|Homily for the 6th Sunday of Pascha The Sunday of the Blind Man|
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit….
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Today in the image of the blind man who is given his sight we have, in a sense, another re-telling of the creation of the world. It is also a means that Christ used to show to the Israelites that He was and is the God who created them out of nothing. There are other re-tellings of the creation; some are in the psalms and wisdom literature. Some are in the New Testament. Of course the prologue of John’s Gospel…in the Beginning was the Word…is a retelling of the beginning of the Book of Genesis and the creation. By his account John tells us that it is Christ the Word who was with the Father and who was and is our creator. It is through that prologue that we are taught how, in a sense, to read the Old Testament. It is a means of opening our eyes.
The healing of the blind man is also a literal eye-opener. Today we hear how Christ sought out the blind man (the man did not come to him) and healed him by means of his spittle and clay…the earth, or dust, mixed with the moisture from our savior’s mouth. Why would Jesus do such a thing? Why would he go to the trouble of making clay and anointing the closed eyes of the blind man? Couldn’t he have, as He did so often before, just said….you are healed? Of course He could.
The Fathers of the Church, though, teach that he used the clay to show that He was indeed the Creator from the beginning. By telling the man to then go wash after he had spread the clay, St. John Chrysostom says that Christ was showing that it was not by any necessity that He used the clay, but again, to emphasize who it was that worked the healing: the Creator of all.
So we see that much of what Christ did had more than one purpose. His first purpose was to heal and the second purpose was to teach. He even said that this man was born blind so that “the works of God should be made manifest in him.” There are Church Fathers who maintain that the man was not just born blind. He was born without eyes. St. Chrysostom speaks in his homily on this passage of Christ forming the eyes as well as providing the sense of sight. Christ shows the connection to the creation of the man by use of the clay and then Jesus shows that he did not need the clay to create. His word would have been power enough. The connection was made, though so that others could grasp that Jesus was and is the God of the Old Testament, the God who made us all.
St. Cyril of Alexandria sees in this passage, in addition to the image of Christ as creator, a type or foreshadowing of the Gentiles coming to the Church. This healing has symbolic value for us in this sense. The blind man stands for the Gentiles who did not even have the vision to look for the true God. They were in darkness, stumbling about. They could not even call out to God due to their ignorance. Just as Christ came to this blind man, so He comes to the Gentiles and restores their spiritual vision. God in His infinite mercy reaches out to them and shows them His mercy. In the same way, the blind man could not find Christ. He did not know Him, but Christ comes to Him and shows him an unexpected mercy and heals the man.
St. Cyril points out here that the man who was healed did not know who Christ was, did not know that He was God. He thought perhaps that Jesus was a prophet. Christ Himself tells the man who He is (after the man has been expelled, excommunicated from the
This was a very uncommon move on the part of our Savior who often told His disciples to tell no one who He was, who told those He healed to be quiet. There were no parables here, there were no obscure sayings. For the man whose eyes were opened, Christ shows him His glory.
Jesus isn’t just showing us who He is, though. He is, in a sense, giving us an image of who we can be. When man fell in the Garden of Eden, the eye of his heart was darkened. Man, as St. Cyril described the gentiles, became spiritually blind. Christ shows us through his healing of the blind man, that we too can have our blindness healed. We may see and know who it is that Christ is. It is important to note that it is the work of Christ toward us that makes us see. We cannot do this on our own. We are blind until we receive eyes that can see. On
In the story of the blind man we have an image of man taken out of darkness and permitted to see Jesus for Who He is: the creator of the world, our God and Savior. Why does this commemoration follow Pascha and come so close to the feast of the Ascension? One can see that in this healing we can understand the Ascension and Pascha and the Incarnation. We learn from this event Who Christ is, who we are, His creatures, and we understand that we are to be made anew, given new eyes, and then healed of our darkness by our baptism (go wash in the pool of Siloam). After this we see that our human nature which is borne by Christ is resurrected and taken up to the heavens and sits at the right hand of the Father….we thus see the potential for our deification in Christ. The healing of the blind man is an image of the last step we take before we are taken up in Christ in His Ascension.
“Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”
May we all answer and do the same when we are given the vision of the Lord of Glory for we all will someday, whether in this life or in the age to come, see the Lord as He is. May we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
2009 Fr. Philip Kontos