April 18, 2013

The Boundaries Between Faith and Religious Charlatinism

By Markianos Protonotarios

In recent years, a religious uproar has exploded over ambiguous prophecies, causing widespread concern, while using the religiosity of the masses for some to gain by it. A religiosity that rekindled through miraculous and unexplained events like weeping icons and myrrhgushing relics and many, many eschatological prophecies.

Before I continue, however, I will clarify my position. Do not assume that I refuse to believe in the grace of God which is expressed in diverse ways in people's lives. When our Christ asserts that "if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mk. 9:23), how can I doubt that as long as a grain of faith can move mountains, surely God can do anything. However, not a few times have people led others astray shamelessly, using Grace as they want. It is not by coincidence, I think, that the above passage from Holy Scripture as conveyed by Mark the Evangelist, Matthew the Evangelist describes in the same miracle Christ using the key-phrase "perverse" beside "unbelieving generation" (Matt. 17:17). The perversion Christ identifies with some people has to do with how some people use the Grace of God for themselves, however and whenever they want.

Surely if God wants, he can not only make an icon weep, but even speak! And I absolutely believe this! However, I also believe that, in the more than 2,000 year history of our Church, many use miracles in such a way as to confuse the human faith of the recipients with the religious quackery of illusionists. In the 1980's this was dominated by a specific form of Orthodox illuminati, with exactly this attribute, the "enlightened", who with the passage of time were brought to obscurity and perhaps now even oblivion. These "pious groups" cultivated around curious "phenomena" like miraculous Holy Icons and speaking in tongues, that is, the transfer of messages from God with the voices of an illiterate rabble, as my endearing Sir-Alexander surnamed Papadiamantis would say. There you would have heard what you cannot even imagine. And of course, they acted under the cover of an Orthodox identity, sometimes even tolerated by a local parish, which could not do a lot for them, so their pious gathering took place in private homes.

It was there that a certain eschatological thinking was cultivated regarding the Second Coming, which were discussed to the extent that many would leave "redeemed" by these classes, and upon arriving at their homes would prepare for the Second Coming in the same way someone awaits the priest of a parish to perform a Sanctification of the Water service or a Holy Unction service in ones house. Some time between today and the Second Coming the tradition was always received that Constantinople would be returned to the Greeks and the Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia would be performed  which some in our day have attempted to perform, but the initiative caused a diplomatic episode and they were stopped at the border. Later, this phenomenon became the subject of many books which brought financial gain, and then it was the subject of television programs which "starred" a cassock-wearing star who predicted two or three times the Second Coming, which never took place.

Today the late Holy Elder Paisios is in "fashion", and I emphasize "Holy" because I am one of those who visited twice his Monastery, reverently kneeling at his grave asking his intercessions to God. Is it not unfair, that books about the Elder are given a series of inserts in magazines along with CD's of singers who bark like dogs and tselement├ęs'? Is it not unfair to this Holy Man of God that everyone's stupidity is owed to the late Elder, who from Heaven sees how we use him depending on the circumstance?

It was not long ago that the super markets were emptied when certain people deliberately leaked that war was coming, with the result that food became worm-eaten, and the moment when people were waiting in line at the soup kitchen of our church for a plate of warm food, others, out of stupidity, were throwing away worm-eaten food because war had not come. How can we make these have expiration dates?

Unfortunately, some attempt to refute the irrefutable words of God which came from His lips that say: "Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Mk. 13:32). All of this is caused by the confusion of the pious, and ironically on the other side by unbelievers. This morbid phenomenon at some point must be eliminated! The Grace of God is not coerced into working miracles! No ones faith must be maintained through miracles! Faith is strengthened not through confirmations of the Grace of God, but through a sense of His Presence in the life of people. Perhaps the best way to approach these issues, is through the voice of that man in the passage of the Gospel we used, who, when asked to believe in Christ, replied from his heart: "Lord, I believe! Help me with my unbelief!" (Mk. 9:24).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos