All Orthodox priests in the Slavic tradition wear a cross after their ordination. That is not so among the Antiochians and Greeks. Among them, the cross is awarded to the Archpriest. But, I periodically have the opportunity to be in a Slavic parish (whether OCA or Moscow Patriarchate). When I am with them, I wear a simple brass cross in order to honor that tradition.
The other day, I returned to my car after a Great Vespers. I took off my cassock, temporarily placing my cross on the roof of the car while I unvested. I hung my cassock in the rear seat, got in the car, and drove off. Yes, I left the cross on top of the car. The next day, I realized that there was no cross with my vestments. With great sadness, I looked in my car and could not find the cross. I drove back to the church at which I had been and looked around the area in which I had been parked. No, there was no cross there either. I sadly decided that I was going to have to buy a new one, and hoped that whomever would find the cross would treat it well.
I returned home, got out of my car, sighed, and looked at the rear roof of my hybrid hatchback. To my utter shock, there was my cross. One link on the neck chain had turned perpendicular and caught on the crack between the rear hatch and the main body. It was firmly held in place, as though someone had deliberately pushed that link into the crack. In fact, I had to pull hard to get it out. I had been driving with the cross on the roof of the car, and it had not flapped. I heard no metallic noise as though something were bouncing against the roof. There were no scratches in the paint. But, there was my cross, firmly and safely held until I found it.
Sometimes, miracles come in very small packages. I cannot prove that an angel looked after my cross. I cannot prove that it was not simply a felicitous bit of serendipity. But, I can say that I can see God’s gentle love in what happened to my cross. And, it made me think. Most of us often forget that there is a doctrine of providence that speaks to events of this type. What does a particular theological article say?
In order to differentiate between the customary way in which God acts and His special, miraculous action, theologians have traditionally distinguished within divine providence God’s providentia ordinaria and His providentia extraordinaria, the latter being identified with miracles. But our exposition of divine providence based on God’s middle knowledge suggests a category of non-miraculous, special providence, which it will be helpful to distinguish. One has in mind here events which are the product of natural causes but whose context is such as to suggest a special divine intention with regard to their occurrence.
That last sentence is what I experienced, “… whose context is such as to suggest a special divine intention with regard to their occurrence.” On the one hand, my cross being safely kept on the roof of the car can be explained as simply the result of natural causes. Maybe the link just happened to shift at the right time. But, when one looks at the overall context, it becomes easy to say that God had a very special divine intention. That is, even if the way in which the cross was saved had a natural explanation, yet the result of what happened pointed at God. I realized that God’s providence (providential care) was at work.
All of us need to learn to look at the world through the lens of providence. Skeptical people find it very easy to make fun of people of faith on the grounds that many things which they claim as being of God can simply be explained by natural causes. But, we need to learn to see the entire context of what happened. As we look at the world, are we open to seeing God’s hand in the events of our life? Even when an event can be explained by natural causes, can you also see how God could be at work in it? The doctrine of providence tells us that God has a regular watchcare over this world in which we live. It is that watchcare that gives rise to the small miracles that bless our lives.
Let’s learn to see with God’s eyes!