A homily given by His Grace Bishop Partenij of Antania, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Bigorski, at Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Blind Man, on May 29, 2022.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
In today’s Gospel reading selected by the Holy Fathers for this Sunday, we heard about the Savior’s great miracle that he performed for the blind man, who literally had been born without eyes. Here, the Lord Jesus Christ created eyes for the blind man, making them out of the earth and His Own spit. Then he sent him to the Pool of Siloam to get water to wash his eyes, and at that moment his eyes began to function perfectly, whereas before he had only had holes.
There are several lessons that God is teaching us through this event. First of all, He shows us that it is He, Jesus Christ, who created the first eyes of our forefather, Adam. He is the One who created man out of the earth. Then, today’s healing reveals to us that Christ is the ultimate Physician of human diseases and flaws, not just biological or physical ones, but especially our spiritual frailties. When the Old Testament prophets foretold the future salvation in the person of the Messiah, so that we would be able to recognize Him, they told us that He would open the eyes of the blind. Similarly, when praising God in a psalm, the Holy Prophet and King David says, “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord looses those in fetters; the Lord gives wisdom to the blind; the Lord straightens those who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:8). The Holy Prophet Isaiah also proclaims the day of the Lord’s coming, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5). In so doing, the prophets have in mind not only physical sight but above all, getting back our spiritual sight and spiritual wisdom. That is why the Lord says about Himself in the Gospel: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Here, of course, He is not talking about physical light, but rather Divine light.
If we were faced with the choice of whether to live in blindness and physical darkness, or with normal sight and light all around us, I am sure we would all choose the latter. Now, imagine a blind man who has lived in darkness all the time, and who has absolutely no idea what the world looks like in the light of day because he was born blind. Even if we spend hours explaining to such a person what this world that God created looks like, what beauty, mountains, rivers, trees, planets, and miracles there are in it, all he can do is use his powers of reason to try to imagine some kind of image, and most certainly it will be quite far from a true representation of God’s world. It is simply impossible for a person born blind to have any real idea of what anything that we see and enjoy every day through our sense of sight looks like. At the same time, we have a much better idea of what darkness means because we have the opportunity to close our eyes and see what it’s like to be in the dark. That’s why no one wants to live in blindness and darkness.
And yet, when it comes to spiritual light and darkness, the difference between them is even greater and it is even more difficult to explain to a spiritually blind person what light from God is like. A person who lives in spiritual blindness, similar to someone born blind and the physical world, is almost incapable of understanding what beauty is hidden in spiritual light, which is Christ himself, and what great blessings there are in living under spiritual light. His perception of the spiritual realm is clouded and deformed. He does not know or understand what the spiritual world is and how beautiful the light of the Spirit is. Thus, when preaching His Gospel among the people, the Lord Jesus often repeats: “Whoever has eyes to see, let him see.” Of course, here He is not talking about the eyes as a bodily organ, but rather our inner sight. Therefore, we need spiritual eyes to know Him as the Savior, the light and beauty of the world.
For this reason, my beloved, Christ is our sight and our light. Let us open our hearts to Him and He will not pass us by in silence but will open our spiritual eyes and give us His light. Today He performed a miracle for a man who was born blind, but who, on the other hand, seems to have had a rather good inner sight: he had a brave and pure heart, and he was upright and thankful. After such a great good deed was done for him, he did not remain ungrateful to his Benefactor, nor did he succumb to fear and shame coming from the threats and ridicule of the Pharisees and the Elders of the people. On the contrary, he courageously gave good arguments in defense of Christ in front of them: “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners… Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing”(John 9:30-33). The man who was born blind defends the Truth, defends the spiritual light that the Lord gave him, while the high priests, scribes, and elders remain blind. These people were spiritually handicapped, being filled with envy and worshipping external forms, and they lived in such terrible darkness that they could not see or recognize anything good even when it was right before them. With their biological eyes, they saw the Savior of the world in front of them, but with their spiritual eyes they were totally blind, and so they could not recognize Him or worship Him. What they were concerned with was that the Sabbath had been broken because of this healing. They were unable to see the great miracle and the good that had been done before their eyes, let alone rejoice that a man born blind, whom the whole city knew, had been healed and regained his sight. All they cared about was making sure no one would take away their privileges, power, and glory, and they used human inventions and rules as an excuse for their wickedness, claiming that on the Sabbath, the Lord’s day, nothing should be done, not even healing someone.
I don’t think we can find a more suitable example of this extreme contrast between physical and spiritual blindness anywhere else in the Gospels. Of course, we can understand that spiritual blindness is sometimes worse than physical blindness. And in fact, it’s disastrous. Because if we don’t find Christ in this world, if we don’t see Him and don’t recognize Him with our hearts, we won’t even be able to follow His Divine light, which is the only light that illuminates the path of life to the eternal Kingdom of uncreated light. Thus, we will continue to live in terrible darkness, which, unfortunately, will continue into eternity. Therefore, my beloved, cleanse and open your spiritual eyes, so that you can see the light of Christ, which we can contemplate through prayer in our hearts. We heard what God says today in the Gospel: “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (John 9:5). He said this not only to his contemporaries but to all people, in all generations. He is still with us today in the world through the Church. In the Church, we can be with Him and in Him, in His light. At the same time, prayer and good deeds are the eyes with which we can see that spiritual light.
Therefore, we need to pray to Him, my beloved, that He would protect us and strengthen our spiritual vision so that we can be called His disciples. Everyone who follows Christ should also be a light, a reflection of God’s light. Thus He says: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Let us be among those who illuminate the world’s darkness, especially today when we have a crisis in every area of life – social, spiritual, and civilizational. It is a crisis of the spiritual and moral values that come from the Gospel. Unfortunately, it seems most people have chosen darkness, gloom, and blindness. This is why, perhaps like never before, we Christians should become bearers of the Divine light, but first we must have spiritual eyes and transform ourselves into spiritual persons, into children of the light. Amen!