Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/389

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MIRACLE


339


MIRACLE


Divine power. Hence the miracle is called supernat- ural, because the effect is beyond the productive power of nature and implies supernatural agency. Thus St. Thomas teaches: "Those effects are rightly to be termed miracles which are wrought by Divine power apart from the order usually observed in nature" (Contra Gent., Ill, cii), and they are apart from the natural order because they are " beyond the order or laws of the whole created nature" (Summa Theol., I, Q. cii, a. 4). Hence diva/us adds to the meaning of r^para by pointing out the efficient cause. For this reason miracles in Scripture are called " the finger of God" (Exod., viii, 19; Luke, xi, 20), "the hand of the Lord" (I Kings, v, 6), "the hand of our God" (I Esdras, viii, 31). In referring the miracle to Gotl as its efiicient cause, the answer is given to the objection that the miracle is unnatural, i. e., an un- caused event without meaning or place in nature. With God as the cause, the miracle has a place in the designs of God's Providence (Gontra Gent., Ill, xcviii). In this sense — i. e., relatively to God — St. Augustine speaks of the miracle as natural (De Civit. Dei, XXI, viii, n. 2).

Xn event is above the course of nature and beyond its productive powers: (a) with regard to its substan- tial nature, i. e., when the effect is of such a kind that no natural power could bring it to pass in any manner or form whatsoever, as, e. g., the raising to life of the widow's son (Luke, vii), or the cure of the man born blind (John, ix). These miracles are called miracles as to substance {quoad substantiam). (b) With re- gard to the manner in which the effect is produced, i. e., where there may be forces in nature fitted and capable of prorlucing the effect considered in itself, yet the effect is produced in a manner wholly different from the manner in which it should naturally be per- formed, i. e., instantaneously, by a word, e. g., the cure of the leper (Luke, v). These are called miracles as to the manner of their production (quoad mndum).

God's power is shown in the miracle: (a) directly through His own immediate action or (b) mediately, through creatures as means or instruments. In this case the effects must be ascribed to God, for He works in and through the instruments — " Ipso Deo in illis operante" (.\ugustine, "De Civit. Dei", X, xii). Hence God works miracles through the instrumen- tality (1) of angels, e. g., the Three Children in the fiery furnace (Dan., iii), the deliverance of St. Peter from prison (Acts, xii) ; (2) of men, e. g., Moses and .\aron (Exod., vii), Elias (III Kings, xvii), Eliseus (IV Kings, V), the Apostles (.\cts, ii, 43), St. Peter (.'^cts, iii, ix), St. Paul (Acts, xix), the early Christians (Galat., iii, 5). (3) In the Bible also, as in church history, we learn that inanimate things are instru- ments of Divine power, not because they have any excellence in themselves, but through a special re- lation to God. Thus we distinguish holy relics, e. g., the mantle of Elias (IV Kings, ii), the body of Eliseus (IV Kings, xiii), the hem of Christ's garment (Mat- thew, ix), the handkerchiefs of St. Paul (.^cts, xLx, 12) ; holy images, e. g., the brazen serpent (Num., xxi); holy things, e. g., the .4rk of the Covenant, the sacred vessels of the Temple (Dan., v) ; holy places, e. g., the Temple of Jeru.salem (II Par., vi, vii), the waters of the Jordan (IV Kings, v), the Pool of Bethsaida (John, v). Hence the contention of some modem writers, that a miracle requires an immefliate action of Divine power, is not true. It is sufficient that the mir- acle be dvie to the intervention of Go<l, and its nature is revealed by the utter lack of proportion between the effect and what are called means or instruments.

The word tr-qfieTov means "sign", an appeal to intelligence, and expresses the pvirpose or final cause of the miracle. A miracle is a factor in the Provi- dence of God over men. Hence the glory of God and the good of men are the primary or supreme ends of every miracle. This is clearly expressed by Christ in


the raising of Lazarus (John, xi) ; and the Evangelist says that Jesus, in working His first miracle at Cana, "manifested his glory" (John, ii, 11). Therefore the miracle must be worthy the holiness, goodness, and justice of God, and conducive to the true good of men. Hence they are not performed by God to repair physical defects in His creation; nor are they intended to produce, nor do they produce, disorder or discord; nor do they contain any element which is wicked, ridiculous, useless, or unmeaning. Hence they are not on the same plane with mere wontlers, tricks, works of ingenuity, or magic. The efficacy, useful- ness, purpose of the work and the manner of perform- ing it clearly show that it must be a.scribed to Divine power. This high standing and dignity of the miracle is shown, e. g., in the miracles of Moses (Exod., vii-x), of Elias (III Kings, xviii. 21-38), of Eliseus (IV Kings, v). The multitudes glorified God at the cure of the paralytic (Matt., ix, 8), of the blind man (Luke, xviii, 43), at the miracles of Christ in general (Matt., XV, 31 ; Luke, xix, 37), as at the cure of the lame man by St. Peter (.\cts, iv, 21). Hence miracles are signs of the supernatural world and our connexion with it.

In miracles we can always distinguish secondary ends, subordinate, however, to the primary ends. Thus (1) they are evidences attesting and confirming the truth of a Divine mission, or of a tloctrine of faith or morals, e. g., Moses (Exod., iv), Elias (III Kings, xvii, 24). For this reason the Jews see in Christ "the prophet" (John, vi, 14), in whom "God hath visited his people" (Luke, vii, 16). Hence the disciples believed in Him (John, ii, 11) and Nico- demus (John, iii, 2) and the man born blind (John, ix, 38), and the many who had seen the raising of Lazarus (John, xi, 45). Jesus constantly appealed to His "works" to prove that He was sent by God and that He is the Son of God, e. g., to the Disciples of John (Matt., xi, 4), to the Jews (John, x, 37). He claims that His miracles are a greater testimony than the testimony of John (John, v, 36), condemns those who will not believe (John, xv, 24), as He praises those who do (John, xvii, 8), and exhibits miracles as the signs of the True Faith (Mark, xvi, 17). The Apostles appeal to miracles as the confirmation of Christ's Divinity and mission (John, xx, 31 ; Acts, x, 38), and St. Paul counts them as the signs of his .\postleship (II Cor., xii, 12). (2) Miracles are wrought to attest true sanctity. Thus, e. g., God defends Moses (Num., xii), Elias (IV Kings, i), Eliseus (IV Kings, xiii). Hence the testimony of the man born blind (John, ix, 30 sqq.) and the official processes in the canonization of saints. (3) As ben- efits either spiritual or temporal. The temporal favours are always svibordinate to spiritual ends, for they are a reward or a pledge of virtue, e. g., the widow of Sarephta (III Kings, xvii), the Three Children in the fiery furnace (Dan., iii), the preservation of Daniel (Dan., v), the deliverance of St. Peter from prison (.'^cts, xii), of St. Paul from shipwreck (.\cts, xxvii). Thus ariiieiov, i. e., "sign", completes the meaning of SvfafU!, i. e., "[Divine] power". It reveals the miracle as an act of God's supernatural Providence over men. It gives a positive content to t^/jos, i. e., "wonder", for, whereas the wonder .shows the miracle as a deviation from the ordinary course of nature, the sign gives the purpose of the deviation.

This analysis shows that (1) the miracle is essen- tially an appeal to knowledge. Therefore miracles can be distinguished from purely natural occurrences. A miracle is a fact in material creation, and falls under the observation of the senses or comes to us through testimony, like any natur.al fact. Its miraculous character is known: (a) from posi- tive knowledge of natural forces, e. g., the law of gravity, the law that fire bums. To .say that we do not know all the laws of nature, and there- fore cannot know a miracle (Rousseau, " Lett, de