Orthodox America

  Are There Wonderworkers in Our Time?

By Saint Dimitri of Rostov

     Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you (Luke 6:2)

About the author - Saint Dimitri of Rostov

This great Russian hierarch is best known for his 12 volume compilation of the Lives of the Saints, the favorite reading of generations of Russian Orthodox, which is now becoming available in English translation. 

        Born near Kiev in 1651, the Saint was early inclined towards monasticism, and was tonsured at the age of 18. Six years later he was ordained a priest. He had excelled in rhetoric as a student, and was soon in demand as a preacher, moving his listeners not only by his eloquence but by his prayerful and ascetic disposition. He was abbot of several monasteries before being elevated, in 1702, to Metropolitan of Rostov. As a hieharch, he was especially concerned to combat the moral failings and theological ignorance among the clergy." Alas for our wretched times," he wrote, "the priests are negligent and the people are astray. The priests do not preach the word of God, and the people do not listen or want to listen."

      The great collection of saints' Lives was finally completed in 1705, after more than 20 years of intense labor. During this time, the Saint was granted several heavenly visions. He was resting one night after finishing the life of the holy martyr Orestes, when the martyr appeared to him and informed him of additional torments he had endured, which the Saint had not recorded On another occasion, the Great-martyr Barbara appeared to him.

      The Saint was praying in his cell when he reposed, on 28 October 1709. In 1753, workmen repairing the roof of the cathedral where the Saint was buried, discovered his relics to be incorrupt.

 Some people are accustomed to deprecate our times and to reproach contemporary humanity, saying, "There are no wonderworkers among men today, as there were in the past." That is not true! If you like, I'll show you that even today there are wonderworkers. Just listen: Everyone who loves his enemy is a wonderworker. I will prove this to be true on the basis of Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers.

      What is a miracle? A miracle is considered to be that which is supernatural, i.e., outside the realms of nature, for what is according to nature is not a miracle, no one is amazed by it, no one calls it a miracle. But if something exceeds the power of nature, this is a real miracle. It was not a wonder that the flames from the Babylonian furnace burned the Chaldeans who were standing nearby, for it is the nature of fire to burn, and it is the nature of human beings to be burned by fire. The miracle was that the fire could not touch the three youths who were inside the furnace; it did not harm them. It is not a wonder if a person loves those who love him; this is natural after all. What is a wonder is if a person loves his enemy, because this is above and beyond nature. Indeed, because of his fallen nature, man cannot tolerate offenses -- we can see this in ourselves and in others. It sometimes seems to us better to die than to endure being offended. If it is in our nature not to love our enemy, does it not follow that to love one's enemy is an act that is beyond nature, wondrous, and therefore he who loves hi~ enemy is truly a wonderworker.

      What wonders does such a wonderworker perform? Just listen.

    He who loves his enemy and does good to him gives sight to the blind, not to his physical eyes hut to his mental eyes. Nothing so darkens the mental eyes as anger and rage. There are many examples of how people in a fit of anger have acted like unreasonable children, for example, in the lives of the holy Martyrs we read that some of the torturers, in giving over Christians to be eaten by animals, would beat the animals when they were reluctant to touch the martyrs. From this it is clear that a man possessed by anger has indeed lost his right mind and is like a blind man, not knowing where he is going or what he is doing.

      What remedy is powerful enough to cure such blindness? Kindness, love, charity on the part of him who is the object of anger. For when the one who is angry sees that his anger is not met by anger but, on the contrary, by love and that evil is conquered by good, he wilt cease from his anger and become ashamed of himself, recognizing his sin and the innocence of his neighbor. This is how it was between the wrathful Saul and innocent David. And thus it is that he who loves his enemy is a wonderworker, opening the eyes of the blind.

      He who loves his enemy subdues the waves of the sea and stills the storm. Saint John Chrysostom likens an angry mar, to a sea agitated by the winds. Just as a stormy sea throws all the dead bodies found in it onto the shore, so an angry man in his wrath divulges all the secrets of his friend, accusing and disgracing him. Who can calm such a sea? He who destroys the cause of the agitation, A sea is not agitated if there are no winds, no storm; similarly, an angry man stops being angry if he does not meet with contradictions, strife, arguments.  Do not voice your contradictions, refrain from antagonism, do not enter into arguments - and you will destroy the cause of agitation and you will see the sea grow calm. Since he who loves his enemy does not contradict, does not quarrel, does not oppose, he calms the storm of anger And so we see that he who loves his enemy is a wonderworker, capable of calming the raging of the sea.

      He who loves his enemy quenches the power of fires. Malicious anger in a person is, as it were, like a fire that burneth a wood, and as the flame that setteth the mountains on fire (Ps. 82:15), for it bums up the height of virtues in the one who becomes angry, and destroys and turns to ashes, as it were, the good name and good repute of his neighbor. A flame is quenched either by water or by the scattering of whatever substance is burning. Similarly, anger is subdued either by silent meekness, like water, or by yielding, which acts like the scattering of burning material. A meek and quiet man, who gives no cause for anger, not only will not ignite the flame of animosity but even quenches the flame that is already alight. As Saint John Chrysostom says, there is nothing more powerful than meekness: just as water quenches fire, so a meek word calms the soul which is burning with the anger of a fiery furnace. The person who yields, removes himself from the one who is angry and thereby deprives that person of food for his anger. Therefore, the Apostle also teaches: Give place unto wrath (Rom. 12:19), i.e., condescend, yield, remove yourself for a time from the angry person. Because he who loves his enemy is meek, gentle, and condescending; he readily quenches his anger. Therefore, he is a wonderworker, for he extinguishes the power of fire.

    He who loves his enemy transforms bitterness into sweetness, just as Moses did with the water of Marah. Human enmity is full of bitterness. The holy Apostle says, Let all bitterness . be put away from you. What bitterness? wrath and anger, and clamor and evil speaking ... with all malice (Eph. 4:31), may that bitterness be put away from you. What sweetness can be found in the soul of an angry person? The thought in it is bitter because it is thinking about malice; the word is bitter, for it vexes, reproaches, defames: every undertaking is bitter, especially for the one who is angry. A good word and a good deed -- both are valid remedies About a good word, the Preacher says, A soft answer turneth away wrath (Prov 15:l); concerning good deeds, one of the Holy Fathers teaches: If you discover that your brother is angry with you, send him a gift Since he who loves his enemy is always tender-hearted towards him, and does god to him as much as he can, patiently enduring the bitterness of his anger, while pouring the sweetness of love over him, he transforms his enemy’s anger into friendship and love. Thereby is such a person a wonderworker transforming bitterness into what is sweet.

    He who loves his enemy expels demos. He who is filled with wrath and malice towards his brother, and is hot with revenge, such a person is like one possessed, and in fact sometimes runs the risk of becoming possessed. Indeed, any person who is in a state of intense anger is like one possessed: his countenance becomes frightful, his voice terrifying; he bites his lips, grinds his teeth. The whole household fears him -- as if he were possessed; they avoid him, they hide from him. Who or what can chase the demon of anger out of such a man? King Saul became possessed at times. This sickness came upon him especially when he became unreasonably angry at someone. He was most angry with the innocent David, of whom he was jealous on account of David's good repute. And from wrath he fell into possession. What did David do? He played for him on his harp and thereby chased away from Saul the unclean spirit. But it was not so much the music as it was David's meekness teat healed Saul, for he did not oppose malice with malice. Now, inasmuch as he who loves his enemy conquers him with his gentleness and meekness, and gives out pleasing music of humble speech, calling himself the sinner that his adversary declares him to be, he drives away his wrath -- and thus he is a wonderworker, expelling demons.

      Finally, I shall tell about a wonder greater than any of these we have mentioned: He who loves his enemy becomes a son of God, as it is said: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and you will be sons of the Most High. What is greater than this? What greater miracle can one possibly ask for? Therefore, love your enemy, and you will be a new wonderworker, saving his soul and your own. If you do not believe me, try it for yourself. Begin from henceforth to love everyone. The Son of God will be your guarantor: heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will never pass away! Without a doubt, you will become a son of the Most High. I desire this sonship for myself and for everyone. Amen. 

A leaflet published by the Russian Skete of Prophet Elias on Mt Athos, No. 91, 1896; reprinted in Pravoslavnaya Rus' No. 12, 1997, from which it was translated.

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