As a young boy, I was quite a little dare-devil! I pushed my physical abilities to their peak or at least red-lined all of my safety gauges. After all, there was nothing that Mercurochrome and a band-aid couldn’t fix! And let me tell you, I wore my orange Mercurochrome paint like a badge of courage! Thus being said, I am a miracle! By the grace of God, I am still here with time to become more of a Myrrhbearer to the world, and much, much less of a dare-devil!
Folks that turn their back on God are still acting like little dare-devils, testing their physical and mental abilities against their Earthly existence! Maybe it is time to put away the Mercurochrome and Band-Aids and be about our Father’s business. (Luke 2:49) Maybe it’s time to recognize that we too are miracles and spend the rest of our Earthly time seeking divine grace. Maybe it’s time instead of participating in chaos we oozed myrrh to the broken world through our love and actions! You too are a miracle, get busy!
This morning in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we here of yet another miracle performed by Christ. (Matt 17:18) But we also remember the times people ridiculed Christ demanding He come down from the Cross and save Himself. And the time the Pharisees and scribes asked for a sign or a miracle on demand and our Lord rebuked them saying: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt 12:38-40)
Then there are some folks say they have never seen a miracle, well here I am! Even before my existence in conception, I was a miracle. The Creator knew me before the womb (Jer. 1:5) and still has high hopes for my outcome! As long as I obey His commandments, his grace sustains me. Listen to the words of Saint Nikodemos: “The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him.”(St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, Christian Morality)
The grace that God gives us is also a miracle. How can we then get more grace? We remember in Saint Paul’s letters to the Ephesians: “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Grace and salvation are connected at the hip! The Church Fathers teach that grace is the very life that flows naturally and eternally from God. It is the real, life-bestowing power that brings us into communion with Him.
In the Gospel of Luke, we read about the story of the woman with the issue of blood. We know her as Saint Veronica and she daringly touched the hem of Christ’s garment in faith. The Lord knew she touched Him because, because He said, “I perceived power going out from Me” (Lk. 8:46). This power is His divine grace or His energies.
Grace is the energy that allows us to participate in God’s life, to become more like Christ. It is as real as the light and warmth of the sun by which we truly experience the sun. It is present every day but we must participate and leave the darkness and seek after the Light! But unlike the created energy of the sun, God’s energies (as grace is called by the Fathers) are uncreated. God’s uncreated energies allow us to participate in Him and to know Him. St. Basil the Great wrote: “It is by the energies that we can say we know our God.”
The Church Fathers use the comparison of iron and fire. When a rod of iron is placed in fire for a time, it takes on the properties of the fire, it becomes red hot. It doesn’t become fire itself, nor does it cease to be iron; rather, the iron participates in the properties of fire. In a similar way, our humanity can participate in God’s grace (not His essence) because of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. This is the undeniable “good news” of the Gospel and the goal of every Orthodox Christian. This is the purpose for which we were created. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20)
St Ephraim writes: “According to thy mercy, pour out upon me, who am miserable, at least one small drop of grace to make me understand and be converted, that I might make at least some small effort to correct myself, for if thy grace does not illumine my soul, I will not be able to see the carelessness and negligence that the passions have produced in me through my apathy and recklessness. (St. Ephraim the Syrian, “69: The Wiles of the Enemy and the Resources of Sin,” A Spiritual Psalter or Reflctionse on God)