|35 - Sixth Sunday of Pascha, The Blind Man, May 20, 2012|
“I believe, Lord,” the man born blind said to the Savior, and he worshipped Him. It is the blind man’s worship of Christ that catches my eye this morning. What is it to worship Christ in His Holy Church?
Before our union with Christ in baptism, says St Paul, we were dead in our sins and trespasses. In this world, we live in that spiritual death enslaved under the power of this world and of the spirit that is now working in the sons and daughters of this world, the spirit of disobedience. (Eph 2:1)
From the biblical account of Adam and Eve in the Garden, we see that this spiritual death came through the eyes, and also the ears. Adam and Eve hear the commandment of God not to eat from the tree of good and evil; but, Eve listens to the serpent, and her ears turn her eyes to look on the forbidden tree. The seed of desire for its fruit is sown in her soul. She chooses to disobey the command of God, and she reaches out her hand, plucks the forbidden fruit, and she eats it. She gives to Adam to eat. He chooses to obey her disobedience and he takes it and eats it. Immediately, their eyes are opened. How so? Did not God warn that on the day they would eat of the forbidden tree they would die? Indeed, they did die on that very day. I believe that their eyes opened not like the eyes of those waking up to life but like the eyes of a spiritual corpse. For, when their eyes were opened they did not see God; they saw that they were naked. They could not see God who is Spirit. They were now spiritually blind as they were now spiritual corpses. They did not see God. They saw that they were naked. The Church tells us on the Feast of the Cross that their disobedience stripped them of the Robe of Light, called also the Robe of Immortality, with which God had clothed them in the beginning. When they saw that they were naked, they saw that they were without God, that they were no longer clothed in the radiant robe of immortality with which God had clothed them in the beginning. They saw that they were spiritually dead, just as God had warned them.
The blindness of the man born blind in this morning’s Gospel, then, is an icon of the spiritual death that enslaves each of us because of our self-willed disobedience to the will of God. And, Christ opening the eyes of the man born blind so that he begins to see is an icon of His raising Adam and Eve from the dead and re-creating them in His Holy Resurrection. Christ takes from the clay and mingles it with His spittle – the living waters of His Holy Spirit –and “chrismates” the man’s eyes with it. In the Church, we see this immediately as an icon of our baptism; but, it reveals the connection of our baptism not only to Christ’s Holy Pascha but also to Pentecost, and how we are re-created and made to be living souls in the living waters of our baptism, the waters of the Jordan that are now united with the living waters of the Holy Spirit in the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. But, note that the eyes of the blind man are not opened to see – he is not made a living soul - until he obeys the command of Christ that he heard with his ears to go wash in the pool of Siloam.
Would that our hearing of this morning’s Gospel in faith would anoint the eyes of our soul and heal us of the blindness of our disobedience to see that our participation in the mysteries of Christ’s death and Resurrection, His Ascension into Heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost are the living substance of the Church’s worship of Christ. These mysteries are the unfolding of that great mystery hidden in God from the ages until it was revealed in Christ: the mystery of Christ in you, of the Light of the world in you, of the Resurrection and the Life in you! In this mystery, the eyes of our soul are opened to see the glory of God, the blindness of our spiritual death healed in the death of Christ, and our regeneration as children of God, born of the Spirit from above when through hearing the Gospel we receive Christ in the obedience of faith.
In this mystery of God that the Gospel this morning opens to us, there are in particular three Evangelical truths shining like radiant beams from heaven that I want you to see.
1. The power of God is the power to create life, to raise the world from non-existence into being, and the power to raise the dead and to give life to those in the grave, rendering the tomb itself radiant with the life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection.
2. More than that, this life-creating power of God is the love of God in which He pours Himself out like Living Waters on all those who receive Him, making them soaking wet with His divine life so that they are robed in light, covered in the immortal life of His own Holy Spirit, partakers of His own divine nature, as were Adam and Eve in the beginning when they were created in the Image and Likeness of God.
3. Because it is of divine love, God’s power is not imposed on us against our will. He won’t make us living souls if we don’t want Him to. We receive the life-creating power of His love freely by obeying His commandments. Through obedience we express our love for God who first loved us and raised us from death to life.
I would have you see in this that obedience to the will of God is the fundamental principle of the world – not carbon 14 or “energy” – for it is in obedience to the will of God that the world was brought from nothing into existence, and that we who had fallen are raised from the death of our disobedience and made to live in God in the obedience of Christ and His Most Holy Mother, the New Adam and the New Eve.
When we are baptized into Christ and put on Christ, we are raised up from death to life – not the life of the world but the life of God’s Holy Spirit. We are raised from death to life by the life-creating power of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Our God, Our Savior who first loved us, who in His love for us was obedient to the Father even to the point of death on the cross, so that from His union with us in the tomb of our disobedience, He could pour out on us the living waters of His Holy Spirit and make us alive in Himself as obedient children of God in the glory of His Holy Resurrection, even to the point of making us partakers of the glory and virtue of His own divine nature.
Do you see that to worship Christ is the spontaneous response of the love of the human heart to the God who first loved us, so that the Church’s worship of Christ is a communion, a fellowship of love? We do not worship the self-absorbed all-powerful, ego of a heartless tyrant whose power can only destroy, not make alive, that can only impose its self-centered will on us to make us do what it wants us to do whether we want to or not. Our worship is the offering of our love and our thanksgiving to God whose power can and does make alive in the power of love. In that love, He took the form of a servant and gave Himself to us even to the point of death on the cross so that He could pour out the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit on all those who would receive it, in order to cleanse us of our disobedience and spiritual blindness, and to re-create us as children of God in the Image of God in whom we were made, and to raise us up from death to life, not so that we would stroke His divine ego but so that we may partake of the glory and virtue of His own divine nature, that we might become one with Him in a communion, a fellowship of love in the One who loved us and ascended the Cross for us that we might have life and have it abundantly.
When the man born blind cries out to the Christ who has opened his eyes, “I believe, Lord”, is he not simply giving voice to the cry of the soul whose eyes have been opened to see the unspeakable goodness of the Savior in His love for mankind? And, to fall down in worship of the Christ, is it not in its essence the spontaneous movement of the soul crying out with the Psalmist from the depths of her heart: “I love Thee, O Lord because Thou hast heard me and raised my soul from death, my eyes from tears!” (Ps 114:1-8 LXX)
Surely it was with joy that the man born blind found himself cast out of the synagogue; for it was the gathering of those who are blind in their self-righteous arrogance and hatred of Christ, the fellowship of those who are dead in their self-love and their self-willfulness. Surely, his expulsion from the synagogue and his meeting Christ immediately after can be seen as an icon of our being raised from death to life in the love of the Savior, and of our eyes being opened, illumined, to behold the risen Christ who was crucified for our sake!
Beloved faithful, listen to the holy Gospel, the Good News proclaimed by Christ’s Holy Church. You have been baptized! You have been raised from death to life! You have been illumined! Your eyes have been opened! Would that the hearing of this Gospel would anoint the eyes of our heart with the Living Waters of Christ’s Holy Spirit, and open them to behold the uncreated glory of Christ in His Holy Resurrection that He wants in His love to give to us so that He may abide in us and we in Him in the communion of love that He pours out on those who receive Him in the worship of His Holy Church. Would that hearing this Gospel vision of the Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us, would touch the eyes of our soul, blinded by our disobedience. And would that it would heal us and open our eyes to behold the love of God for us, and that we would receive in the obedience of faith the call of the all-Compassionate Savior to draw near in the fear of God, with faith and love to worship Him in love as He gives to us in love the grace of His all-Holy Spirit so that we can become in the love of God partakers of the glory and virtue of His own divine nature. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ! Christ is risen!