Omens, Signs and Dark Periods in Our Lives — Is There a Connection?

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Throughout human history, people have been looking to omens and indications from God and asking for them. Why?

When we begin to look for inspiration in some event, hunch or intuition, this may itself be an indication of our fatigue with doing God’s works and living by His commandments.  Let us recall here the wisdom of Apostle Paul, “I judge no one. It is the Lord who judges. I do not even judge myself”. He seems to suggest to us that it is not up to him to find out if he has improved or become worse; it is up to the Lord, the Loving and Judging One. He gave us His commandments that we must follow ever more diligently as we go about our lives, and leave all the rest to His will.

When the Lord came to the world, many Jews told by multiple signs and omens that He was the Messiah, the Jesus, the One they had been waiting for. Many still convert to Orthodoxy in exactly the same way. It simply dawns on them as they read the Torah or something else that all the signs and omens point to that same Christ Who came. And they convert. Many of them eventually became renowned scholars of the faith, and we still read their works.

So who can see the omens and read them correctly?

Perhaps we should first find out if we should really be looking for the omens. Only people who live the lives of saints and who have reached a certain spiritual level have the capability to see and read them. Remember when the Lord was coming off Mount Tabor, he met His disciples who could not heal an ailing youth. They asked Him, “Lord, why could not we heal him?” He replied, “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Essentially, we need to purify our heart before we get to fight the enemy, see God and lead a spiritual life. The Lord makes himself very clear: prayer and fasting.  – To this, we should also add humility. Why? When Christ descended from the mountain, the apostles were in bewilderment. “You have just finished preaching. You sent us out to preach. We had been driving out the demons and healing the sick. But we cannot cure this small child.” The Lord says to them: “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” With this, he was telling them that they lacked the humility to do things that they had just accomplished. Just think about it: would a humble man go out looking for signs or omens to tell him how much he had advanced in prayer? And what would they tell him – that he can now move mountains? That he is a true believer? Someone who lives in the spirit will not build his life around omens. The Lord has already given us His most prominent sign – His Resurrection, in which we all believe.

Suppose that someone has made up his mind to move abroad, to Spain, for example. He begins to see things which he interprets as signs: a car with a Spanish flag, or Spanish music on the radio. What should he make of these supposed signs?

Now what would be more preposterous than to base one’s life decisions on objects he sees on a car, or on something painted on a fence?

What difference does it make, ultimately, where to seek salvation. If you must travel to Spain for some reason – health, study, or work, for example  – make up your mind without hesitation, say your prayer, get the blessing from your priest and take your flight. If you do not need to go there, do not bother looking for any signs, either. God has other ways to show you His will. But I am fully confident that the Holy Scripture – that says that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, and all one in Christ Jesus – does not impose any limits – geographical or otherwise. The only thing that limits us is our past choices and actions and our purpose in life. Both should be taken seriously. If we needed to trample on a few people, or hurt somebody or go to great pains for that journey, perhaps we should not see it as so much of a blessing.

What should be our attitude to prophetic dreams or visions? Many saints have had them, as we read in their lives.

In the account of the discovery of the Icon of the Holy Theotokos “Kazanskaya”, Matrona saw the vision of the Theotokos three times. She urged her to uncover her image from the ground. Now, what am I suggesting? If your dream really comes from God, you will keep seeing it again and again. A dream that comes from God has another important characteristic – it always commands you to do something good. If you see in your dream a departed relative, a priest, your parent or a saint, and they say to you, “You have worked for fifty years, your body has changed, is not it time for you to quit smoking?” I would believe the dream and follow the advice immediately. But if you saw in one of your fleeting dreams a vision of a saint telling you to give your child a beating, I would not hurry to follow his advice, even if you saw it ten times. – – I would wait ten years to see if your child would grow out of it, and then, after fifteen years, giving him a flogging would not sound like a good proposition anyway.

Deep in our hearts, we all have a conscience. It lives in all of us, and it is real, for saints and predators alike. We must consult it. It will always help you to tell a good vision from a chance event to be ignored.

 In our lives, we all have some dark periods. Is it possible that a forewarning from God might precede them?

Suppose you are having difficulty at work or issues with some of your colleagues. Why might this have happened? Could it be some sign that you yourself might have given to others? Your carelessness, or self-pity, for example. By giving out those signs, we often lead ourselves into a tunnel. We determine our tomorrow by our actions today. Today, we take it easy, and tomorrow something happens. You did not wash up after yourself today, and find some roaches in your sink tomorrow. They would arrive from your neighbours and decide to move to your flat for good because they like your company. Did some omen foretell their appearance? There was one – your laziness.

Did you come to the liturgy last Sunday? If not, for what reason? Was it because someone asked you for your help? Could you have helped him some other day, or did you plan it for Sunday to make life easier for you on other days? As one bishop puts it, “What does it mean not to work on a Sunday or a holiday? It means not making any plans for these days. But to be ready to go if you are called.” I think this is a good Christian way of following the commandment. So if you did not go to the Sunday liturgy, and something happened to you later, ask yourself if it could have been the result of you neglecting your relationship with God. Perhaps you let the enemy enter your life and this started your dark period in it?

How else could I explain it? Imagine a little boy in the street. He holds on to his father’s hand, but suddenly he decides that he is old enough to walk by himself. He shakes off his father’s hand and runs to play by himself – pat somebody’s dog or run on the road. He does not think about the risks and dangers, and cannot even imagine them. He is having a good time but has no idea what lies ahead of him. To the boy, his parents are the people who take care of him. To all of us, God is our parent. He fathers us in the spirit and takes care of us spiritually. If we let go of his hand, we should expect something bad to happen to us.

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Prepared by Anastasia Parkhomchik
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
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