of a certain popular song. This is what is happening with this sermon, where Chrysostom repeats phrases and the crowd repeats them back with excitement to place emphasis on them. Today the two phrases repeated are "It was embittered" and "Christ is risen", but there is another phrase that should be repeated though only few places do it; in between these two phrases is the phrase "It received" three times, which the crowd should repeat.

Question 188: Do any modern saints or modern elders refer to the Halki Seminary? I've never seen anything about it.

Answer: A spiritual child of St. Porphyrios, Vasilios Michalopoulos, in an interview stated that St. Porphyrios said the following to Metropolitan Maximos of Stavroupolis, who was a close friend of Vasilios, and who had asked St. Porphyrios about Halki:

"God allowed the Theological School of Halki to close, because although the students there were taught the Holy Fathers, people like you sent them to the West, to universities in the West to learn the rationalist spirit of the West and there became atheist theologians. This is why Halki will not reopen."

The video with the interview can be viewed here:

Question 189: Who should we trust and why, those Bishops and Elders who were vaccinated, or those Bishops and Elders who refuse to be?

Answer: When it comes to vaccines, you should not trust any Bishop or Elder, and if they tell you to trust them, you still shouldn't trust them. This is a medical issue, and you should trust your personal doctor. When it comes to your spiritual health, then you should trust your personal spiritual guide, and not your personal doctor.

Question 190: How am I to view the phenomenon of the stigmata as an Orthodox Christian? Is it something any Orthodox Saints experienced?

Answer: There are no cases of an Orthodox Saint experiencing anything like a stigmata. Francis of Assisi is the first, and he was post-schism. As for the phenomenon itself, much has been written, and an Orthodox view on the matter should be presented, and it is a bigger issue than what I want to present in a quick reply, but here are just a few quick thoughts on it. 
In the Catholic Church, there are over 300 known stigmatics, and their experience corresponds to the emphasis in Catholic piety on meditating and contemplating on the Passion of Christ and through such to co-suffer with Christ. It is not of a divine origin nor a product of divine grace, but it is a psychosomatic phenomenon produced through concentration of the mind and stress of the nerves and blood vessels. It is produced through extreme empathy with the sufferings of Christ, which is basically an emotional connection they establish with their conception of the Passion of Christ. Such things, even with a natural explanation, are considered praiseworthy by Catholics whose mystics are often driven by emotions which are sometimes confused with spiritual feelings. In the Orthodox Church, such extreme emotions are highly discouraged and avoided, which is probably why you don't find such a thing among any Orthodox, saint or not.

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