Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Psychotherapy


Miracle-lust : a child's disease
by Archmandrite fr.Barnabas Lambropoulos
 Taken from the magazine "Dialogos" - Issue No.25
Source: http://www.ecclesia.gr/greek/holysynod/commitees/heresies/dialogos/dialogos.html  

One of the basic reasons that people become entrapped in catastrophic cults and generally in heresies is the unhealthy search for wondrous signs and impressive charismas. 


This "miracle-lust" and "charisma-lust" is not unfamiliar, even in the space of the Church. The presence of "signs" is regarded by many as the supreme criterion and an imperative guarantee of veracity.  According to these people, wherever there are no obvious signs and charismas, a... guaranteed, bona fide Orthodoxy is not present!

This disease has also infiltrated the manner in which the par excellence Sacrament of Salvation -Sacred Confession- is being confronted. Apparently, it is only when someone possesses the charisma of insightfulness or perspicacity that he can be regarded as an unerring spiritual guide!

However, the Mystery of Repentance is in fact desecrated in this manner: instead of it being a practice of self-reproach (through the confessing of one's hidden thoughts and acts, with humility), it has degenerated into a childish quest for a witch doctor who will reveal all of our sins, without us needing to exert ourselves!  The salvific advice of the Holy Fathers is scorned:  "Let us not seek those (spiritual fathers) who can foretell or foresee; rather, BEFORE ALL ELSE, (seek) mostly those with HUMILITY and BEFITTING TO THE AILMENTS WITHIN US"  (Saint John of Sinai, "The Ladder", Counsel No.4).

Orthodox Christians who instead of seeking a priest-doctor that is suitable for their ailments run after seemingly far-sighted Elders do not differ all that much from those who end up... drinking the water that Sai Baba washed his feet in. In both cases, the individuals are suffering from the same unhealthy quest for miraculous and charismatic experiences.

About 1500 years ago, Saint John the Chrysostom was JOYOUSLY observing that even during his time, the... era of miracles had come to an end!  And he even explains why God ceased to provide innumerable miracles and signs:  God did this, he said, "not to dishonor us, but in fact to GREATLY HONOR us".  God ceased His many miracles, in order to honor us - and in fact to honor us greatly. Immensely.

And what kind of honor was that?  Well, He honored us, by pointing out to us that we were no longer infants. We were now grownups.  Miracles and signs were more necessary during the first years of Christianity, as the people of that era were still like immature infants: "People at the time were predisposed to being more foolish, having only recently been rid of idols" (Ανοητότερον οι άνθρωποι διέκειντο τότε, των ειδώλων προσφάτως απηλλαγμένοι.).  People had only just been rid of the delusion of idols, so it was therefore quite normal that they would be slightly thick-headed and insensitive to spiritual things:  "Their intellect was still much denser and more obtuse" (Παχυτέρα και αναισθητοτέρα αυτών η διάνοια έτι ην), which is why they gaped in amazement at the sight of tangible miracles and signs: "They were intimidated by all tangible things and dumbfounded"  (προς τα σωματικά πάντα επτόηντο και εκεχήνεσαν).  They thirsted only for "bread and spectacles". They could not comprehend God's spiritual gifts, which one can only appreciate through faith: "They had never seen what spiritual grace could be, which is only perceived by faith. It was for this, that signs took place" (ουκ είδεσαν τι ποτέ έστι νοητή χάρις, πίστει μόνη θεωρουμένη. Δια τούτο σημεία εγίνετο).  (Saint John the Chrysostom, "On the Holy Pentecost", Counsel No.1.)

"...But now that we have grown up (Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov continues the thoughts of Saint John), whoever still seeks miracles in order to believe, is to be pitied! This demand of his betrays just how much his fleshly conscience and his gross ignorance are dominant inside him. Those who believe through miracles comprise the lowest ranks of the faithful...", Saint Ignatius concludes.

It is therefore disgraceful - to say the least - when someone has the potential to study at a University, yet desires to return to nursery school!  And in fact, to a nursery school with doubtful charismas and suspicious visions, where he is in danger of becoming seriously deluded.

The greatest charisma, according to Saint John the Chrysostom, that a person could ever receive, is to suffer for the glory of Christ; to sacrifice himself, in obedience to His holy will. "I do not honor Paul's hands", says the holy Father, "that much for having raised up the lame man at Lystra, but rather for their being shackled for Christ. I do not regard Paul as blessed because he was swept up to Paradise or because he had heard ineffable words, but rather because he was imprisoned for Christ." Saint John concludes: "I much prefer to suffer for Christ, rather than to be honored by Him (with charismas and visions).." (Saint John Chrysostom, E.P.E. 20, 594).

Let us therefore carry a very small basket whenever we hear of huge fig trees - and especially when they are fig trees that artfully allow their supposed charismas and miraculous abilities to be projected outwardly. The most wonderful and life-shaking experience that a person can ever have, is to be liberated from his passions and be cured, through his obedience in Christ:

"For, if from inhumanity you convert to charity, then you will have made the dried (paralyzed) hand reach out. If you abstain from spectacles (television included) and come to church, then the leg that is lame will be repaired. If you restrain your eyes from beholding another's beauty, then even if they are blind they will be opened. If, instead of satanic odes you learn spiritual psalms, then even if you are deaf and mute, you shall be able to speak. THESE ARE THE GREATEST OF MIRACLES..."  (Saint John Chrysostom, E.P.E. 10, 414).






Translation:  K.N.                                                         Source of image:  Orthodox Website "Pithlessthoughts"

Article published in English on: 6-6-2010.

Last update: 6-6-2010.