Ah, the Internet’s great moments of ecumenical dialogue….
I just ran across a page written by some flavor of Orthodox (Greek, Russian, who knows?) which was decrying Marian apparitions. Mostly because such things only ever happened in the West, and they were connected with “Latin” pious practices, which obviously meant they were crap. (Especially if you take the most doubtful and unapproved apparitions as typical, and ignore the well-established ones.) Well, except for the Zeitoun apparitions, which were probably okay because they were seen by Copts… except that nope, the pagan practices of Egypt obviously must have raised their heads, and it was really some kind of Isis thing, because they weren’t Orthodox. (And pointing out that people who see apparitions usually see saints and Jesus as well as Mary — well, that doesn’t count, because it doesn’t fit the author’s thesis.)
All throughout the Bible, people run into apparition-like phenomena. In the New Testament, probably the most influential examples are the linked stories of St. Stephen, seeing Jesus, and St. Paul’s conversion, hearing Jesus. We also have the vision or visit of heaven by St Paul, and St. John’s Apocalypse. I trust nobody’s going to argue that those are unbiblical Western delusions of seeing pagan gods….
Those sorts of experiences did not end with St. John. From the very earliest period, we have the Shepherd of Hermas, for example. Every so often, either a single person or a group of people would have some kind of vision, either brief or long, either singly or repeated. It wasn’t common; it wasn’t uncommon. Most churches of early Christians have some such story attached to their history.
The Orthodox don’t seem to have ditched the story that the Emperor Constantine saw a vision of the Cross, and was told “In this sign you will conquer.” I trust nobody’s claiming that was a vision of the pagan god of axles and angles?
Now, anybody who has read the history of the later Roman Empire knows that plenty of people in the heyday of Constantinople saw Mary, as well as other saints, warrior angels, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody had visions of the Father dwelling in unapproachable light. A lot of times, Byzantine apparitions happened while they were traipsing some wonderworking icon around in a procession. There was tons of this stuff; it wasn’t obscure.
Now, you could argue that mass pilgrimages and excitement about Marian apparitions, and other apparitions, is new and relatively modern. But stuff like Our Lady of the Pillar and St. James of Compostela, and similar Eastern pilgrimage sites, would tend to argue against that.
So an Orthodox guy saying Marian apparitions are all a Western and recent phenomenon is profoundly silly, ahistorical, and insulting to his own Eastern traditions. But no, it’s more important to try and keep Orthodox people away from Western Latin cooties than to understand Orthodoxy. (Though of course, it’s also possible that the author was some kind of Protestant convert to orthodoxy, and was influenced by anti-Marian rhetoric from his old church.)
I suppose the thing to do is to go comb through stuff and find records of Eastern and very early apparitions, so Orthodox folks won’t be left ignorant that this stuff is part of their Christian heritage too.