Miracles in Small Packages

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!


Fr. Ernesto Obregon

I am a Cuban. My sister and I arrived in the United States of America in 1961. I was nine years old at the time and my sister was five. Yes, alone. Our mother, a widow, put us on the plane in La Habana, and we were taken to an orphanage upon our arrival in Miami. No, I never lived in Miami for longer than about six months. Yes, we and our mother were re-united. She escaped from Cuba by boat about four or five months after we arrived in the USA. We were re-united and were sent by the Catholic Welfare folk to Ohio, where they had found my mother a job and us a foster home while she learned English and got situated. So, I grew up in Ohio, had a paper route, learned to build snowmen, and moved from place to place as out mother got better jobs. Eventually she met a good man and re-married and we settled into his house in Mansfield, Ohio. I was a 15-year-old teenager.

Needless to say, none of this was necessarily guaranteed to keep me strong in the faith, although my mother tried. I rebelled during my teenage years and left Roman Catholicism for some vague hippie philosophies and a lot of rebellion. By 1970 I had been expelled from college after my first year, a year in which I was very confused and quite directionless. When I returned to Mansfield in defeat, I was approached by a friend who had become a “Jesus Person.” He took me to this “farm” that was filled with about four middle-aged adults and lots of early 20′s Jesus People. One of those adults was a Southern Baptist pastor, a former Campus Crusade staffer, and uncomfortable supervisor of hippy Jesus People, and is now the Very Rev. Gordon Walker, an Archpriest of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. His story, along with others whom I know, is chronicled in the book, “Becoming Orthodox” by the Very Rev. Peter Gillquist.

My journey was different. I eventually ended up as an Anglican priest, and a missionary. My wife and I served in both Bolivia and Perú, and our three intelligent and very perspicacious daughters spent a decade of their formative years in South America. I ended up as The Archdeacon of Arequipa of the Anglican Church of Perú, which is part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which is part of the Anglican Communion.

We returned to the USA when our children began to attend college, and I took a parish in one of the dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Within less than four years, we realized that this was not a Church in which I could doctrinally live.

It was at this point that Fr. Gordon Walker came actively back into my life and told me that it was time that I came into Orthodoxy. He was right, and I have been Orthodox ever since. I was ordained in the Antiochian Orthodox jurisdiction, but am currently serving as an attached priest at a Greek Orthodox Church. God has blessed us. We have wonderful grandchildren. And we are truly blessed.


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