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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/396

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MIRACLE


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MIRACLE


rlijillenm's tho heutlu'ii inagist rate's to work the niira- clos which the Christians perforin (Apol., xxiii) ; St. I'auliniis, in the life of St. Ambrose, narrates what he has seen. St. Augustine gives a long list of ex- traonlinary miracles wrought before his own eyes, mentions names and particulars, describes them as well known, and says tfiey happened within two years before he published the written account (De civit. Dei., XXII, viii; Retract., I, xiii). St. .Jerome wrote a book to confute Vigilantius and prove that rel- ics should be venerated, by citing miracles wrought through them. Theodoret published the life of St. Simon Stylitrs while the .saint was living, and thou- ■sands were alive who had been eye-witnesses of what had happened. St. Victor. Bishop of Vita, wrote the history of the African confessors whose tongues had been cut out bycomm.and of Ilunnerio.and who yet re- taine<l the power of speech, and ohullcngcs tlie reader togotoHeparatus.oneof them then living at the palace of the Emperor Zeiio. From his own experience Sulpicius Severus wrote the life of St. Martin of Tours. St. Gregory the Great writes to St. Augustine of Can- terbury not to be elated liy the many miracles God was pleased to work through his hands for the con- version of the people of Britain. Hence Gibbon says. "The Christian Church, from the time of the .■Apostles and their disciples, has claimed an uninter- rupted succession of miraculous powers, the gift of tongues, of visions and of prophecy, the power of expelling demons, of healing the sick and of raising the dead" (Decline and Fall, I, pp. 264, 28S) ; thus miracles are so interwoven with our religion, so con- necte<l with its origin, its promulgation, its progress and whole history, that it is impossible to separate them from it. The existence of the Church, the kingdom of God on earth, in which Christ and His Holy Spirit abide, rendered illustrious by the mirac- ulous lives of saints of all countries and all times, is a perpetual standing witness for the reality of miracles (Bellar., " De notis eccl.", LIV, xiv). The well-at- tested records are to be found in the official process'<s for the canonization of saints. Mozley held that an enormous distinction exists between the miracles of the Gospel and those of church history, through the false notion that the sole purpose of miracles was the attestation of revealed truth: Newman denies the contention and shows that both are of the same t3T3e anfl as well-authenticated by historical evidence.

VII. Pl.^ce and Value of the Gcspel Miracles. — In studying the Gospel miracles we are impressed by the accounts given of their multitude, and by the fact that only a very small proportion of them is re- lated by the Evangelists in detail; the Gospels speak only in the most general terms of the miracles Christ performed in the great missionary journeys through (jalilee and Judea. We read that the people, seeing the things which He did, followed Him in crowds (Matt., iv., 2.')), to the number of .5000 (Luke, ix, 14), so that He could not enter the cities, and His fame spread from .lerusalem through Syria (Matt., iv, 24). His reputation was so great that the chief priests in council speak of Him as one who "doth many mira- cles" (.Tohn, xi. 47), the disciples at Emmaus as the " prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people" (Luke, xxiv, 19), and St. Peter de,scribes Him to Cornelius as the wonder-working preacher (.Vets, X, 3S). Out of the great m,a.ss of miraculous events surrounding our Lord's person, the Evangelists made a selection. True, it was impossible to narrate all (.John, XX, 30). Yet we can see in the narrated miracles a twofold reason for the selection.

(1) Tlie great pvirpose of tho Redemption was the manifestation of God's glor\' in the salvation of man through the life .and work of His Incarnate Son. Thus it ranks supreme among the works of (iod's Providence over men. This explains the life and teaching of Christ ; it enables us to grasp the scope and plan of His


miracles. They can be considered in relation to the oHice and person of Christ as Redeemer. Thus (a) they have their source in the hypostatic union and follow on the relation of Chri.st to men as Redeemer. In them we can see references to the gre.at redemp- tion work He came to accomplish. Hence the Evan- gelists conceive Christ's miraculous power .as an in- fluence radiating from Him (Mark, v, 30; Luke, vi, 19), and theologians call the miracles of (Ihrist the- andrical works (Bellar, "Controv.", I, lib. V, c. vii). (b) Their aim is the glory of God in the manifestation of Christ's glory and in the salvation of men, as c. g. in the miracle of Cana (John, ii, 11), in the Transfig- uration (Matt., xvii), the Resurrection of Lazarus (John, xi, l.")), Chri-st's last prayer for the Apostles (John, xvii), the Resurrection of Christ (Acts, x, 40). St. John opens his Gospel with the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, and adds, "we saw his glory" (John, i, 14). Hence Iremeus (Adv. hfcr., V) and Athana- sius (Incnrn.) teach that the works of Christ were the manifestations of the Divine Word who in the begin- ning made all things and who in the Incarnation dis- played His power over nature and man, as a manifes- tation of the new life imparted to man and a revelation of the character and purposes of God. The repeated references in the Acts and in the Epistles to the " glory of Christ " have relation to His miracles. The source and purpose of the miracles of Christ is the reason for their intimate connexion with His life and teaching. A saving and redeeming mission w-as the purpose of the miracles, as it was of the doctrine and life of the eternal Son of God. (c) Their motive was mercy. Most of Christ's miracles were works of mercy. They were performed not with a view to awe men by the feeling of omnipotence, but to show com- passion for sinful and suffering humanity. They are not to be regarded as isolated or transitory acts of sympathy, but as prompted by a deep and abiding mercy which char.acterizes the office of Saviour. The Redemption is a work of mercy, and the miracles reveal the mercy of God in the works of His Incarnate Son (Acts, X, 38). (d) Hence we can see in them a symbolical character. 'They were signs, and in a special sense they signified by the typical language of external facts, the inward renewal of the soul. Thus, in com- menting on the miracle of the widow's son at Naim, St. Augustine says that Christ raised three from the death of the body, but thousands from the death of sin to the life of Divine grace (Serm. de verbis Dom., xcviii, al. xliv).

The relief which Christ brought to the body rep- resented the deliverance He was working on souls. His miracles of cures antl healings were the visible picture of His spiritual work in the warfare with evil. The.se miracles, summarized in the answer of Jesus to the messengers of John (Matt., xi, 5), are explained by the Fathers of the Church with reference to the ills of the soul (Summa, III, Q. xliv). The motive and meaning of the miracles explain the moderation Christ showed in the use of His infinite power. Re- pose in strength is a sulilime trait in the character of Jesus; it comes from the conscious possession of power to be used for the good of men. Rousseau confesses, "All the miracles of Jesus were useful without pomp or display, but simple as His words, His life, His whole conduct" (Lettr. de la Mont.ag., pt. I, lett. iii). He does not perform them for the sake of being a mere worker of miracles. Everything He docs has a mean- ing when viewed in the relation Christ holds to men. In the class known as miracles of power Jesus does not show a mere mental and moral superiority over ordi- nary men. In virtue of His redeeming mission He proves that He is Lord and Master of the forces of nature. Thus by a word He .stills the tempest, liy a word He multipliefl a few loaves and fishes so that thousands feasted and were filled, by a word He healed lepers, drove out demons, raised the dead to life, and