Read, or do not read. This is not one of those posts I think you can skim, nor is it one of my long ones I felt I could throw a SUMMARY paragraph in bold at the end .
^---See Above ---^
For being only 24 I have seen some really cool things. In fact, the big negative of getting the DSLR for Christmas is an intense emotion that I wish I could re-live my life with such a great camera
! Until recently, probably the coolest thing I have ever seen was Chornobyl. If you could picture the site of the WTC in New York, except you can walk through it, very few people get to, oh yea and its radioactive... Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience (almost literally, I think I cannot go back for about ten years)!
But I saw something around Christmas that I have not shared yet. And I have not shared it with many people I know outside the internet either, because most people with think it, and/or me, crazy.
What did I see?
A miracle working, myrrh streaming icon of the Theotokos. For those unaware, the Theotokos is the Virgin Mary, I believe its Greek for God-Bearer/One Who Gives Birth to God
. I am Orthodox, Greek parishes seem to be where I have found myself most feeling at home, I think if I were thinner I may enjoy the Russian parishes a bit more
(they do not sit the entire ~2 hour service, save in some a short reprieve on the floor at one point).
The icon was on tour from its home parish in Hawaii, and happened to be at a local Russian parish. Without making this post far too long I, at multiple times, almost backed out (Orthodox Parishes/people are heavily cultural and at times can be not so welcoming to new comers unfortunately, among many other reasons). But when it came down to it, how could I not take advantage this opportunity?
As I waited in the queue, I thought about what to pray for. If you are unfamiliar, just as in Catholicism we pray for the intercessions of the saints. In other words, we see prayer not as an act of worship
, but rather an act of communication
(something frequently misunderstood). The premise, from an ex-protestant and quick explanation is that by "communicating with the dead," who are, by virtue of Heaven (and in these cases, by their status as Saints), closer to Christ, we can ask them to pray on our behalf. This does not replace prayer to God, and honestly in my daily prayers I ask for the intercessions of Saint Vladimir (my patron saint) and Saint Augustine (as any young, single male with plumbing aught to), and that is it.
Do not get hung up on the whole Saint thing, the grand idea of Saints and Sainthood is that it provides role models to the faithful. If you had to sum it up in one sentence, that would be it. Much like a baseball card you keep of your favorite player, you may keep an Icon to serve as a reminder of what you should
strive to be.
Anyway, as I approach the front, waiting in queue, I was thinking about what to pray for. But when it was finally my turn everything was gone. The scent of the myrrh, the overwhelming emotion and sense of power was incredible. Not only could you smell it, but you could see the myrrh streaming down the front of the icon. My hands were shaking and I murmured some prayers out. But the overall experience was incredible. I am still human, I could not say my faith is unshakable. But my faith will never be the same. What I saw that day was a true and in-the-real miracle.
Now, some Orthodox, and definitely many cradle-Orthodox (born Orthodox) believe there is no other true faith (IE denomination). That is hogwash, after all, it was my several active
years as a Protestant that brought me to the Orthodox church. Without that, I never would have become a Christian (I was not born into a Christian family). It does not take miracles and physical proof to believe, but I encourage anyone with the opportunity, whether it is part of your particular "denomination" or not, give it a chance... because it sure does not hurt!
If anyone is curious for more information, or the complete story on the icon: http://www.orthodoxhawaii.org/icons.html