14. Fragrance and the Kingdom of Heaven

In Orthodoxy, one of the mysteries are our saints and how they leave behind holy relics to help many strengthen their faith towards God.

Fr Tikhon recounted the old caves at the Pskov Monastery, where over 14,000 people have been buried deep within the caves at the time he joined, including reposed brethren, as well as lay workers and parishioners. The coffins were not buried, but were stacked one on top of another.

An amazing mystery willed by God is that the Pskov Caves, even though it had over tens and thousands of the dead in there, did not smell bad at all! Many visitors, from dignitaries to tourists, were mystified as to why the air smelled fragrant. Fr Tikhon mentioned part of a Slavonic hymn that said, “if God wills it, nature’s laws are overcome.”

One story was that in 1995, when the then president Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin of the atheist Soviet Union visited the monastery, Fr Nathaniel led the presidential tour through the caves with a candle in his hands.

The president asked why there was no smell in the caves populated by corpses. Fr Nathaniel explained that it was a miracle by God (Psalm 77:14). The president was not convinced, and asked again. Fr Nathaniel repeated his answer that it was a miracle performed by God. The president could not hold down his silence and after a while, asked Fr Nathaniel if some chemical substance was used. Fr Nathaniel then asked the president instead, “Boris Nikolayevich, are there any people in your entourage who smell bad?” The president retorted that of course none of them smelled. Fr Nathaniel then said, “So why would you think that anyone would dare to smell bad when joining the entourage of the King of Heaven?” The president fell silent and was satisfied with the answer.

God works His wonders on His creation every moment, every day. He has worked wonders way before we were born, right back to the point of creating this wondrous world we humbly inhabit. We have read the great miracles in the Holy Scripture, from Exodus (Exodus 4:1-9), right up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord (St John 11), and the apostolic signs (Acts 14) as mercies willed by God.

And God continues to work wonders on His creation, the world we live in, and the people we are, today. God does not always exhibit great signs and wonders. Through our own individual humble journeys, each of us professing faith in Christ have experienced God’s will and mercy in wondrous and blessed ways, and lift us up in our moments of weakness as we struggle towards God. These signs are frequent, subtle, rejuvenating, and steering us towards God. We are to simply quieten our persons through repentance, stillness (Psalm 46:10), and prayers.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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