|20 - Blind Man of Jericho, Jan 20, 2013|
This morning’s Gospel sets before us, in the healing of the blind man sitting on the road to Jericho, what the Church is all about: Christ the Savior opening the eyes of our heart. He does this by creating in us a clean heart and putting a new and right spirit within us so that, purified in heart, we can see God. Note the joy that follows the opening of the blind man’s eyes, and how that joy raises him to his feet to follow Christ, praising and glorifying Him. Praise is the soul coming out of herself to give herself wholly in love and joy to her beloved. What we see in this morning’s Gospel is an icon, if you will, of what the Faith of Christ’s Holy Church is all about: the praise of joy that flows from a heart that has been cleansed and purified and sanctified, made holy, made one with God, in the divine fire of the love of Christ God.
If the blind man whose eyes were healed follows Christ, that means that he followed Christ to Jerusalem – that is where Christ was going (see Lk 18:31) – and that means, on the level of the Spirit, that he followed Christ to Golgotha, to the Cross, into the tomb and into the Resurrection on the Third Day; and that means that he was following Christ into the heavens that had been opened to Christ at His baptism by John in the Jordan; and that means that he was following the Savior on the path of Christ’s descent into hell and His Ascension into the heavens that have now been opened to us because of Christ’s victory on the Cross over the devil and his spirits of darkness and his shattering of the iron bars and bronze gates of hell.
But if the path on which the blind man followed Christ is, on the level of the soul, the path of Christ’s Ascension into heaven, it means that the path is illumined by the Light of heaven. Or rather, the path is itself the Light of heaven, for the Path is Christ Himself, and Christ is the true Light who has come into the world. More than that, the path, if it is Christ Himself, is itself the Life of Heaven, which is the Holy Spirit who was in the Light that is Christ. (Jn 1:4). That means in some mystical way hard to comprehend that when you decide to live according to the precepts of the Church, you are not just following a set of rules and regulations; you are stepping onto a mystical path that is Christ Himself, you have stepped into heaven, even before you have entered heaven. Or, perhaps we should say that heaven has entered into us, for the Spirit of Christ has entered into us, and so the Light of Heaven begins to shine in us.
Even though the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ historically had not yet taken place in the event recorded in this morning’s Gospel, we can say that the blind man was entering into the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ when he got up, seeing, and followed Him because of what happened at Christ’s baptism. The heavens were opened, the Scriptures say, and led by the Spirit, Christ was immediately led into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tempted by the devil. I think this is actually the inverse of saying that Christ was led into the wilderness for the express purpose of triumphing over the devil.
The heavens were opened to Christ in His Baptism. St Mark says that the heavens were split open. What can that mean but that the Light of Heaven spilled out onto the world and was now contained, veiled and hidden, in the flesh of Christ the God-Man as in a Reservoir, a living Font. When the devil assaulted Christ in the wilderness, it was the darkness of hell seeking to overcome the Light of Heaven; but, the Light, Christ Himself, shone in the darkness of the Jordan and made the Jordan filled with light and its waters the waters of regeneration, and the devil could not overpower Him (Jn 1:5).
I think that is why Christ does not begin to proclaim His Gospel: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” until after His baptism by John in the Jordan, and after His victory over the devil in the wilderness. For, now His Gospel is itself a word filled with the Light of Heaven; and in the word of Christ’s Gospel, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” He is scattering the Light of heaven on the souls of men, like a Sower scattering His seed on the ground.
When the heavens were opened, the voice of the Father was heard as thunder, and the Spirit was seen as a dove resting on Christ, as the Spirit must have rested on Adam, as Adam’s robe of light, in the beginning. In that Theophany were so many epiphanies: for one thing, it was heard and seen that the eternity of heaven was now united to the movement of time on earth, and that the movement of sun and moons were now united to the eternal movement of divine love, the movement of Christ’s descending and ascending. The healing of this blind man on the road to Jericho took place at a particular moment in history; but it was the word and touch of Christ, in whom heaven and earth are united, that accomplished the miracle, and the healing of the blind man at a particular moment of space-time opened onto the timeless eternity of the Heavenly Spirit, and through the Holy Spirit the opening of his eyes poured out from Christ and into every human soul that turns to Him in repentance and cries out to Him, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of God, have mercy on me!”
Every soul that receives Christ is “enlivened” by the Holy Spirit; the eyes of the soul are illumined by the Holy Trinity. That illumination begins when one receives the light of heaven into one’s soul through the hearing of the word of the Gospel, and turns to it in repentance as to the rising sun. Even at that initial moment one’s deliverance from the power of darkness has begun. The word of the Light of heaven leads the soul in faith to the waters of the Jordan, the waters of Holy Baptism, to be united with Christ, to be clothed with Christ, and anointed with His Holy Spirit. The body is washed in the font by the blessed waters, and the soul is washed clean by the Spirit who descends into those waters, and one becomes all light; for, the sins that darkened our soul are washed away, and the eyes of the soul can now look up and behold the Light of Christ – if not in a visible way, then in an invisible way in the joy that descends on the soul as one is brought up from the waters and clothed in the Robe of Light in the mystery of our union with Christ, the true Light who has come into the world.
That joy is the joy of the blind man, for the eyes of our soul are opened and in love and joy, we desire to follow Christ and to walk in His light that heals and illumines. This joy is itself an epiphany in our soul of the Light of heaven, Christ the True Light who has come into the world, in whom the heavens have been opened to all who receive Him in Faith. This is one reason we can give for why the Divine Liturgy is the heart of the Life of the Church, why everything leads to the Divine Liturgy and is crowned by the Divine Liturgy. It is because the Divine Liturgy is our Thanksgiving, our Holy Eucharist, where we offer our “sacrifice of praise” to Christ our God who has saved us and opened our eyes to see Christ in the light of heavens that have been opened to us, so that we can sing in the joy, the love and the thanksgiving of the Christian Faith: “We have seen the True Light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the True Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity.”
May this joy of the Church – the “Joy of the Feasts” be with us all; may it inflame our hearts with the love of Christ, for whose sake and in whose joy, we now prepare to take up our cross to follow Him through the wilderness of Great Lent in order to be tempted by the devil; or rather, in order to triumph over the devil by the power of Christ’s Holy Cross. Amen.