|34 Sixth Sunday of Pascha. Blind Man, May 21, 2017|
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“In the Beginning was the WORD.” So we read on Pascha Night. “In Him was [eternal] Life, and [this] Life was the Light of men…He was the True Light that enlightens every man coming into the world.”
The Greek is wonderfully ambiguous. It sets forth two theological mysteries at once. The WORD of God is the True Light who Himself comes into the world, enlightening every one as He comes whether they choose to receive Him or not just as the sun shines on everyone whether they like it or not. At the same time, the WORD of God is the True Light who illumines each one who comes into the World of the New Heaven and the New Earth (Rev 21:1), which “comes to be” not just from the word of the WORD of God that commands, “He spoke and they came to be,” (Ps 33:9) but from the risen Body of the WORD of God who says from His Cross (in reference I believe to Gn 2:3 LXX), “It is finished!”
Conceived of the Holy Virgin and the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ is the Beginning, the Cornerstone, the Foundation of the New World. His risen Body is the New Temple (Jn 2:21) not made with hands (Lk 1:35, Jn 1:13, Heb 9:11); not made with hands because the LORD in His flesh was conceived of the Blessed Virgin and the Seed of the Holy Spirit (I Pet 1:23), not the seed of man, and His Resurrection is God’s work, not man’s. The World of this New Temple is in the world but it is not of the world. It is a heavenly world. It is the Church! (Eph 1:22-23) Its cornerstone and foundation is His crucified Body laid in the darkness of the grave. It rises and comes to be, a New Creation, from the tomb of theBlessed Sabbath that was prefigured prophetically in the works of the first creation itself (cf. Gen 2:3). For, the Sabbath that is blessed, even as our liturgical texts tell us, is the LORD’s death and burial in the New Tomb, when He rested from His work of creation He had now “finished”! This is the mystery that was hidden from the ages, unknown even to the angels until it was revealed to us in the Most Blessed Theotokos. Christ in you! Christ in the tomb of your heart! Christ in the personal core, the arche of your being where you end in death but now come to be and come forth from the tomb with Christ who comes forth like a Bridegroom in procession and where you begin even now in the “deep” of your heart that is beyond all things (Jer 17:5/9 LXX) to exist in His Holy Resurrection!
The WORD of the LORD did not “come” to the prophets, as our English translations have it. He happened (egeneto) to the prophets; He came to be (egeneto) to the prophets not as a thought but as a substantive event, a divine, heavenly reality that “breaks” into the history – or rather, the constant passing away, the hemorrhaging – of the world. This WORD of the LORD would happen to the prophet as a vision that He saw; and, oftentimes, the prophet would be commanded to act it out. This is what we see in this morning’s Gospel. St John is writing down what he saw, heard and touched (I Jn 1:1-4), which is the WORD of Life that came to be not as a word of the WORD, but as the WORD Himself, not in a vision but in the flesh; and it is not the prophet but the WORD of the LORD Himself acting out His own word. This is what St John is writing down. (cf. Jn 20:30-31) This morning, the WORD of the LORD that happens or comes to be is the healing of the blind man, and it happens that we might believe in Jesus as the Son, the WORD of God, the eyes of our soul illumined in His Light that is the Life of all those who come into the New World.
So, attend closely to the fact that this healing of the blind man happened on the Sabbath; and, that what is manifested in his healing are the works of God. This takes us immediately to the first creation: “God blessed the Seventh Day and sanctified it, because in it (not on it but in it as in the Tomb!) He rested from all His works which He had begun to make.” (Gen 2:3 LXX) What is made manifest in this creative work of the LORD healing the blind man is the mystery of the New Creation that was hidden from the ages and which is now made manifest (same word!) to the LORD’s saints (Col 1:27). The great mystery, says St Paul, is Christ in you! The Light of the New World, Christ Jesus, shines in the darkness of this old world, in the tomb of our heart. The seed of His Holy Spirit is waiting to burst forth in us and raise us up as a new creation (II Co 5:17) and to make known to us the wealth of His Glory that is in you!”
The LORD Jesus Christ, the True Light coming into the world, it says, sees the man born blind from birth. The blindness of the blind man is a darkness, a symbol of death. Yet, the LORD sees him. How? If He is the Light of the world that shines in the darkness, is He not seeing the man blind from birth in the Light that He, the WORD of God, shines on him? in the Light that He Himself is, He illumines each and every one of us sitting in darkness and in the region and shadow of death. I.e., the word of the LORD the WORD of the LORD acts out and makes manifest in this morning’s Gospel is the work of the New Creation that comes forth from the Blessed Sabbath of the LORD’s rest in His Holy Tomb. (Is not “rest” a renewing, a refreshing? I think maybe God’s Sabbath Rest is an implicit prophecy of the principle (arche) of creation: that it was necessary for the LORD to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day!) St Luke says that when they laid the LORD in the New Tomb, that “The Sabbath began to shine with light (epifosken).” (Lk 23:54) The imagery is the Tomb becoming translucent with a Light shining from within. It began to shine with the Resurrection. How could it not? The Resurrection and the Life, the True Light the darkness cannot extinguish was descending into the tomb and into the darkness of hell!
It was a New Tomb. Does this mean theologically a new kind of death? Death is the substance of disobedience or sin, the opposite of righteousness that is immortal and never dies. (Wisd.Sol. 1:15) Can we say He is laid in a New Tomb necessarily – not from His disobedience, for He knew no sin, but because in the beginning He created the world in the mystery of His Cross out of His great love for mankind? His death was the substance of His obedience and righteousness; and so His death necessarily destroys death, His obedience destroys disobedience! If His death destroys death, it is necessarily a New Creation, which comes forth from the Sabbath of His Tomb as the Day of the LORD, the First Day of the New Creation, the eternal Today of the Church, which is His crucified and risen Body! So, when we take up our Cross to put to death what is earthly in us, we enter upon the inner Exodus of the New Testament to descend into our heart; and if we are united to Christ, when we descend into our heart, we descend into the tomb of His Sabbath and we pass over as through a Door (Jn 10:1ff) into the Garden of His Resurrection and into the Temple of the New Heaven and the New Earth.
This is the WORD of the LORD, the divine Truth that stands in the back or at the beginning of creation in the sanctuary of the Temple of Heaven and Earth, the Logos of all things that determines creation’s structure and its essential movement. This is what we see acted out in the healing of this man blind from birth. It says, “He spit and made (or created) clay from the spittle.” He created New Clay, a New Earth, from the spittle or waters of His Holy Spirit. “On the day the LORD God made the heaven and the earth, a fountain went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the earth.” (Gn 2:6) Might the fountain refer theologically to the Holy Spirit?
Then, it says, literally, that He chrismated the blind man’s eyes with the “New” Clay. When they disobeyed God, the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened to see that they were naked; i.e., their eyes were opened to the darkness and they became blind, darkened. This blind man obeys the LORD’s command. He goes and washes in the Pool of Siloam and his eyes are opened and he is illumined, as we see when he bears witness to the Pharisees in the fearless power of faith.
So, why does St John take such care to ensure that his readers know “Siloam” translated means, “Having been sent”? The Psalmist says: “You send forth Your Spirit, and they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (Ps 104:30; cf. also the apocryphal book, Judith 9:7). Might he mean for us to understand that washing in Siloam is a prophetic act symbolizing being born “from above” of the Holy Spirit as a child of God? (Jn 1:12) Go, wash in the pool of Siloam takes on the theological meaning, therefore, of: Go, worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth; i.e., unite yourself to Christ in the mystery of His life-creating Cross (cf. last Sunday’s sermon) and you will be purged with hyssop; your heart will be washed clean (Ps 50 LXX) and made white as snow (Isa 1:18).
The man blind from birth was cast out of the synagogue. The synagogue, understand, is the extension of the temple of Jerusalem, which represents the world. His being cast out of the synagogue looks like a prophetic enactment of his being hated by the world that loves the darkness more than the Light. He is now outside the synagogue as though on Golgotha outside the city, no more a “citizen” of this world, no longer a disciple of the world’s blind and darkened religious and philosophical mind. Should we attend to the fact that it is when he is cast out of the synagogue that he comes upon the Light of the world face to face and does not recognize Him right away; and that this very much resembles Mary Magdalene coming upon the risen LORD in the Garden? Where is he, then, if he is outside the synagogue as Mary Magdalene was outside the Tomb? Is he not in the Garden of Eden in the Resurrection of Christ? Is he not himself a new creation (II Cor 5:17) in the New Temple of the New Heaven and the New Earth?
Where, then, do they find themselves who take up the life-creating work of the LORD’s Cross and in fear and trembling, work out their salvation, putting to death what is earthly in them. Beloved faithful: they find themselves entering into the stillness of the LORD’s Sabbath Rest and passing over into the Light of His Resurrection that is beginning to shine already in the “tomb” of their heart (cf. Lk 23:54), which the darkness of the grave cannot destroy (Jn 1:5); for, Light shines on the righteous (those made alive in the illumination of their Holy Baptism) and joy on the upright in heart (those who have washed in the living waters of Siloam, the Holy Spirit who creates in them a clean heart and puts in them a new and right Spirit, the Life of Christ that is the Light that illumines all who come into the New World of the New Temple of Christ’s risen Body) (Ps 97:11). Dear faithful, this is the Mystery that is in us! This is the Mystery the Cross of the Christian Faith leads us into! Amen!