The Holy Apostles became the vessels of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Miracles are events beyond nature, which use and are being energized by material things (handkerchiefs and aprons), which are full of Grace. Our Orthodox Church celebrates the worship of the “chains” of Saint Peter in January. When he had been imprisoned by Herod in Jerusalem, his hands were chained. An angel sent by the Lord, freed him. The Christians have preserved the chains and they have been honoring and worshiping them for the benefit of their souls. The chains have received “eternal grace” and became “the cure of ailments, the consolation of those afflicted, the harbor for those distressed”. In a troparion of the Canon of the feast it is written: “Peter, drive away demonic disturbances, pacify the tempest of sin and eradicate all sicknesses, dangers and afflictions as well as the assaults by barbarians from all those who revere your chains”. read more…
In his account to the story of the three youths rescued from the furnace, Ippolitos (235 A.D) notes: “The fire immediately burnt the straps with which the King had tied them, but did not touch their garments, so that this would also demonstrate the Lord’s Might. It is because the garments had been touching their bodies that they had become sanctified and did not burn in the fire”. The fire respected the garments of the youngsters because they had been sanctified since they had been touching their bodies.
Athanasius the Great says that when Saint Antony the Great would enter Alexandria, Christians and idolaters “would try if possible to touch the Elder, believing that they would derive some benefit”. Similarly, Saint John Chrysostomos refers to the way people expressed their reverence at seeing the Bishop of Antioch, Meletios, returning from exile. When he reached the town, “some of them would approach him and touch his feet and kiss his hands and listen to his voice”. Those who could not approach him, thought it was enough “just to see him in order to be blessed”.
Deacon Pontios, who wrote the biography of the martyr, Bishop Kyprianos, refers to the fact that a Christian soldier who was present at the time of the martyrdom, offered him new garments to wear, since he wished to take away the martyr’s clothes which had been drenched in the sweat of his agony.
All material things which are somehow connected with “spirit bearing” saints are being sanctified. Subsequently, they sanctify those who come into contact with them. These are not just preserved as simple memorabilia, but as “holy” relics, worthy of worship and veneration. As Saint Gregory of Nyssa says “those, who even touched the chest where the body of the martyr Theodore was placed, were receiving blessing and consecration. Since, it is not just the body which possesses supernatural qualities but also the chest walls which surround it, even ‘the dust’ gathering on them”. The power of the saint, according to Saint Chrysostomos, passes from “the soul to the body, from the body to the garments, from the garments to the shoes and from the shoes to the shadows”.
We must stress here that according to our ecclesiastical tradition, holy relics emit a fragrance, a particular pleasant scent, because of the presence of divine Grace. The Holy Belt was tied around the belly of the Mother of God, while Christ as an embryo resided in it, and received the grace of healing. Those who venerate it, receive ample Grace and consolation. All those who are in the deep end of the vastness of sickness, let them resort to the vastness of mercy granted by our Most Immaculate Lady. The prophetic book ‘Song of Songs’ of the Old Testament writes about our Lady’s garments: “the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon”( Song of Songs 4, 10-11. )
In our Holy monastery we keep the tradition to hand out to the devout, when they ask, pieces of ribbon which have been blessed by the Holy Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God. With the blessing of the Holy Belt innumerable miracles are being performed. The Holy Belt mostly helps couples who wish to have children and heals cancers and other incurable diseases.
However, if a miracle is to take place there are some basic preconditions. One is the virtuous life of the person to whom the miracle is being performed. The divine Grace is not being revealed neither does it reside in a soul which is full of passions and evil. Only a person who has a clean heart may become the vessel of Grace. It must be cleansed from “all defilement of flesh and spirit” according to Paul the Apostle (2 Corinthians 7, 1). As it has been shown from the countless miracles which have taken place, it is not just the person who asks for it or has been granted the favor who must be free from words, thoughts and deeds which are contrary to God’s will, but also his close family. However, if he is being weighed down by something, he must first be cleansed by the mystery of repentance and honest confession. It is only then that he can appeal to divine Grace.
A second precondition for any miracle to take place is faith. This is what Saint John the Syrian (?) of Damascus writes: “A ‘Christian’ means faith. Whoever comes forth in faith will gain a lot. On the contrary, whoever has doubts resembles the waves of the sea which are moved by the wind here and there, and he will not receive anything”. He means the kind of faith which is manifested by his whole life and which God likes- not faith shown only in words. If in our everyday lives we cannot prove that we love God, then we resemble the people at the times of our Lord, whom He had described as ‘hypocrites’ and for whom He had said: “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” ( Matthew 15, 8)
Therefore, what is needed is the kind of faith which is absolute, unreserved, unshakable, total and steady. Whoever possesses such faith depends entirely on God. He places his trust on His Might and His Grace. Faith either exists or it doesn’t. If we are talking about the kind of faith which is full of questions, hesitation, ambivalence, preconditions and ups and downs, then this faith is nonexistent. Such, so called, ‘faith’ cannot attract divine Grace and Might and it cannot render possible “what is impossible to humans”. The stronger man’s faith gets, the more able is divine Grace to descend and approach him. When faith wavers, Grace withdraws. When man’s faith reaches the strongest possible grade so that it becomes total and unreserved, divine Grace comes to greet him and at the meeting point the spark of the miracle ignites. Then the devout receives immediately whatever he has asked for.
Thus the patient, if he cleanses his life, so that he proves his total faith, he is being granted the miracle and he is instantly and totally healed once and for all.
This was the healing method also used by our Lord. He first cleansed the soul and the life of the patient by forgiving him his sins. Then to those who were asking for His Grace, He would ask such questions as to help them realize that they possess faith inside them and confess that they indeed believe in Him. The third stage after the absolution of sins and the confession of faith was their complete cure. He would complete the full circle of His healing method with the admonition: “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5, 14).
From what we have said so far it is construed that the Lord’s Grace is always the primary cause for every miracle. However, if a miracle is to take place, the power of a lively faith is necessary. With this kind of faith, the faithful safeguard the acceptance of divine Grace. In any case, one cannot stipulate a certain prescription with which a miracle is performed even with the presence of the most fervent faith. Christ’s apostles, despite their faith, could not heal the epileptic youngster (Matthew 17, 15-21). The Lord’s reply to their question of why they couldn’t heal the young man shows that a warmer personal communion and accord must exist between those who are asking for a miracle and the Most Holy Will of the only True God.
source: Ιερά Μεγίστη Μονή Βατοπαιδίου, «Θαύματα Αγίας Ζώνης», έκδοσις β΄επαυξημένη, Άγιον Όρος 2008
translated from Greek by: Olga Konnaris-Kokkinos, journalist