There have been noted in modern times phenomena known as “myrrh streaming icons,” modern counterparts perhaps to the “myrrh gushing bones” of ancient saints.
Myrrh streaming icons are said to exude from their painted surfaces a precious, sweet smelling substance referred to, because of its pleasant fragrance and seeming connection to wonder-working and the divine, as myrrh. Such icons have been noted in recent years in places as diverse as Hawaii, Montreal, Buffalo NY, Homer Glen, Illinois, Arseni, Greece, Dankov, Russia, Sibiu, Romania, Zakarpatia (Transcarpathia), Ukraine, and there have been more reports of similar occurrences elsewhere. Generally, no scientific proof that the substance produced is actually myrrh is offered when testimonies are given.
Over the course of centuries the relics of certain saints have been believed by many to have special powers and to emit an oily substance, also referred to colloquially as myrrh. For example, the fifth century warrior saint who is the patron of Thessaloniki, Greece is often referred to as St. Demetrios The Myrrh-streamer and his relics are reported to exude “myrrh”, even in recent times. Many other similar stories are recounted.
As one of the disciples who followed Jesus throughout His ministry, St. Joanna undoubtedly witnessed great miracles. We can surmise that even as she and others believed in His divinity as the cause of these miracles, they were perplexed at the mystery of how such seeming contradictions of nature could occur. Water into wine? A mud cure for blindness? A friend’s embalmed body remaining uncorrupted days after his sisters placed it in a tomb?
Perhaps with respect to stories of myrrh streamers and gushers we moderns might best borrow an attitude of tolerance and love from the ancients who witnessed inexplicable phenomena in their time. Why do we moderns feel compelled to seek evidence of a “truth”, to relish a relentless focus on stockpiling evidence which might demonstrate the presence/absence of deceit or manipulation in these matters? The ancient disciples kept their focus where it truly belonged. The miracles that they witnessed, and that we read about in Scripture, truly were tangible signs of the glory of God, but that wasn’t always revealed to them up front. Yet they kept their faith. They continued to serve and follow. Perhaps the modern myrrh gushing and streaming phenomenon we encounter can best be approached that way as well. If these modern occurrences bring people together in wonder, strengthen their faith, remind them that the power and glory of God is mighty and often revealed only over time, and focus their attention on the virtuous lives of saints, that can be reason enough for us to refrain from internalizing the kind of scoffing, sarcasm, pride, and superiority usually exhibited by modern doubters.
Unbelief vs. disbelief. Perhaps it comes down to that. In the event many of us moderns are wrong, and these icons and relics truly do manifest miracles, we know already of a suitable prayer for such circumstances – “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24.
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