Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Death, post 4, Life of the Living Dead

Pretty cool title if I do say so myself.

So this next post is about the saints. Now before anyone gets their proverbial undies in a bunch, let me say one thing.  We are all called to be saints. A saint is someone who is "sanctified" or "holy".  One who is holy is someone who is separated from the ordinary.  Like the sabbath day is a holy day to be separated from the other six, so is a holy person. However, there are human beings who have lived such Christ-like, humble and loving lives that they stand out more than the rest of us "saints".  The saints that are officially recognized by the Church are those whose lives you should look to and emulate.  They made it to the end of their lives, dying to the old Adam, and living like the new Adam, Jesus Christ.  The Orthodox Church bestows them with the title "St. So-and-So".   We have feast days and icons to remember these amazing men, women and children, and their continual intercessions are before the throne of God. (Revelation 5:7-9).     

Now it goes without saying, that there are tens of millions of others who qualify for this honor, however they lived and died without anyone really knowing about them.  My own grandfather was eulogized as "a saint walking among us".  He lived humbly and quietly. He glorified God at all times not only with his mouth, but more importantly with his actions.  He did not spend his life in vain pursuit of money or glory, but kept his eye on the end.  Will there ever be a "St. John of Syracuse" with an icon painted of him?  Probably not.  However, there is no doubt that he lived the life Christ asked him to and that he rests in Paradise.  I remember the day of his death each year because it marks the successful end of a life lived in love and truth, and the day he entered into the life he had been working towards.  My grandfather did not leave me money, real estate or any other item that is deemed as important or having value by this passing and corrupt world.   He left me his example of his life, one lived within the bosom of the Orthodox Christian church, fed by her sacraments and the understanding of the Scriptures as passed down from the other saints through the 2000 years of the Church's life.

Anyhow..back to death. The saints are death-conscious individuals.  They put off the old man, and day by day they become more and more like Christ, fulfilling their "death" in baptism.  And as this happens, the natural result (although people call it supernatural because it is so different from the reality of our present distorted world)  is that they too are able to heal people of sickness, avert disasters and the like.  The following is just a very minuscule example from the modern day life of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, who passed into eternal life in 1966. 
The miracle-working power and clairvoyance of Saint John were well known in Shanghai. Once, during Bright Week, Saint John came to the Jewish hospital to visit the Orthodox [Christian] patients there. Passing through one ward, he stopped in front of a screen, concealing the bed upon which an elderly Jewish woman lay dying. Her family members were awaiting her death nearby. The Saint raised a cross above the screen and loudly proclaimed: Christ is Risen! upon which the dying woman regained consciousness and asked for water. The Saint approached the nurse and said, the patient wants to drink. The medical staff was stunned by the change which had taken place in one who only moments earlier was dying. Soon the woman recovered and was discharged from the hospital. Such incidents were numerous.
It so happened that Saint John was urgently called to administer Holy Communion to a dying man in the hospital. Having taken the Holy Gifts, the Saint headed there with another clergyman. When they arrived they saw a young man, about 20 years of age, playing on a harmonica. He had already recovered and was to leave the hospital shortly. The Saint called him over saying, I want to give you Holy Communion right now. The young man immediately came up to him, confessed, and received Holy Communion. The amazed clergyman asked Saint John why he did not go to the one dying, but detained himself with an obviously healthy young man. The Saint answered simply, He will die tonight, but the other, who is seriously ill, will live yet many years. That is precisely what came to pass. The Lord manifested similar miracles in Europe and America through His Saint.
This is not unusual.  Just the result of a person who lives in deep humility and with great love for God and every human being. Here's more on St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.  I also recommend the book Blessed John the Wonderworker, published by St. Herman Press.  A quick google will give you tons of information as well.   To this very day, St. John still prays for those of us still struggling in this life.  The miracles are countless and true. Prayer services are done every Saturday at his tomb where you can have your name and/or the name(s) of those needing God's help read. [click here to do so].  The testimonies to his intercession before God are everywhere by all different kinds of people.  Here is a short podcast (about 20 minutes or so) of one such encounter from the Illumined Heart.
Well, that was a long post.  I think I'll do one more post on death and then head on into mercy.  I leave you today with these parting words that were spoken about St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. I think it really sums up what I have been trying to say.

In these frightening days of general apostasy from God, the Lord has not abandoned his people and has sent them a great intercessor. Standing before the throne of God is a courageous defender of the Church of Christ; a struggler and ascetic according to the tradition of the stylites who took upon themselves the strictest form of self-mortification and, at times, taking upon themselves foolishness for Christ's sake, which exceeds the wisdom of this world; a good and loving pastor who laid down his life for his sheep; a teacher and nurturer of Orthodox youth; a miracle-worker and unmercenary healer; an apostle and missionary; a deep theologian; a beholder of mysteries and a hierarch of universal significance, who unwaveringly followed that which he had promised before God and men in his testimony read during his election to the episcopacy: What greater benefit can one bring to one's neighbor, other than to prepare him for eternal life…

No comments: