Eyes Wide Open 

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen! 

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And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.  (John 9:39-41)

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There are both different degrees of blindness as well as different kinds of blindness.  There is physical blindness in which the eyes don’t work well or not at all.  There is also a blindness we can choose, as when we live in denial of what is going on around us, or when we refuse to believe truths that others tell us.  There is also a spiritual blindness in which either willingly or for other reasons, we either cannot or will not see the spiritual reality which is right in front of us.  Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being spiritually blind.  However, their blindness cannot serve as an excuse for their wrong behavior, for their blindness is willful and chosen.  Spiritual blindness is frequently discussed in Orthodox literature.  For example from the desert fathers we read:

Another of the elders said: When the eyes of an ox or mule are covered, then he goes round and round turning the mill wheel: but if his eyes are uncovered he will not go around in the circle of the mill wheel.  So too the devil if he manages to cover the eyes of a man, he can humiliate him in every sin.  But if that man’s eyes are not closed, he can easily escape from the devil.   (Thomas Merton, THE WISDOM OF THE DESERT, p48)

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Getting a beast of burden to turn the mill wheel requires covering their eyes so that they cannot see that they are walking in circles.  If they are allowed to see they will quickly stop walking.  The desert fathers, as noted above, thought the devil tries the same trick on us – by spiritually blinding us, the devil can trick us into doing his will.  This is why clear vision is so important to the spiritual life.  Unlike beasts of burden at the mill wheel, we humans can only be blinded by the devil if we allow it to happen. If we choose to see what is going on in our thoughts or in the world, both the good and bad, then we know the truth, and the truth makes us free (John 8:32).

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But it is not only Satan who tries to blind us.  We can cause spiritual blindness ourselves by allowing our passions to take control of our lives.

No matter what provokes it, anger blinds the soul’s eyes, preventing it from seeing the Sun of righteousness.  Leaves, whether of gold or lead, placed over the eyes, obstruct the sight equally, for the value of the gold does not affect the blindness it produces.  Similarly, anger, whether reasonable or unreasonable, obstructs our spiritual vision.   (St John Cassian, THE PHILOKALIA Vol 1, p 83)

St John Cassian frequently attacks anger as a spiritual passion that is worth overcoming for it blinds us to Christ.  Even when our anger is justified or reasonable, it still causes some blindness in us.  If we want clarity of thought, right thinking – being Orthodox, then we need to control our anger.

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Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:19-21)

Whatever prevents us from facing reality is a threat to our spiritual well-being.  If we only accept ‘facts’ that we agree with, then we are choosing to blind ourselves to the reality in which we live.  If our passions govern how we react to things, we are allowing our passions to blind us to reality because in our passions, we tend to see and hear only what we want to see and hear.  “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  (Matthew 6:22-23)