Blind + Mystery

 “We might more clearly portray the nature of mystery with an example. For a man born blind, a two-dimensional representation is a mystery. He does not have what it takes – sight – to comprehend this reality. Sight is required for a person to understand how a two-dimensional representation actually does represent something that is three-dimensional. Since he does not have the means to see, it is a mystery how this flat something is a likeness, let us say, of his brother. In fact, that it is a likeness of his brother is something that he must be told, and then he must take it on faith. He may have some idea of what his brother ‘looks like’ since he has, for example, felt the features of his brother’s face with his hands. Yet, the photo remains a mystery for him. It is beyond the power of a man born blind to understand this. However, we note that not every aspect of the photo is a mystery. Even the man born blind can feel its flatness. Even the man born blind can feel the smoothness of the glossy print or the lesser smoothness of another kind of photo paper. He can even perceive it is paper, not wood. Even the man born blind can smell the photo, comparing it with other papers, with other flatnesses he experienced this way. Thus, it is possible for some aspects of even the greatest mysteries to be understood, at least in a limited way.”   (Father Laurence in In The Spirit of Happiness: The Monks of New Skete, pps. 148-149)

The Blindman and Eyes of Faith

The Sixth Sunday after Pascha commemorates the healing of the blindman as reported in John 9:1-38.

As the Lord passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.”

They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.”They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a   division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” He   answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He  answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not    listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to   become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him.

“St. John Chrysostom, who, like all the Spirit-bearing Fathers, saw things invisible and heard things ineffable, assures us that the only true senses are the spiritual senses of faith. Interpreting Christ’s words, Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear (Matt. 13:16) , he writes: ‘Christ does not bless the outward (that is, physical) sight, because that of itself does not see miracles, but rather the inward sight. The Jews saw a blind man (who had been healed), and they said: ‘It is he – it is not he.’ (cf. John 9:8 ff). Do you hear how they are in doubt? … While we, who were not present, do not say, ‘It is he – it is not he’, but rather: ‘It is he.’ Do you see that being absent does one no harm when one has the eyes of faith, and being present does one no good when the eyes of faith are lacking? For what good did it do the Jews that they saw Christ? None at all. We, therefore, have seen more clearly than they did. When the Lord taught the Jews, He spoke in parables because, as He said, ‘While they see my miracles, they do not want to see, and while they hear my teaching they do not want to listen’ (cf. Matt. 13:13). The faithful see and hear Christ and follow Him because they know His voice (cf. John 10:4), even though centuries have passed since His coming in the flesh.”   (Hieromonk Gregorios, The Divine Liturgy: A Commentary in the Light of the Fathers, pg. 164)