|44 - Two Blind Men, July 31, 2011|
“And their eyes were opened” records St Matthew. His words recall the words of Genesis after Adam and Eve had eaten from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “and the eyes of the both of them were opened.”
Yet, the two are very different. The eyes of Adam and Eve were opened because of their disobedience. The eyes of the blind men were opened because of their obedience; for it says that they followed the Christ. The eyes of Adam and Eve were opened unto death; for, when they ate of the tree, their eyes were opened, not like the eyes of one awakening unto life, but like the eyes of one who has just died and become a corpse. The eyes of the blind men were opened unto life and joy, for it says that they went out and reported all these things throughout that region.
It says in Genesis that Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to knowledge, but not to the knowledge of God. Their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked. This meant that they were stripped of the Robe of Light with which God had clothed them at their creation. In the opening of their eyes, they saw that they were not in light but in darkness. They had not come to know God but their nakedness.
The eyes of the two blind men were opened and they saw God standing before them: Jesus Christ, the Word of God who is the true Light of the world, in whom is life, the life of the Holy Spirit that is the light of men. They came to know God’s grace and healing power; for, it says that they went about that region declaring the Lord’s praise. Surely what they declared was not some abstract religious philosophy. Those who have tasted the joy of the Lord have no more interest in the wisdom of their own opinions or anyone else’s. Their mouths are filled with the praise of the Lord. What the blind men declared was surely the joy of what they had seen with their eyes, heard with their ears, handled with their hands, i.e., what they had experienced, viz., the Word of Life, Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth, who was from the beginning. The opening of their eyes meant that they were really alive now as much as they had been really dead before, just as they could really see now when they had really been blind before. Illumined in the opening of their eyes with the knowledge of God, they were clothed with the Robe of Light. Theirs was the joy of the Psalmist; for as the Psalmist says, their lips were opened and they declared His praise throughout that whole region.
This joy that came to life in the hearts of the blind men was the joy God wanted for Adam and Eve, the joy He wants for all men. For, it is the joy that comes from partaking of the Fruit of the Tree of Life that God commanded Adam and Eve to eat in the beginning; and Christ is that Fruit, as the liturgical texts of the Church tell us, and as He Himself tells us: Unless we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, He says, there is no life in us.
If the blind men followed Jesus into the house, it means that they took up their cross as Christ commands those who would follow Him. It means that they crucified their love for the fruit of good and evil, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life to death. They put their love for death to death for the love of Christ; and they were illumined. They became partakers of the divine nature, communicants of life eternal.
How great their joy was can be seen from the fact that they were able to restrain themselves to declare His praise only to that region. St Gregory Palamas suggests that had the Lord not said to them, See to it that you let no one know what has been done to you, they no doubt would have gone throughout the whole world declaring His praise.
Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, the human heart has not conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, says St Paul to the Corinthians. No, only the eyes of faith can see it, the eyes of the soul that have been opened by the touch of the Lord’s Holy Spirit. And yet, even the eyes of faith have seen it only very, very dimly. They have seen it primarily in the joy that comes to life in the human heart when one receives Christ, the Light of the world. Yet, in that joy, the eyes of faith have seen it well enough to know that the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel is not just another myth.
From the Far East comes the story of nine blind men gathered round an elephant. The elephant represents “God”. Each of the blind men feels a different part of the elephant, one his leg, another his ear, another his nose, another his tail, and so on. They each describe the elephant differently according to the part of the elephant they are feeling. The story means to say that at best we can know God only in part, because none of us can “see” God.
But, the Gospel proclaims that God has revealed Himself to us. He became flesh and dwelt among us. The holy icons show what the Church has seen with her eyes, heard with her ears and felt with her hands. In His incarnation, it was not a part of God or a reflection of God that was revealed. It was God Himself, for Jesus Christ is the Word of God in whom all things were made. He is the Son of God, the perfect Image of the Father, the radiance of the Father’s glory. To know Him is to know the Father. We believe we know Him in His Holy Church, for the Church is His body, the fullness of Him who is all in all. Indeed, the testimony of the countless saints of the Church throughout the centuries is remarkable in its internal unity; for, what they proclaim to us are not their own ideas but “what they have seen with their eyes, heard with their ears and felt with their hands,” namely, the Word of Life who was from the beginning, who in these last days became flesh and dwelt among us and revealed Himself to us.
The Gospel proclaims that God can be known truly, for Jesus Christ is Himself the Wisdom of God. He is the Lord who has revealed Himself to us. He can be known, He can be seen, but only by eyes illumined by faith, as the Lord says to the two blind men: “Let it be done to you according to your faith.”
For, faith is not blind; it is not some hopeful leap into the dark. Faith is knowledge. It is not dialectical knowledge of the head. It is immediate knowledge of the heart. It is the intuitive knowledge of God, for He is no stranger to the soul. He is the Image in whom we were made. Faith is knowledge of God that is acquired only in obedience to God. To follow after the wisdom of our own ideas is darkness. The eyes of our soul open like those of a corpse. We do not behold God. We behold our nakedness, our nothingness. To follow after the Wisdom of God is to live, not the biological life of the world, but the eternal, uncreated life of God. Our eyes open to behold the True Light who has come into the world and is shining in the darkness of our ignorance and our death to show us the way that leads back to Eden in the light and the life of God.
In our holy baptism, and in Holy Eucharist, we received the Heavenly Spirit. We were illumined and clothed in the Robe of Light. We can choose to be like the blind men in this morning’s Gospel, and follow Christ in the practice of obedience to His holy commandments, crying out in the unceasing prayer of the blind men: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
This morning, we are in the house of the Lord. Here, we are in the presence of the Lord, for “Christ is in our midst.” All around us, His Holy Angels, His saints and His Holy Mother are presenting us to the Lord, and He is addressing each one of us: “Do you believe that I can do this?” If we can say in faith: “Yes, Lord,” our eyes are already beginning to open, for we see well enough to recognize this Jesus as the Lord, the Word who was in the beginning with the Father, in whom all things were made, the true Light who has come into the world, illumining all men. In this faith, we hear Him speaking to us as He spoke to the two blind men: May it be done to you according to your faith.
To the degree that we practice obedience to the Savior’s commandments, the eyes of our soul will open to behold Christ; and, we will fall in love with Him. How could we not? He is our Creator, the Image in whom we were made. He is the Beauty of the Father, full of grace and truth. When our eyes behold Him, how will we not desire to lose our life for His sake, so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us? For, He is the greatly Compassionate One, the Heavenly Bridegroom who comes at midnight, the only Lover of mankind. Receive Him in the fear of God, with faith and love, and become a child of light, illumined and raised out of the darkness of spiritual death into the light of His eternal life in the joy of His Holy Resurrection. Amen.