35 - Sixth Sunday of Pascha, May 25, 2014

Acts 16:16-34

John 9:1-38

“The LORD is risen! He is not here!” the angel proclaimed to the myrrhbearing women as to us on Pascha Night. “Tell His disciples, and Peter, that He goes before you to Galilee. There you will see Him.” And to St Thomas in the Upper Room, the LORD says as to us: “Blessed are those who do not see and believe!”

We have taken these as the theme guiding our reflections on the Gospel readings assigned to these eight Sundays of Pascha, believing that imbedded in these Gospels are doctrines that explain how we go to Galilee that we who have not seen the risen LORD may believe that He is the Son of God and so have life in His Name.

This last week was the Midfeast of Pascha. In the liturgical texts for the feast, we hear the LORD admonishing the Jews: “Do not judge by appearances!” Under the rubric of our Paschal theme, this tells us that there is a deeper judgment of truth than what is seen with the eyes. Indeed, the very proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection, that death is destroyed and those in the tombs given life, points us to the “unseen” realm of “Hades” – a Greek word that means: the “Unseen”. In other words, the bodily Resurrection of Christ is a mystery of the soul. For, it is the soul that is unseen that gives life to the body that is seen. From this, “He goes before you into Galilee,” means, He goes before you into your soul. Learn the path that takes you beyond the appearance of the flesh that is seen and into the soul that is unseen. There you will see Him. And so: Blessed are those who do not see and believe means: Blessed are those who descend into the mystery of the soul that is unseen by taking up their Cross. These are they who come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God risen bodily from the dead.

Therefore, do not judge by appearances, by what you can see and measure with the eyes of your flesh, or even your intellect. We are not dealing with scientific possibilities or religious ideas measured by worldly instruments or understanding. We are dealing with the unseen mystery of the soul, with her spiritual origin and destiny. This inner reality of the soul is what you must learn to judge if you wish to see the risen LORD.

Were you struck at all by how similar last Sunday’s Gospel of the Samaritan woman was with the myrrhbearing women coming to the tomb on Pascha morning? The Samaritan woman, having many husbands and living at the time with a man who was not her husband, was like the harlot, Mary Magdalene, whom the LORD had saved. Photini comes to the well seeking to draw water and meets Christ who tells her of living water. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb and sees the risen LORD. Photini sees the LORD sitting by the well as Mary saw an angel sitting by the LORD’s tomb. Photini comes at the sixth hour, the hour that the Savior was crucified for our sake. This story, then, takes place within the mystery of the LORD’s Cross. It therefore establishes the well of Jacob as an image of the LORD’s tomb, and the LORD’s tomb as a well of water.

Now, the well is a font of water. It was dug by the patriarch, Jacob. One might say, then, that its water gives life which is of “Israel’s fountain”. But, Christ, Himself the Resurrection and the Life (Jn 11:25), is the LORD who is “blessed by those who are of Israel’s fountain!” (Psa 68:26) And, the tomb of the LORD is the “Font of our Resurrection”. The LORD is raised up from that “font”, carrying in Himself, like a water jar, the Living Water of the Holy Spirit that He was telling Photini about.

The story of the Samaritan woman, then, taking place as it does at the sixth hour, teaches us that we enter the “unseen” realm of our soul in order to come to the well of our heart by denying ourselves and taking up our cross – the ascetic disciplines of the Church. For the heart, the Proverb tells us, is like a well, for from it flow the springs of life. (Prov 4:23) Photini, then, represents the one who descends into the “unseen” realm of the soul. There, we “see Him” in an “unseeing” way. He calls us to give Him water, as He called Lazarus to “come forth”; and He offers us living water, His Holy Spirit. When we give Him the water of our soul, and drink from the living water of His Holy Spirit, we come to know Him because we come to love Him; for, He becomes our life. “Christ risen from the dead” for us is no longer a religious assertion or idea that is outside of us looking for “proof”. We know precisely because we do not “see” Him. And, we do not “see” Him because He is Himself the Life that lives in us. (Gal 2:20) We no longer look for Him with blind worldly eyes that can see only appearances, for the eyes of our soul that alone can see the “unseen” have been opened to “see” Him with the eyes of faith.

In this morning’s Gospel of the Blind Man, it says that the LORD “created” clay with His spittle i.e., with His Living Waters, the Holy Spirit. It says that He created the clay while He was speaking. This shows that the LORD’s Word is one with His works. Through both, He heals and restores to wholeness. Remember last Sunday’s Gospel: Photina and the people of Sychar came to believe in Him not because of what they had seen but because of His Word which they had heard. Christ Himself is the Word of God. If we would do the Word of the LORD, i.e., His commandments, we would come to see Him in the unseen mystery of our soul’s healing and restoration to wholeness and life.

He created clay with His spittle. He took dry dust from the earth and moistened it to make it into clay that He could fashion into a healing chrism.  Can you see the re-creation of Adam? But, we see also here a prophecy of Micah: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise. When I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against Him, until He plead my cause, and execute judgment for me. He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness, and my enemy shall be trodden as clay in the streets.” (Micah 7:8-10) The LORD in effect returns the Blind Man to the dust of the ground and raises him up, re-created, with eyes that can see, an image of the work He accomplished in His death and Resurrection.

It says that after He had anointed the blind man with the clay, He sent him to the pool of Siloam to wash. The blind man obeyed. He went, he washed, and he came away seeing. Do you see the sacrament of baptism? We call it, Holy Illumination. I wonder if “going to the pool” parallels “going to Galilee”? If so, then we see again that “going to Galilee” means, going to our baptism, going back to the Cross to deny ourselves and follow Christ.

Adam’s eyes were opened because of his transgression. The Blind Man’s eyes are opened because of his obedience. We are illumined at our baptism because the heavens are opened to us. We “see” the mystery of God as Holy Trinity, for we hear that mystery in the Creed that we say.Adam’s eyes were opened, only to see that the heavens were closed, and that he was naked. The Blind Man’s eyes were opened, and he was cast out of the synagogue, and even separated from his parents. But, he saw the LORD; and, when he saw Him, he worshipped Him.

The Pharisees could see; but, they could not see the LORD even as they saw Him. I think there may be in the Gospel account of the Pharisees a very important part of the doctrine that is telling us how we go to Galilee that we may see the risen LORD. For the Pharisees were very pious. They prayed, they fasted, they gave alms. Why did they not see the LORD? I would say it’s because they did not go past appearances. That is to say, they did not go deep enough into the unseen realm of their soul to see the unseen spiritual pride and conceit that so very subtly, so very invisibly, ring the human heart as a wall of enmity, separating us from God and blinding us to the work we must do if we would see the risen LORD: the work of denying ourselves.

The cross of the Church’s ascetic disciplines accomplishes nothing in our soul if it is not taken up for the purpose of denying ourselves: breaking through our conceit and our vanity and the self-righteousness that blinds the eyes of our soul. We take up the ascetic disciplines of the Cross in order to get ourselves to the pool of Siloam, the well of Sychar, the tomb of the LORD, the inmost desire of our heart. For, this is where we find all the idols of the world – the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, the chimera of appearances – that we live for and that we give the love of our heart to. It is this inmost love of our heart for appearances that we must confront and wash clean in the pool of Siloam, in the waters of our baptism, in the work of uniting ourselves to Christ in the likeness of His death by taking up the Cross of the Church’s ascetic disciplines and putting to death what is earthly in us: viz., our love for appearances.

“Going to Galilee”, then, is the work of going to the pool of Siloam, the work of purifying our senses by denying ourselves, working to put to death what is earthly in us by taking up our cross and following Christ in the humility and lowliness of a mind and heart that are oriented wholly toward obedience to the LORD’s commandments and seeking to know His will so that He may become the Life that lives in us in the mystery of God hidden from before the ages: the mystery of “Christ in you!” Amen.