What an extremely fruitful week it has been in the life of our parish family this week, and not just for our family, but for the well over a 1000 people who journeyed here last week from all over the world to our little Church in the woods…to witness and to experience the Grace which flowed from the Miraculous Myrrh Streaming Icon from Hawaii.
We of course read about these things all the time on the internet. We see videos and hear others describing miracles that happen throughout life. We might see something on the evening news or sit on our computers on Youtube, trying to ascertain whether the videos and stories of miracles are real or not. But when we have the opportunity to come and physically encounter grace…when our eyes are truly opened (some for the first time) about the magnificence and Glory of God…there are no amount of descriptive words that can steady us for the wave of emotion that hits us, when we are reminded that everything that we do…everything we read about, sing about, participate in, and worship…is truth.
When we encounter the Grace and Experience of God, it is indescribable. How many of us have tried to explain to friends and family who were not present this week, what it was like to encounter Christ and His Mother? The words are just not there! All we can say or think in those moments, is “Glory to God”.
I had received numerous calls, texts, and emails from this past week regarding the presence of the icon. There were countless stories of thanks and healing. I’m sure there were some physical healings that took place, but a majority of the emails spoke of healings of faith. So many who visited had come into the Church with doubts about their relationship with God, and told me that when they entered and venerated the icon, their faith had been restored. Many commented that it was not seeing the tears flow from the icon that led to their restoration…but rather the feeling and experience of indescribable Grace that was in the Church.
Subdeacon Nectarios was telling us the story from this past year about a man completely covered in pentagram tattoos came up to it in the line, and fell to the ground weeping in front of the icon. The Grace had completely overwhelmed Him! And when he stood up from the ground, the local priest anointed him in the center of one of the pentagram tattoos, and the man went over to the Nectarios, took a machete that he was hiding in his pants, and placed it into the sub-deacon’s hands.
The man explained how he had been told by something in his mind to destroy and damage the icon …but when he felt God in the Church, he was completely undone.
“For the first time in many years, I felt love enter my heart.”
This is the power and influence that God’s Grace has in our lives!
We posted a video on our parish website and social media with the beautiful address that His Eminence Archbishop Alexander gave on Saturday morning after Liturgy. In it, he explained why this Grace is so significant and life changing for us. He said:
From time to time, God is kind enough to show us all His presence…and the aim of all of these assurances is so that we can be transformed, and become signs of His grace, His love, and His mercy to the world…So we venerate the image of the weeping icon of Mary, because she was the first human being since Adam and Eve, to be “truly human”…because to be truly human, is to be the revelation of God to His world.”
His Eminence reminded us that day that we as Christians are called to do the exact same thing that the icon did for us last week. We are to spend our lives trying to take the light and grace we receive at Baptism, that rebirth into a life of Christ, and spread it to the ends of the earth. This is the very essence of what it means to be truly human, and it is a life that we all have had the opportunity to witness Luke (the newly baptized) begin today.
We said just a few short minutes ago, that Luke has now been illumined. God has lit a flame into his soul and planted His light within him, so that this child can now lead a life that allows him to shine God’s Grace to the rest of the world!
I love having Baptismal Liturgies on Sunday morning when most of the parish family is gathered, because they serve as a wonderful reminder for us of our own baptisms, when the door was opened for us to once again become truly human…to once again live the life that we were created for. Just like Luke today, we all are little icons, made in the image and likeness of God, who are called to spread the creator’s Love, Grace, and Light to the rest of the world. This isn’t just the job of the priest, but rather a life that is equally shared with everyone here present…from the person with the most worldly influence and power, to the smallest of babies who are unable to utter a single word.
How will we respond to this high calling, brothers and sisters in Christ?
How will we react to that Grace which was shown to us last week, and again today?
How does witnessing this baptism of the newly illumined Luke, change our way of thinking in the world?
These are the questions that we take away from these two glorious weeks and incorporate into our lives, because as our Archbishop pointed out last week…ALL of creation is groaning in anticipationof the revelation of the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. All of creation, not just our fellow human beings, but the ants, the trees, the waters, and the very stones are awaiting our serious connection to God.
How will we respond?
May God give us the strength not to waste the opportunities and blessings that we have been shown these past few weeks, allowing us all to be worthy images and reflections of Christ’s Love to the rest of creation.