42 - Blind and Dumb, Aug 7, 2016 (with audio)

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Romans 15:1-7

Matthew 9:27-35

We read and interpret Holy Scripture according to our confession that Jesus Christ is God the Word “who became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Taking His human body and soul from the Most Holy Virgin, He united human nature to His divine nature in a union without confusion and without division or separation. The fullness of divinity dwells in Christ bodily (Col 2:9) and deifies our human nature.

If the fullness of God dwells in Christ bodily, then the uncreated eternity of God is present in every moment of Christ’s earthly life as well. In the earthly life of Christ, time and each moment of time is united to eternity and is deified. In each moment of the LORD’s earthly life, His divine uncreated eternity is made incarnate and each moment of time opens in Christ onto His divine uncreated eternity. Each event, then, in the earthly life of Jesus is theological; it has a spiritual depth that is “deep, beyond all things” because each event in Jesus’ earthly life is created – it comes to be – from out of the unfathomable depths of the Father’s merciful compassion, power and glory.

We should expect that the Gospels assigned especially for these Sundays that follow Pentecost and take us to the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos would open to us the profound Pentecostal mystery of Christ’s Holy Pascha that is now, by virtue of His Holy Incarnation, “within us” and present to us in every moment of our earthly life. We read these Gospels in this Paschal and Pentecostal light of Christ to discover in them the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us (even of God the Word Himself who is in us bodily and spiritually! Cf Deut 30:14) and lessons on how to go about seeking first that Kingdom of Heaven so that we and our earthly life might be deified in our loving union with Christ.

In this light, “they followed Jesus” is manifestly Paschal. If they “followed” the LORD, where did they go theologically if not to His Cross? They were crucified and buried with Him; for, it says “they came into the house” where Jesus was. They came into His tomb; or rather, they followed the LORD Jesus into the tomb of their heart. This is the house we come into when we follow the LORD Jesus by denying ourselves and taking up the cross of the Church’s liturgical, sacramental and ascetical life.

This, I believe, is why they are crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Their cry shows that they have come into the “house” of their soul (Mat 6:6) and are seeing, already, the profound tragedy of their separation from God and the iron chains and bronze fetters that bind them in darkness to death and to the despair of utter loneliness (cf. Heb 2:14). The terror of what they see in their spiritual vision turns them in faith to Christ. By their prayer, they reach out from the depths to lay hold of the LORD Jesus even as He will lay hold of them, as we shall see.

Here, in the “house” of their heart, the risen LORD Himself, not an angel, speaks to them directly. So He speaks to you and me directly in the words of His “House”, the LORD’s House, His Holy Church, His Body. This is why our ears should lay hold tightly to the words of the Church, for the power of the LORD to destroy the death that enslaves us, to illumine us, even to transfigure us into “sons of light”, “children of God”, is carried in these words of the Church. Words of the Word, they are “embodiments” of Christ. They carry Christ, uncreated rays streaming like rays of the sun from Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. And so, they are deified words, living words, words of Life, for God the Word is incarnate in them.

What does it mean, then, when the LORD asks: “Do you believe I am able to do this?” Might it mean something like this: do you listen to My Voice or to the many voices whispering constantly in your head? Do you in fact put your trust in My Word or in the word of your own understanding, in your own ability to fix yourself? For if you do not – understanding that faith is training the face of your heart on the LORD – are you not turning the face of your heart away from the Face of the LORD and toward your own face?

So, when the blind men say, “Yes, we believe, LORD!” they mean: Yes, we occupy ourselves with the inner work of striving to pray without ceasing. We are working to deny ourselves, to take up the ascetic disciplines of the Church as our Cross, according to our strength and circumstances, to follow Christ into the house, the “tomb” of our heart so that by His Cross, we may, if you will, die with the Holy Theotokos, and so die to all that holds us in bondage to death – our self-esteem, our self-righteousness and our entitlement, our indulgence, our sloth – that we may unite ourselves to Christ in His Holy Resurrection.

And, the LORD, it says, touched their eyes. Or, attending to the Greek, He lay hold of their eyes tightly – their eyes, understand, that were blind. The force of the word in Greek brings into view the wonder and the mystery of the LORD’s Incarnation: how He lay hold of us who sat in darkness – in blindness,in the region and shadow of death because of our sins and trespasses (cf. Mat 4:16 & Eph 2:1) – so tightly that He became flesh and shared in our flesh and blood to the point of becoming one with us in our death; i.e., our blindness, our darkness. He lay hold of our sin so tightly that He became sin for us, though He Himself knew no sin. He lay hold of our despair so tightly that on the Cross He allowed Himself to be forsaken by God.

Laying hold tightly to the blind eyes, the sins, the infirmities, the paralysis and brokenness of all those who come to Him in faith in the “house” of their heart, the LORD says, “According to your faith, let it come to be for you.” Biblically, this means, may your heart be created anew, clothed in a new and right spirit so that you can “see God”, so that you can see that you are no longer “naked” (cf. Gen 3:7) but are now clothed with Christ, born of the Spirit from above as a child of God.

Then, it says, Jesus commands them sternly: “See that no one knows it!” What are we to make of this? If there is not a deeper meaning here, then they disobeyed Him when they spread His fame throughout the land, and their sight would have been lost again for one cannot walk in the Light of God if one is not turned toward Him in the obedience of repentance. I see that the eye of their heart, the “lamp” of their body, having come to be light, their whole body came to be light (Mat 6:22). The Light of Life illumining their heart “spread throughout the whole region” of their being and they became all light. They were transfigured in body and soul to become a holy temple of God overshadowed by the radiant Glory of God’s Holy Spirit precisely because they did not tell anyone, in obedience to the LORD’s command (cf. Mat 6:6). They did not presume to have become evangelists – that is a gift of the Spirit given to some, not all – and so they guarded themselves against the vanity of presumption and self-righteousness.

Is it significant that the command to the blind men to tell no one is followed by the episode of the dumb man whose tongue is loosed so that he can speak, and when he does, those who were witnesses of it are in wonder? The mouth is one with the heart in the bible. The demon expelled so that the mute can speak means that the man’s heart is cleansed and he is now alive and well in the Holy Spirit, his speech now anointed with the ennobling grace of the Holy Spirit who now dwells in his heart as in the sanctuary of a Holy Temple.

Here is a lofty aspiration to keep before us. See that no one knows the LORD is touching your heart. Keep your piety secret in the inner chamber of your heart lest you fall unwittingly into the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. This allows the fire of God to burn more hotly in our heart and to burn away all traces of self-righteousness. Then, when we speak, it is the Word of the LORD within you (cf. Dt 30:14) that is heard and felt, and not our ego, because our speech now proceeds from a contrite heart the LORD does not despise (cf. Ps 51:17), imbued with the ennobling grace of the Holy Spirit who has come into the house of our heart. Amen. May it be so!