The Touch of Jesus, and the Touch of His Saints

St. Seraphim of Sarov, arguably, is the most 0719seraphim popular of Russian saints. July 19 marks the celebration of the first uncovering of the relics of St. Seraphim. This event took place in the year 1903 in Imperial Russia. That day in Imperial Russia, 70 years after his repose, or death, the physical presence of his relics brought about miraculous healings among those present.

The primary gospel reading of this Sunday came from St. Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 9: 27 – 35). In this reading we hear of the healing of two blind men by the touch of Jesus. The two blind men cry out to Christ asking him to heal them: to restore their vision. Jesus, the God-man, touches their eyes and says to them: “According to your faith, let it be done to you.” St. Matthew comments, “And their eyes were opened.”

From the gospel reading, we are to note Jesus’ touch operating amid human faith. Also, by his healing touch, we are to see the work of deity in union with human flesh in the midst of humanity and creation. There is a parallel between the touch of Jesus and the touch of St. Seraphim. The parallel is found in faith in Christ working in a saint – even in his relics. The miraculous healings that occurred in 1903 were accomplished by the presence of Christ in the remains of this saint. The healing presence of St. Seraphim among the Russian faithful was truly the healing presence of Christ still working through the saint’s physical remains!

This points to our salvation is: theosis. Theosis is, simply put, the inner working of God’s presence in any human who, by faith in Christ and the operation of the Holy Spirit, cooperates with the will of God. Theosis operates in the saints as they participate in the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1: 4). How did (and does) this come about? It comes about in great part, by faith in action! The faith of St. Seraphim led him to works, and more importantly works of Christ manifested in and by his life of faith. By faith, by his works of faith, by his life of prayer, and (not in the least) by partaking of the Eucharist, St. Seraphim engaged fully the process of theosis. He abandoned himself and offered himself to Christ.

Here is an axiom: what is offered is transformed. In the Eucharist there are the offered gifts of bread and wine. By the faithful work of the people of God, by bishops and priests, by the prayers of the Church, and by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Divine Liturgy, these gifts are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. In a similar manner St. Seraphim was transformed into the image of Christ as he offered himself to God. As bread and wine of the Eucharist re-presents Christ to the faithful gathered around the Eucharist, so St. Seraphim re-presented Christ to creation around him, even by his by his physical remains.

By the Eucharist our union with Christ is strengthened (John 6: 56), and by it we are fed and empowered. We are empowered, and our faith should propel us, in Christ, to re-present Christ to all and all those around us.

Throughout his epistles St. Paul teaches us that we are in Christ. This speaks of the same relational union as Jesus speaks of when we consume his Body and Blood. Being in Christ, and Christ in us, we bear Christ to all and all things by our holy actions. Our touch is to be Christ’s touch. By this, we are also like St. Seraphim of Sarov. Of course, we will likely never emit light from our bodies as did St. Seraphim. Yet, by faithful manifestation of Christ to those and all things around us, we can emit the light of Christ around us. Thus, we are saints!

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

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