Joy of All Who Sorrow

Homily on the Sunday of the Blind Man

John 9:1-38

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is Risen!

My dear Father(s), brothers and sisters in Christ I greet you on this Sixth Sunday of Holy Pascha, the Sunday of the Blind Man. This Sunday of the Blind Man is the last in the series of three readings that we have had these past few weeks starting with the Sunday of the Paralytic, with the healing of Jairus followed by the conversion of Photina / Svetlana, the Samaritan Woman last week and today we hear of the healing of a man born blind. As I mentioned last week we also see again in all three readings a common connection with water, with the healing of Jairus the paralytic occurring at the pools of Bethesda to the North of Jerusalem, the conversion of Svetlana occurring beside the well of Jacob at Sychar and the healing of the Blind man occurring at the pool of Siloam at the far south of the old city of Jerusalem. To understand this passage let us turn to our Father amongst the saints, St Ephrem the Syrian,

In his commentary on this passage which is only to be found in St John’s Gospel, St Ephrem immediately links it back to the discussion Jesus had had with some of the Jewish leaders in the Temple in Chapter 8. In that passage of the Gospel, the Jews compared our Lord to Abraham and fiercely rejected His saying: ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ throwing Him violently out of the Temple. To demonstrate to His disciples the Truth that He indeed, the Pre-eternal Word, was before Abraham, St Ephrem argues that the Lord went to perform a Sign which would reveal this, for those with the eyes to see. Our Gospel thus begins –

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Perhaps it was the memory of the miracle of the healing of the Paralytic, and Jesus’ stern reprimand to the newly-healed Jairus to –

sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

that perhaps led the disciples to ask the question whether all disability is itself a punishment committed by the person themselves or their ancestor

However, our Lord gives a very clear rejection of this notion –

Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

This Blind Man, therefore, was to be used as a vehicle for proclaiming and revealing the Truth of the Gospel, that the Word has become flesh.

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

Again, we know that in other healings in the Gospel, such as that of the paralytic or of other blind men, that our Lord does not make use of any material or agent but does it directly by His Word. Why is it therefore that in this particular miracle, our Lord takes soil from the ground and moulds it into clay with this own spit. This seems rather elaborate and unnecessary procedure when of course our Lord could quite have simply healed Him by His word alone. St Ephrem sees the answer to this question to lie in the fact that He was showing – with those with eyes to see – that He was the Incarnate Word who, as we hear in those opening verses of St John’s Gospel –  

Was with God, and … was God … All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.

The Pre-Incarnate Logos, the Word, was the One who formed Adam from the dust of the earth. Thus as St Ephrem says –

Because they were unwilling to believe that He was before Abraham, he provde to them by this deed that He was the Son of Him whose hand had formed the First Adam from the earth.

And [He] said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

However, with regards to the relationship between this particular miracle which made use of a material agent in the process and all the other miracles our Lord performed in the Gospels which are simply by his word alone, St Ephrem clarifies that –

It was not the pool of Siloam that opened the eyes of the blind man, just as it was not the waters of the Jordan that purified Naaman. It was the Lord’s command which effected it.

In other words, it was out of condescension, it was out of oeconomy that our Lord condescended to make use of soil and spittle in order to demonstrate that He was the Incarnate Word and Creator. The other role that the mud played, however, in this miracle was also to bring attention to the healing, and thereby to lead others to knowledge of the Truth. It is thus indeed very fitting that the pool of Siloam meant, by interpretation – sent. For there became something very Apostolic about the Blind Man’s healing. As St Ephrem puts it very beautifully –

He anointed his eyes with clay, so that other people too might cleanse the blindness which was in their hearts.

In His commentary, St Ephrem then picks up on this profound and ironic juxtaposition that takes place between this Blind Man and those around him. On the one hand we have those who are physically able to see and yet are spiritually blinded and the one who was physically blind but yet could, in the most important sense, see clearly. This all comes from the fact that our Lord as He says earlier in this passage is the light of the world quite apart from the source of physical  light in this world. As St Ephrem says –

Those whose eyes were exteriorly open were being led on by the blind man who was able to see interiorly.

In this way the pool of Siloam proved apostolic indeed, the guileless answers of the formerly blind mind, lead many to spiritual sight and illumination.

He was a source of gain for our Lord, since he gained many blind people through him, [healing them] from blindness of heart.

We can thus see that true sight, is not to do with whether we can read books or the visual charts at Specsavers. It has to do with whether we see Christ, not as a man, a nice guy, a prophet, but as God Incarnate.

Then, just as with the healing of the Paralytic, we then come to this tragically inevitable discussion yet again with the Pharisees about the legitimacy of Christ’s healing occurring on the Sabbath day. Again, we can note here the complete hardheartedness and blindness of the Pharisees in their obsession about fulfilling the minutiae of the Law, they missed the Miracle that was done in their midst. They are arguing about whether the Law has been violated and miss the fact that beneath their very noses the Law-Giver was right in front of them. As St Ephrem says –

They overlooked the fact that he had healed, but reproached hum because he had made clay.

Talk about missing the wood for the trees. The irony and lunacy of the depth of the Pharisees inner blindness is revealed through the former Blind Man’s exasperated response –

Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.

And it was after this that the endarkened Pharisees condemned him, as they repeated the cruel association between disability and sin which our Lord had earlier refuted –

They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

Yet the Blind Man’s rejection would itself become a sign of His acceptance by the Lord, as the suffering and persecution he underwent, which his parents were unwilling to undergo, made him worthy of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, 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.

In this beautiful exchange we see how the Blind Man’s blindness had so softened his heart that there is this child-like purity about his response to our Lord, the Incarnate Word. We see that there is no confusion, no indecision. Once the revelation is made, the response is immediate, complete and wholehearted –

Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

Dear Father, brothers and sisters, in these closing days of Paschaltide, let us learn from the guileless simplicity of the Blind Man, who even when he was blind and without eyes could still see better than us. As we hear the beautiful troparia of Pascha chanted for the last time this week, and make our final Paschal exclamations of this season, let us ask that our noetic eyes, the eyes of our hearts, will see by the Light which continues to pour forth from the Empty Tomb, the Light of Christ’s Holy Resurrection which transforms and transfigures everything it touches.   

As it says in the Kontakion of the Feast –

Since my soul’s noetic eyes are blind and sightless, * I have come to Thee, O

Christ, * as did the man who was blind from birth. * And in repentance I cry

unto Thee: ** Of those in darkness Thou art the most radiant Light.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!