Τρίτη, 23 Μαΐου 2017

Sixth Sunday of Pascha: Sunday of the Blind Man


Icon from here

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind, John 9:1-15
 

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”


Sunday of the Blind Man 2017 in Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo (photo from here)

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi


Before his meeting with Christ the blind man had never seen anything. Everything was dark, he had to guess at things, to explore them by touch, to use his imagination. He had no clear authentic image of things. Then he met Christ, and Christ opened his eyes. And what was the first thing this man saw? The face of Christ, His gaze; the face of God become man, the divine gaze full of attentive, compassionate love resting on him, on him alone out of the whole crowd. Straight away he came face to face with the living God and encountered the miracle which so astonishes us: that God can focus His attention on each one of us - as on the lost sheep - and not see the crowd but see the one and only person. After that the man probably surveyed everything around him, and what he had known by description, by hearsay, became reality - "now I see".
It happens at the present time also; it can happen to each one of us. Like the man born blind we live most of our lives on alms, we sit like beggars at the roadside holding out a hand in the hope that someone will notice, if not us at least our hand, and give us something to sustain us for the next few hours at any rate. Such sustenance comes for us in the form of a friendly gaze resting upon us, a word spoken to us, a kindness done to us. But all this still leaves us by the roadside, blind and begging for help.
When Christ was passing another blind man, Bartimeus, that one did not wait for the Saviour to come up to him and ask him if he wanted to be saved, if he wanted his sight. As soon as he sensed that something unusual was happening in the noisy crowd, and in answer to his question was told who was passing by, he began to shout for help. True, people tried to stop him; true, a slight doubt may have crept into his mind, was it worth shouting, calling for help, would the Lord hear, would He respond to such a trifling need as his? He went on clamouring for help because his suffering was so great, his need was so desperate. He was prepared to push past the people, fight his way through the crowd in order to reach God and be heard by Him.
If only we could realise how blind we are! If only we could realise that our knowledge of life, not only eternal, divine life, but earthly life, depends almost entirely on hearsay, that the life around us is dim and ghostly because we are blind, or (like the other blind man in the Gospel, not immediately cured by Christ) see things in a mist. If only we could remember what the Saviour tells us about the beauty and the glory of both eternal and earthly life and not be satisfied with our blindness, how earnestly would we try to detain Christ, so that He might pierce us with His gaze and speak His sovereign, healing, life-giving word to us. Then indeed we might see the astonishing beauty of Christ's face, the fathomless beauty of the divine gaze resting upon us with mercy and compassion and tenderness. We use our eyes so easily, but we see little, and that superficially. Let us seek the vision that can be ours only, when our hearts become bright and pure. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God; and in the brilliance of God's presence we might see each other, each one either illuminated by God's love, shining with the glory of eternal life, or else wounded, darkened, expecting from us not just alms but the surrender of our whole life through love in order that he might receive sight, that to him also the Kingdom of Heaven might already be revealed on earth. Amen.

Anthony Bloom (Metropolitan of Sourozh, 1914- 2003)

Sunday of the Blind Man


Introduction

The sixth Sunday of Holy Pascha is observed by the Orthodox Church as the Sunday of the Blind Man. The day commemorates the miracle of Christ healing the man who was blind since birth. The biblical story of this event is found in the Gospel of Saint John 9:1-41.

Background
 
The Lord Jesus was coming from the Temple on the Sabbath, when, while walking in the way, He saw the blind man mentioned in today's Gospel. This man had been born thus from his mother's womb, that is, he had been born without eyes (see Saint John Chrysostom, Homily LVI on John; Saint Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V:15; and the Second Exorcism of Saint Basil the Great). When the disciples saw this, they asked their Teacher, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" They asked this because when the Lord had healed the paralytic at the Sheep's Pool, He had told him, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (John 5:14); so they wondered, if sickness was caused by sin, what sin could have been the cause of his being born without eyes. But the Lord answered that this was for the glory of God. Then the God-man spat on the ground and made clay with the spittle. He anointed the eyes of the blind man and said to him, "Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam." Siloam (which means "sent") was a well-known spring in Jerusalem used by the inhabitants for its waters, which flowed to the eastern side of the city and collected in a large pool called "the Pool of Siloam."
When our Lord Jesus Christ, then, came at midday to this city, which is also called Sychar (John 4:5), He was wearied from the journey and the heat. He sat down at this well. After a little while the Samaritan woman mentioned in today's Gospel passage came to draw water. As she conversed at some length with the Lord and heard from Him secret things concerning herself, she believed in Him; through her many other Samaritans also believed.

Therefore, the Savior sent the blind man to this pool that he might wash his eyes, which had been anointed with the clay-not that the pool's water had such power, but that the faith and obedience of the one sent might be made manifest, and that the miracle might become more remarkable and known to all, and leave no room for doubt. Thus, the blind man believed in Jesus' words, obeyed His command, went and washed himself, and returned, no longer blind, but having eyes and seeing. This was the greatest miracle that our Lord had yet worked; as the man healed of his blindness himself testified, "Since time began, never was it heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind," although the Lord had already healed the blind eyes of many. Because he now had eyes, some even doubted that he was the same person (John 9:8-9); and it was still lively in their remembrance when Christ came to the tomb of Lazarus, for they said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have caused that even this man should not have died?" Saint John Chrysostom gives a thorough and brilliant exposition of our Lord's meeting with the woman of Samaria, the healing of the paralytic, and the miracle of the blind man in his commentaries on the Gospel of Saint John.

Icon of the Sunday of the Blind Man 

The icon of the Sunday of the Blind Man depicts the biblical story of Christ healing the man who was blind since birth. Our Lord is shown placing the clay on the eyes of the man. He is with his disciples who are questioning Christ about the source of the man's affliction. The blind man is shown with his hand outstretched toward Christ expressing his faith and willingness to receive healing and grace from the Son of God. Our Lord has in His hand a scroll, which directs us to His statements, "I am the light of the world," (John 9:5), and "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed," (Luke 4:18). This are clear statements of the Gospel of salvation that comes through Christ. The scroll may also represent the role of Christ as Judge as depicted in Matthew and Revelation, and also later in the same passage on the healing of the blind man (John 9:39), Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind."

Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of the Sunday of the Blind Man 

The Sunday of the Blind Man is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. On this Sunday and throughout the Paschal period until the Apodosis or leave-taking of Pascha, the day before the Feast of the Ascension, the services begin with the chanting of the troparion of Pascha, "Christ is risen..." This is the last Sunday of the Paschal period before the Feast of the Ascension, which will follow on Thursday of this week. The Apodosis or Leave-taking of the Feast of Pascha is on Wednesday, a day which is free of fasting and celebrated with the joy and brightness of the Feast of Feasts.
Scripture readings for the feast are the following: At the Divine Liturgy: Acts 26:1, 12-20John 9:1-38.

Hymn of the Feast

Kontakion (Fourth Tone): 
I come to You, O Christ, as the man blind from birth. With the eyes of my soul blinded, I cry out to You in repentance, "You are the resplendent Light of those in darkness."

References
Reading selection courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA
Icon of the Healing of the Blind Man used with permission from Theologic


A voice from the Orthodox Church of Zimbabwe about Sunday of the blind man

Healing of the Blind Man. A fresco in Optina Monastery. Photo: Pravoslavie.ru

Archbishop Seraphim
Orthodox Archbishopric of Zimbabwe

In today’s Gospel extract our Church refers to one of Jesus Christ’s important miracles – to the healing of the man born blind. Indeed, the fact that Christ created a new eye from mud for the unfortunate blind man, proves the faith of our church in Christ’s divinity and indeed that God the Father created everything through his Son.
We see today, the parents of the blind born blind who instead of glorifying and thanking God for their son’s healing, being afraid of the consequences of speaking out with boldness and courage concerning the truth of Christ’ s miracle, persistently deny it so as not to be expelled from the synagogue.
In reality, in the parent’s conduct in today’s Gospel extract of the blind man, we see the rough manifestations of an unacceptable opportunist, who sacrifices the truth in the expediency of the time for a behaviour that pleases the powerful people of that world.
When the blind man opens his eyes and encounters the daylight, with God’s miraculous activity he becomes the best witness of Christ’s Divinity. Knowing full well the awful situation in which he had previously been, he especially appreciates God’s gift, that is his health, his miraculous healing.
This is why without being at all frightened of the threats of the all-important Pharisees, not only did he tell them the truth with courage concerning the identity of Christ, but he also spoke ironically about the identity of unbelief and the malice with which they aired their rejection of the miracle of Jesus Christ. However, in contrast to the healed blind man, his parents, even though they knew as much as he did about the incurable situation of his eyes they saw Christ’s miracle with the criterion of their own personal interest. In the face of the fear of being expelled by the Pharisees, they said they did not know anything about the great healing miracle of their child. They believed more in the power of the malice of the sinful people rather than in the power of the all-compassionate God.

Bulgarian Orthodox Icon from here

This unfortunately is the behaviour of opportunists. Every era has its opportunists who with their presence create social problems, which surround us and make us suffer. Opportunists regulate their behaviour in opposition to people and situations, not with the criterion of the truth and justice, but with the criterion of an intention with an ulterior motive, which serves some small wretched interest, which is to the detriment of common good. Opportunists do not say and do what helps the broader community, but what serves them as individuals to the detriment of many people. What interests them is to slavishly serve people of power and to be indifferent to the evangelical word of love and justice of God. For the opportunists, what counts within them is not truth and justice but individuality – that is selfishness and self-interest, namely the service of small self-interests which direct themselves towards social injustices. For their interests, opportunists are ready to step on moral and human dignity, as long as they themselves are not touched, or to have for certain, in advance, some assured illegal profit. The vestige of the opportunist parents of the blind man is unfortunately followed by many present day parents. We can confirm this from the people that we meet in our daily walk of life. Many of us ascertain timeously, which way the wind blows and we accordingly make cunning turnabouts and bow before the powerful ones, using pleasant and exaggerated flattery and slander as long as we appear pleasant and secure some profit for ourselves and have a good time. When things change and financial power is transferred to others, then the opportunists will immediately be the first to hasten to adjust the new reality like chameleons who constantly change colours.
Today, we are in need of holy parents who with love, goodness, understanding, patience, peacefulness and affection will help the restless and traumatised children of our time. Only in this way will the opportunists of our time be curbed, who constantly transform themselves into negative factors and lay a minefield path for honourable people.
Sometimes however, the honourable people’s path is mine filled also by every kind of Pharisee, like the Pharisees of today’s Gospel extract who try to create problems in Christ’s work. Indeed, these very people who should have helped Christ wage war against him. It is really a huge irony that those who supposedly represent laws and issues of worthiness should be the destruction of the moral order.
The Pharisees’ fire is hurled at the blind man, but in essence they aspire to target the Divinity of Christ, that is, to reject Christ’s Divinity, to confuse the truth. Their malice is expressed in two ways – with violence they try to
st_john_the_baptist_iconterrorize him and with their mocking irony to degrade him. Both methods are familiar in the history of humanity because these methods are always used by those who want to kill the truth. Herod beheaded John the Baptist violently so that he would not question him. The totalitarian regimes and dictators of every kind, in order to prevail, always use force. The irony, which is also used, by every kind of Pharisee is yet again another method in order to nullify the truth as well as the people who strive for it.

In our time, fundamentalists and the fanatically religiously inclined, use mostly violence while contemporary people of Western Society use mostly irony. Both categories however have as their common denominator war against the truth and love and this is why they become Christ’s enemies. The result of violence and irony temporarily appear to rule and to impress. In the end however, they are found out and degraded just like the Pharisees who are shown up by the weak and obscure blind man by birth. Whoever wants to shut out the light of truth, he himself will be shut out. This is the end result of all those who are in conflict with the work of salvation of mankind, identifying the meaning of freedom with the situation of lack of restraint. They rely on some monetary basis, which saves them and kills life and progress.
In this way, the Pharisees criticize Christ, that with the miracle he completely destroyed the sanctity of the Sabbath. They cannot come to terms in their consciousness with the fact that the Sabbath was created for man and not man for the Sabbath. Envy, jealousy and biasness do not allow them to get to know the Creator of the miracle. The only thing that they achieved was to always remain in the dense darkness of unfaithfulness and malice. Instead of believing, repenting and thanking God for giving an unfortunate blind man of theirs the light, they remained blind, hardened and unrepentant. Therefore, their following step was to continue unhesitatingly in the judgement against and the crucifixion of Christ.
Unhesitating slanderers like the Pharisees also exist in our time right amongst us. They are people without humanity who live merely to do malice. Their speech hides deadly poison which when it is hurled, murders esteem, wounds souls and demolishes works built with sweat and blood because he who usually slanders is envious of virtue and hates the truth. When he cannot deny reality, he distorts the truth with demonic exhibition and with security he submits outside the boundaries of battle, to him who directs his arrows against him, conveying, to the opponents detriment misinformation, that is slander. Often, he does not even have to open his mouth. A grimace, a hand gesture, a fully suspicious smile, an ironic lift of the shoulders, is enough to impose doubt on the esteem of the one whom he wants to destroy.
Therefore, let us hope that the miracle which opened the eyes of the blind man by birth will also open our eyes so that we might be driven to repentance through our course towards the holy sacrament of confession which will be realistically expressed in our distinguished orientation in our daily life. Hence, our blindness stops when we live within the boundaries of the sacraments of the liturgical life of our Church.
 
See also
Sunday of the Samaritan woman (5th Sunday of Pascha): "Close to God is he who in his daily life becomes the light of Christ who enlightens his neighbours..."

Jesus and the deads - The Icon of Resurrection or The descent into Hades
 

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