Seeing Through the Eyes of a Miracle!
Written by Tammy Leigh Maxey   

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octors were completely baffled.  There was no scientific explanation, no human reason for why the man that was before them could see.  Yet, it was apparent, no—undeniable—that his vision was perhaps better than 20/20!  He wore no glasses, no contacts, used no vision aids at all.  Only weeks before he had been beyond legally blind. There were no miracles of modern medicine that could have served to help him. How was this humanly possible?


Perhaps, it wasn’t...  However, let’s rewind a bit.  To appreciate the miracle, one must first realize the tragedy:

Michael was a rescue diver and trainer for the upstate New York fire department.  It was during one of those rescue responses that Michael was exposed to the chemical that would soon take his sight, and threatened to rob him of even more.

The rescue mission was to a ship that was leaking Xylene, a highly dangerous chemical.  Michael was exposed to the chemical.  His skin was burned and the domino effects of the exposure started deteriorating Michael’s optic nerve among other things.  Michael underwent over 100 surgeries and required 600 stitches, but none of it was able to save his vision.  The damage was just too extensive. After that tragic incident, Michael completely lost vision in his right eye, and all but the ability to see some shadows with his left eye.

His world suddenly became very small and limited.  As if the loss of his sight was not enough to cripple a man’s very soul, the doctors told Michael he was facing another tough loss as a result to the damage to his nerves—his hearing.

It was more than Michael felt he could bear — a dark and silent existence.  Michael confided “Listen, as Iong as I can hear the voices of those whom I love, I can say my life is good, but if I lose that ability then I believe that it is better for God to take me right now.”

On November 11, 2013, Michael attended the town of Greenlawn’s Veterans Day service, where as the chaplain, Father Dimitrios offered the prayer.  It was seven years after the loss of Michael’s sight.  After the service he was introduced to Father Dimitrios.   Michael told him, “I was going to come and see you a few days ago.”

Father Dimitrios replied, “Oh, were you coming for the holy water?”

Michael responded, “What holy water?”

“The holy water from our shrine.”

“What shrine?”

Father Dimitrios was a bit taken aback, “Don’t you know that our patron saint, St. Paraskevi is the patron saint for eye health?”

Michael assured him, “No, I didn’t know that.  I wanted to come and ask your permission to walk my new guide dog.”

Michael used the services of a seeing eye dog, and his aging dog was struggling with the extensive walking required, so he had gotten a new puppy and was having the older dog help train it.  Michael had been walking the new pup in the field outside the high school by the church; however the school had asked Michael to leave as he was considered a liability.

Father Dimitrios quickly told him, “Of course!  But do me a favor, come and see me in the church when you’re here so I can read a prayer over you and anoint you with the holy water from St. Paraskevi. Five days later, Michael came in.

Michael wanted Father Dimitrios to hear his confession. He had emailed the priest with his request the evening after they met at the Veterans Day service. He was searching for a healing, not necessarily for his eyes, but for his soul. The church as a rule does not hear confessions from non-Greek Orthodox members, but Father Dimitrios felt like he simply could not turn Michael away.  However, he removed his stole as a compromise of sorts, which is worn when hearing confessions.

“I could not wear my stole because then it would be a sacrament,” says Father Dimitrios. “Since he was not a baptized Orthodox Christian, I couldn’t do that. Nevertheless, I knew the necessity for me to hear his confession and thought to myself, ‘Any Christian can hear the confession of another Christian.’  And so, out of dispensation within the church setting, but without a stole, I listened to his confession.”

Michael took the father through the tragic details of his life: parental suicide as a child, homeless before the age of seven, multiple foster homes and eventually joining the Marines in which he trained for the rescue diver position.  He had just been contemplating end of life, as he had recently been served the news of the impending hearing loss also. He unburdened his soul, and sought a spiritual healing for hope.

Father Dimitrios was moved to read with Michael the prayer of absolution, of forgiveness.  The prayer of health and healing seemed the natural choice for this blind man, but the father felt in his soul that absolution was what God was pressing him to share with Michael.

In the church tradition, the priest will normally place his stole over the confessor’s head as the prayer is read, however as Michael was not a member, Father Dimitrios again compromised and forfeited the stole for the ceremony.  He placed his bare hand atop Michael’s head and read the prayer.

As he read, just before he finished the prayer, Father Dimitrios says something hit the top his head like a vibration, and coursed through his body, through his hand and caused Michael’s head to shudder and fall.

It was intense, but neither of them spoke of it at the time. Afterward, they stood and the father led Michael back to the entrance of the church where his wife was waiting.  In between the church and the hall is a garden where the shrine of St. Paraskevi is located.  Father Dimitrios led Michael to the shrine and began to tell Michael about the life of St. Paraskevi .

St. Paraskevi was born around 140 A.D. to wealthy, Christian parents. She was struck by their faith and determined her role in life would be in service to God.  She declined many marriage proposals, and when her parents died when she was just 20, she sold all of her belongings and donated her riches to charity and the poor.  At this time, Jews and Romans persecuted the Christian faith with great intensity.  In Rome, the emperor Antonius heard of St. Paraskevi and her teachings of the ways of Christianity.  He ordered her to appear before him.

Struck by her beauty and humility, he tried to persuade her to denounce her faith, offering even to marry her and make her empress.  She refused him, angering the emperor who then ordered her tortured and killed.  After a steel helmet lined with nails failed to have effect on the saint, Antonius had a kettle of boiling oil and tar prepared and had Paraskevi immersed in it.  When the boling mixture did not produce her harm, Antonius was convinced that she was using magic to keep it cool.  Paraskevi scooped the boiling mixture and threw it in his face, burning his eyes and blinding the emperor.  She then stepped out of the kettle and went to him, telling him that only the Christian God could cure him.

Immediately, the emperor regained his sight.  Persecution against the saint and all Christians ended for the remainder of his ruling of the Roman Empire.

Father Dimitrios led Michael to the shrine and asked Michael to wash his face as he led a little prayer service.  At the conclusion of the prayer, Michael stood straight and looked to his left saying, “There’s a woman to my left!”

FatherDandMichaelFather Dimitrios, thinking he was seeing a shadow of the shrine said, “Oh, Michael, you are able to make out the outline of the saint?”

Michael looked at him saying, “No Father, you don’t understand.  I see the color of your eyes, you have green eyes! And I see this cross, and I see...” Michael proceeded to excitedly tell Father Dimitrios everything he was seeing.

The following morning Michael was back at the church, saying to Father Dimitrios, “Where else could I go?” Every morning for the next month he would return.

The priest encouraged Michael to visit his physicians and get a full report.  Michael was reluctant for fear of what they would say.  Meanwhile, he did make a trip to the DMV to get back his driver’s license.  It was an experience for all.

At the DMV, Michael approached the clerk, “This is my name and I’m interested in getting my
driver’s license back.”

The clerk replied, “Okay, I got it.  It says here that you’re legally blind.”

“Yeah, I can see now.”

“That’s incredible, did you have surgery?

“No.”

“New medication?”

“No.”

“Do you have some doctor info, doctor’s note?”

“No.”

She asked, “What happened?”

Michael told her, “I went to a Greek Orthodox Church and the priest prayed over me and rubbed holy water in my eyes and I was able to see again.”

She said, “Just a minute, let me get my supervisor.”

The supervisor came and Michael explained his story. Afterward the supervisor told him, “In all good conscience, I really can’t give you a driver’s license until you show me some medical evidence that you’re able to see.”

Michael told her, “Look, I can read, not just the second to the bottom line (of the eye chart) which is required, I can read the bottom line for you.”

The supervisor still hesitated.

He stopped and said, “Behind you, in that dark corner there’s a sign on the wall and it’s the rules for the break room.  This is what it says..,” He read the sign to them.  The sign was half as small as the lowest smallest line on the eye chart and much further away.

The supervisor said, “Okay, I’m convinced you can have your driver’s
license back.”

Eventually, at the urging of Father Dimitrios, Michael did go to the VA Hospital and met with doctors. They told him he was totally blind. Yet Michael could see.  The damage to his optic nerve was still there, nothing had changed in him physically.  It was dumb founding to his doctors; they tried to reach a conclusion but they were simply at a loss.

When relaying the story to Father Dimitrios, the priest asked Michael, “Do you know what this means?”

“No, what?”

MichaelsCaneintheShrine“That means that every time you open your eyes it’s a miracle.  Every time you open your eyes and are able to see, you are defying the laws of medical science.”

Many have come before Michael, and droves have sought the healing waters of St. Paraskevi since.  None have experienced the drastic healing Michael has, although many are healed.

Perhaps Michael’s personal story dates back even further, back to the times of Christ, to the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15).  You see, Michael came not to seek the powers of the healing water, but the powers of the Healer.  The miracle began in Michael’s soul. PivotPointEndingBug

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