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I am not Alone
Welcome to memory lane Let us take a little walk.
I have this weird habit of walking around my apartment and monologuing, practicing one side of conversations that will likely never take place. On one hand, it is a good way for me to work through things that have been on the back of my mind for a time. In other ways it is a way to practice my dialogue, for I still have issues speaking, forming sentences on the fly (off script if you will, which is one reason I much prefer writing to speaking). My monologue turned into a diatribe of sorts, and I found this to be unexpected. I came to some self realizations, realized some offenses that maybe I had not forgiven, and found solace in these self revelations, albeit minor in the grand scope of things.
The last 20 years have been no easy road for me. Every real or meaningful thing I had wanted to do in this life was derailed by one thing or another, and at each failure along that journey, most of them were endured alone. I couldn't join the military because I suddenly became diabetic. I lost my first good job to 9/11. I worked hard for over a year saving for a car, having walked everywhere for a year before that, only to have the money stolen by the man I was buying the car from. I lost my home after helping a friend get back on his feet, he neglecting to tell me he was a registered sex offender. I was homeless for 48 hours. I was denied a government job that would have opened all other doors to me, all because of a bankruptcy caused by hurricanes that took my job and everything else from me. The first time I followed my heart, I ended up in Baltimore and was punished for it.
I remember after losing my job to the hurricanes, and being evicted after helping my friend, I took a test at the workforce center in south Florida. I was referred there by a friend of the man that had taken me in. After taking the aptitude test, we were walking down the hall and talking. I hadn't noticed she stopped until I was a few paces ahead. I looked back and she was staring at the page with my test results. She simply looked up at me:
"Why are you here?"
"I need a job?"
"Yes, but why are YOU here? We don't get test scores like this here?"
I had a job within a week. It was not long after this I followed my girlfriend at the time to Baltimore, and found myself floundering in another hopeless situation with no job, and no way out. In the end I went home.
There is a lot more to that story, but that is for another time. I did not know where I was going. I did not know what I was doing. All I knew is I was searching FOR something that had meaning, and that was bigger than myself. I wanted something that gave my life meaning, because few others in my life have ever seen any meaning in it.
Then I found the Church.
Looking back over the last 7 years, while that journey has only gotten tougher, I have never been more determined. While others may not see value in what I do, I could care less.
Before I even began my educational journey, I had a stroke. I lost the ability to talk clearly, write anything legible at all, and typing was a near impossibility. I sounded like I had downs syndrome for months, and it took many months after that to regain some degree of muscle memory. After much hard work I regained about 80% functionality, without which online schooling would have been an impossibility.
The following year, at the end of my very first semester of what would be 5 years of school, I went into full respiratory failure from my 7th bout with pneumonia. It was right in the middle of finals, and it was a miracle there alone that I passed. I was Chrismated onto what was supposed to be my death bed. Looking back years after the fact, I see the lineup of dates involved and realize that I was not alone. January 7th is Christmas on the Old Calendar for the Orthodox Church; January 9th was my Birthday; January 11th was the day I almost died; January 14th is Saint Basil's feast day, for whom I was Chrismated and later named at my ordination.
In my room, I was given a a framed paper icon of Saint Luke of Crimea. I could have sworn I saw a single tear run down the glass, but I dismissed it at the time. A couple days later I was able to get out of bed and I inspected the framed icon, and on the glass there is a single streak that was not there before, from his right eye half way down the glass. I still have that icon. That streak is still there. At that moment, I knew I was not alone.
For the next three years I was expected to read stacks of books for my theological education, and then my vision started to fail. Multiple eye surgeries, and countless migraines from reading so many books on one functioning eye took its toll over time, but I finished.
In the months leading up to finals, and eventually Ordination, the home life fell apart. Amanda's car broke. Amanda broke her foot shortly after having major surgery. For two and a half months I worked overtime, sold things of sentimental value to me in order to keep the house afloat on my paycheck alone. Yet, I finished up my last semester while doing all this and working more than full time hours.
The day I was ordained, my retina detached. I had yet another eye surgery the following week. Not long after this, though I was not looking, a door opened and I could not pass by and started my Bachelors in History. Sometime after all this, Amanda started having her own issues. I won't go into details, but a year later it ended in my being served divorce papers, and right in the middle of finals. Yet, on the day I was served, I was called and approved for an apartment, something I was told never happens that quickly, like ever. Also that day, I received in the mail a vial of myrrh from the Holy Myrrh streaming Iveron icon in Hawaii. At that moment, I knew I was not alone.
Now that I have finished school, I am awaiting my next step. What is the road I will take next? In the meantime, my life may or may not have meaning, but it is doing something meaningful. I serve the Church every week as much as I am able. I perform those duties that are given to me that are of import to others. I have continued my writing, of which others have found useful, and many more are encouraging me to publish. I get messaged daily by people daily on Twitter, Discord, sometimes Facebook, and even email, all asking me for advice. I don't have a beacon lit, and I am a sinner just like the rest of them, so I have no idea why they come, but I make myself available to all those who seek it. I myself am unimportant, and someday I will pass on, but my work will live on after me and hopefully be of benefit to others for years to follow.
I could die in my apartment right now, and it would likely be a week or more before anyone realized I was missing (except maybe my boss, or Peter, because no one wants my job), but even in realizing this, I will always remember that I am not alone. Yes, I am eccentric, sometimes temperamental, maybe even a little OCD, and for this reason there are many people that don't want to be around me; yet, even in my isolation, I am not alone. I ride a motorcycle, for why drive a 4 door car when you have no one to ride with you; yet, despite the number of wheels beneath me, I am not alone. I wanted a wife and family more than words can express, and for a time I had a wife I loved, and a daughter that I always wanted. Even though others have sought to take this away from me, and even though I can never have this again, it is at least comforting to know that I am not alone. Friends have turned their back on me; awards, events, graduations and all things of import to me have been walked alone, but regardless if my side is empty, I will always know that I am not alone.
Loneliness is born of blindness. Open your eyes and see that you are not alone.
Finding stillness amidst the chaos of this world.
It has been quite a few months since my last blog entry. I will try t fill you in, and then share a meditation that I wrote many years ago and is relevant to today's chaotic world.
Maybe a week after my last blog entry, my wife handed me divorce papers. My world was turned upside down, and right in the middle of college exams. I was forced to move and essentially start a new life. Since then the pandemic has gripped the nation in a number of different ways. Society, in some ways, has fundamentally changed. The political dichotomy has only seem to grow, and the world is full of unknowns. Personally, I have graduated college with a Bachelors degree in history, I have started painting once again, I have learned to ride a motorcycle, and my life personal life has gotten smaller as I learn to find stillness in a world that never stops moving or making noise.
With that said, I found an old meditation of mine that I will be reflecting upon this weekend. We should all learn to seek peace and stillness within ourselves.
Water of Life
There are few persistent elements that form a thread through the entirety of scripture: bread, water, wine, etc. Water, perhaps, is most significant.
It was by water that God cleansed the world. God parted the waters of the Red Sea to save his people. It was by Moses' anger that water flowed from a rock. It is by water we are baptized, and thus cleansed of stains of our fallen nature. It was water, that Christ turned into wine. It is by water we are grafted into His Holy Church, the body of Christ.
Water is an example to the Christian life…
Water rests in the lowliest of places. It is unassuming and takes the shape of the world in which it rests. It provides life and refreshment to everyone around it. Water in its stillness reflects the true face of the world that would choose to gaze into its depths. In its purity, one can see through to the deepest parts of its being, and therefore the truth therein.
Water is patient. It does not fight, but takes the path of least resistance. Yet, it is persistent, and in time can change the face of the world
Water is life, quenching our thirst, and renewing us amidst the deserts of this life. It is a renewal of life, washing away the collected impurities of the world. Without water to keep us refreshed, to keep us clean, we would surely die.
So it is like us with Christ.
Christ in us is our living water. He is our wellspring, without whom our spirit would surely die of thirst amidst the arid spiritual deserts of this world. Christ is our redeemer, washing our souls clean with the blood of his sacrifice, without which our souls would be forever marred by the stain of our iniquities. He is our peace, the stillness in whom we may see the face of our true self.
To be like Christ is to be like water, that we may fall down like rain upon the rest of the world, like God’s Love has fallen upon us, and to be a refreshment to those trapped in the arid spiritual desert of this world, until they find the oasis on their own, the oasis that is Christ. We must flow forth like a river, and follow the hills and valleys of His will, wherever it may lead us.
HOMILY: The Church of Remembering.- June 21, 2020
Readings: Epistle 1 John 3:13-18, Gospel Luke 14:16-24
Christ is in our midst! (He is, and ever shall be!)
Glory to Jesus Christ! (Glory forever!)
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
We are the Church of remembering. We look back at the great spiritual journey which we have all endured. We passed through a time of preparation and remembered the prodigal, the publican, and the last judgement; we turned our minds towards repentance. We passed through the great fast, a spiritual exercise in which we remember our sins and conquer ourselves that we may be found worthy of the promises of Christ. We remember that God the Son became incarnate in the flesh, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died, and was buried, and we are mindful of our own deaths; for, death comes for us all, and so we live always mindful of it: memento mori. We remember that Christ rose from the dead, defeating death by death, that we may no longer be held captive by the Evil One. We remember Christ ascended into heaven, where he sits on the right hand of God the Father, and he shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead. We recently remembered and celebrated the sending of the Holy Spirit, upon which our Church - the Body of Christ, the Pillar and Foundation of Truth - was established upon the foundation of the prophets and the apostles. We feasted in celebration of this great gift we have been given, those gifts of the Holy Spirit of which we have all been given, that we may embolden and strengthen the Church for the work for which she was established.
Now, we enter a point of transition in our liturgical and sacramental lives, where we transition to a time where Christ walks among us and transforms us as each of us walks together towards the perfection of all things. We have entered the Apostles fast. This fast is unique, in that it starts relative to Pascha, but ends every year on June 29th following the old calendar.
Anything you have left unfinished from the Great Fast, do it now. If there be anyone you have not forgiven as you should have before this moment, go and make amends. If there persist any transgressions you have failed to confess before God, take yourself to the priest and do it without delay. If you have not started to pray as you should, it is not too late to do so, for all things begin with prayer. This is a time of preparation, to get ready to go forth like the saints before us; to go forth into the world to love and serve the Lord; to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. We go forth into the world to spread the light of His gospel unto all nations, embarking on the great mission and commission for which we have been established.
We do not go alone, for we rise together, yet we fall alone. We rise as the body of Christ, as living stones of the Church founded by Christ’s honourable blood, but we fall away as apostates and heretics conforming to this world, following our own ideas apart from the teachings of the Church. We march forward together with the Saints, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, loving one another not just in word or in tongue, as our Epistle exhorts us this day, but in deed and in truth. So, we go forth with one mind, together in one accord, united in one loaf, one cup and one teaching as Saint Paul teaches in his first letter to the Corinthians, remembering that we do not go alone. The Saints are with us, just as Christ is with us.
So it is with great cheer that today we remember All the Russian Saints of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Today is in essence the name day of all Russia, where we remember the Saints who through both sorrows and great love, labored to build the Church of Russia we hold fast to today. Kievan Rus’ was baptized in 988 after Prince Vladimir sent ambassadors from Kiev in search of true faith, recognizing the failings of their pagan gods. They found the Muslims of the Bulgarian lands to be without joy, and rejected the abolition of alcohol and pork, for what joy can be found in a life without Vodka and bacon - though especially Vodka? Also, Vladimir found the Jewish faith to be weak, for they had lost Jerusalem, and as a result saw them as having been abandoned by God. They found the services of the Romans to be relentlessly bleak and without beauty. Yet, when they came to the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, they indeed found what they had been searching for, and reported back to their lord:
“And we went into the Greek lands, and we were led into a place where they serve their God, and we did not know where we were, on heaven or on earth; and do not know how to tell about this. All we know is that God lives there with people and their service is better than in any other country. We cannot forget that beauty since each person, if he eats something sweet, will not take something bitter afterwards; so we cannot remain any more in paganism.”
So, the Russian people joined Prince Vladimir through baptism into the Orthodox faith. The old pagan gods were rejected, and many churches were built in those places they once held. The Orthodox faith united disparate tribes across the land, giving them new meaning and new life. The Orthodox faith regenerated Russian princes and rulers, so that in time Russia would rise from the shadows of this world to become a beacon of Orthodoxy to all men. From the Russian Church many luminaries of Truth and virtue arose to lead her into the ages to come.
We remember the likes of Saint Sergius, who founded the largest Orthodox Monastery in all of Russia, today known as the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius. It is from him that the cultural ideals of Holy Rus emerged. We remember Vasily the blessed, a fool for Christ, and known all across Moscow in the 15th century, now buried in the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Red Square. We remember the holy hierarch Saint Germogen, who gave strength to the Russian peoples amidst the time of troubles; who in both faith and confession, “spiritually and morally regenerated the Russian nation, [wherein] it again started on the path of seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, the righteousness of subordinating the earthly life of the state to spiritual principles.” We remember Saint Seraphim of Sarov, that great light of Orthodox Spirituality, who exhorts us to acquire a spirit of peace, that thousands around us might be saved. We remember the likes of Saint John of Kronstadt; a model for all Orthodox priests; the great pastor of Russia who breathed into the Russian people on the eve of its great peril a lasting reserve of spirituality, a reserve that would allow it to survive and endure the coming years of atheist Soviet Russia.
So, we stand with such as these, each of us together, united in one Orthodox faith, one teaching, one mind, and one Love, for God is Love. Love is the common denominator. Love is the unending and enduring fire of God’s grace on earth, burning through the hearts of men, and bringing light to where there is none. It is within the light and warmth of love that the faithful persevere in the cold, and the darkness of this world. It is this love the Church carries into the world, and it is by this love that the Church has prevailed, prevails today, and will continue to prevail in the ages to come. For, the world is a cold and dark tempest against which we are all tested. It is only by the fire of God’s love that we can survive and prevail. The Saints have shown this to be True. The Russian Orthodox Church has shown this to be true, having endured perhaps the greatest darkness the Church has ever known. So, as we look forward towards the days to come, let us not be disturbed by tumults and turmoil; let us not be troubled by social unrest, revolts, and upheavals; let us not stumble by the fraying of the moral fabric of the very Republic in which we live. Instead, as Father Seraphim Rose exhorts us to do, “let all true Orthodox Christians strengthen themselves for the battle ahead, never forgetting that in Christ the victory is already ours.”
Closing with the words of our most reverend and beloved Metropolitan Hilarion:
“Let us pray to all the saints, especially to the saints who shone forth in the Russian land and in the Diaspora, that they might confirm in us the faith, teach us to live virtuously, and help us to bear our cross with humility and patience and to love, treasure, and hold fast what we have, unto the salvation of our souls. Amen.
Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy most pure Mother, our holy and God-fathers and all the saints, have mercy on us.
HOMILY: Pentecost - Trinity Sunday - June 7th, 2020
Readings: Epistle - 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, Gospel - John 14:23-31.
Christ is in our midst! (He is, and ever shall be!)
Glory to Jesus Christ! (Glory forever!)
In the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God! Amen.
Today is an important day in the life of the Church, and it is a joyous day, for it is the day that the Pillar and foundation of Truth was erected upon the foundation of the prophets and the apostles, with Christ as the cornerstone; it is the day that the faithful were found and formed into living stones of this divine-human institution of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Today is the day the Holy Orthodox Church was founded and formed. It is Trinity Sunday, the day of Pentecost. The Church, for her birthday, received from on high the gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which she (the Church) was illumined; by which the Church became the abode of the Holy Spirit, and the vehicle of Holy Revelation. It is in the Church that we are illumined and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit; it is in the Church that Christ is revealed to us, where we encounter Him in body and Spirit; and it is through Christ that the Father is revealed to us also. The Church is the body of Christ, and it is within and a part of that body that we worship the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
We recently celebrated the Holy feast day of Christ’s Ascension, whereupon today we remember his words promising us that he “will ask the Father, and he will give [us] another Helper, to be with [us] forever.” This is, of course, the Holy Spirit of whom he speaks. Christ ascended that the Holy Spirit might descend and endow us with those gifts necessary to the building up of the Church in the fullness of Christ. We all possess those gifts of God’s grace common to all, as Saint John Chrysostom highlights in his own homilies on the letter to the Ephesians: “baptism, salvation by faith, having God as Father and partaking of the same Spirit.” We also possess diverse spiritual gifts in varying degrees; though, one must not allow one’s self to descend into arrogance at what they themselves possess, nor must one look at another’s gifts and fall into despondency that they have not been so gifted. It is against this which Saint Paul fought in his letters written to both the Ephesians and the Corinthians, and why he used the analogy of the Church as one body consisting of many members elsewhere in scripture. This is also why Saint John Chrysostom also says “If someone has more in grace, feel no resentment, for his task is greater too.” For, if those who have been given do nothing with what they have received, they are just like the man who received the one talent, and buried it in the earth. No, we must use the gifts we have received as tools for the building of the Church; for a gift unused is one taken for granted, and has no value to us, to the Church, and the world in which we live. So, what can be said about these gifts? Saint Paul tells us that “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” It is within this common good that we incarnate Truth to the world; bring light into the darkness; bring faith to the faithless; bring hope to the lost; bring medicine to the sick; and bring peace amidst the chaos of this world.
The Church is one in her essence; her essence of faith; her essence of spirit and the teaching received therein; but, she is diverse in both gifts and function. Despite what the world may try to force us to believe, unity does not mean uniformity; and, equality does not mean sameness. The Church is diversity in operation; not a diversity of faith nor truth, but of people. We are all living stones, just as Saint Peter exhorts, altogether comprising the Church. Look at the walls of any Church, the grains of the wood, the variations in the stone, the adornments they bear, the scars they hold, and no two are alike. Likewise, we are each unique in person, yet we all strive towards the same fullness of our humanity. It is towards this fullness of our humanity in Christ that we are “guided by gifted people for the sake of maturity and stability of the body,” those Bishops in whom the unity and continuity of the Church is ensured; for, as Saint Ignatius has said, where the Bishop is, there also is the Church. It is the fullness of Christ towards which we all strive together, as a flock guided by her shepherd, through our cooperation with the Holy Spirit of which the Church has received, and our humility through obedience to the commands of Christ; for, as Christ himself exhorted in our Gospel reading for today, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
To Saint Paul, it is the Holy Spirit which both unites and strengthens the Church. The goal of our salvation is that of theosis, or deification, our continual striving towards the likeness of God where the image of God will be perfected in all mankind. So, it is by the Holy Spirit in which we are granted the myriad gifts of the Spirit, working towards that end. These gifts are given to the benefit of the Church, the Body of Christ. In addition to this, it is within the Church that we come into communion with Christ, cultivating the gifts thus given to us, elevating us even further on our journey into holiness.
Paul saw the actions and activities of the Holy Spirit as different from both the Father and the Son, but were complementary to the Love of the Father, and the Grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Saint Paul affirmed that it was by Christ all things were made: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him;” and it is thus by the Holy Spirit all things are perfected. It is by the Holy Spirit that Christ is revealed to us and to all men, and it is through Christ that the Father is revealed, for “He is the image of the invisible God.”
Both Saint Paul and Saint John the Evangelist well establish the divinity of the Father and the Son, and tie the two of them together with the work of the Holy Spirit. While the Father is the source of all things, and it is by the Son through which all things are created, the Holy Spirit “is the very Content of the Kingdom of God” While the Spirit functions as a luminary of Holy mysteries, the Spirit remains mysteriously hidden from all things, functioning in us to reveal the Son to us. It is by Love that the three persons of the Trinity are connected and commune with one another, and it is within this Love that is found the salvation for all mankind; for, God is Love. As the Trinity exists as persons in Communion, so then must we, the Body of Christ, exist as persons in communion, so bringing us closer to the uniting and enduring love of the Father.
We have been given these gifts by the Holy Spirit, given the Holy Spirit Himself, that the Church may be duly armed with the proper tools for the struggles ahead. We have been given the tools necessary for the labors of the fields from which God's harvest will come. We must not and cannot neglect these tools for while iron may sharpen iron, tools soon rust when left in disuse. For, we cannot neglect or ignore the labors at hand, because as Christ himself has said, the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Though these gifts were received by us freely, at no cost to us, they were bought with an immeasurable price: Christ on the cross. So, let us live our lives worthily of such a sacrifice, that we be counted as sons and daughters of the Living God. Let us work together with faith, and in the fullness of Truth, that all truth may abide in us and save us.
By the prayers of our holy Fathers and Mothers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us.
HOMILY: Sunday of the Blind Man - May 24, 2020
Readings: Acts 20:17-38, Epistle James 1:22-27, Gospel Reading John 9:1-38
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
Christ is Risen!
So, today is the Sunday of the Blind man, and I am sure that the irony of my giving the homily on this day is not lost on any of you. Yet, as we remember this story, I cannot help but look back towards Pascha, where Christ rose from the dead, and also forward toward ascension where Christ will rise to sit at the right hand of God the Father, from whence “He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” Yet, in between these days we follow a thread of Sundays and stories tracing a path of faith, and restoration. Pascha was a season of penitence, a season of turning ourselves to God. The weeks that follow are a season of receiving, of acceptance, and of healing, for indeed the Church is the very hospital for our souls.
The first Sunday after Pascha is the Sunday of St. Thomas, wherein Thomas believed when he saw Christ’s hands, feet, and pierced side. Then came the Sunday of the Myrrh bearing women, who saw Christ’s Tomb, and preached Christ is Risen to the Apostles. After this, we have the healing of the Paralytic, who by some transgression of his own was left paralyzed for a lengthy season of his life. Christ gave a command, and he obeyed, and so he was healed. Then today, we have the Sunday of the blind man, who disadvantaged by no fault of his own, was rendered without sight, that the Glory of God may be made manifest at this very moment, not only for the blind man’s sake, but for the sake of those who followed.
Great and Holy Pascha saw the brilliant light of Christ’s resurrection dispel the terrible darkness of the tomb, mankind having been trapped within, because the wages of sin is death. Christ’s resurrection illuminated the path that man had wandered for so long in spiritual darkness, becoming a lamplight at our feet. Yet, a blind man cannot see the light of the sun, but only feel the warmth of its radiance upon his face. He knows it is there, but that is enough. A blind man cannot walk the path, lest one who can see it leads him on the way. One cannot see what lies ahead, unless his eyes are opened, for even in being led down the path, one may still encounter the unexpected, and stumble over the unknown. Even though we who are present here today can see the light of life, and the very joy of our salvation, Jesus Christ, we should not forget that we too were once blind. We should all see ourselves in the blind man. We should see in the blind man a faith expected of us from the gift we have received, and our expectations of the world to whom the cross is foolishness.
Let us remember in the chapter before this, Christ was in the temple with the Jews. He had spoken to the Jews, saying “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” But, who will follow what they cannot see? The Jews did not believe because they were spiritually blind, and their eyes were closed. So, the Jews rejecting the revelations of Christ, left the temple. Christ and the Apostles encountered the blind man, whereon the Apostles asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Now, it is a reasonable question given that at the healing of the paralytic some time before, of which we celebrated last Sunday, the words of Christ attributed his ailment to his sins, where upon his healing he was told “behold, you are made whole, sin no more.”
Christ came to him unbidden; Christ did not ask if he wished to be healed for the blind man knew nothing else, having been born with his infirmity. Yet, if we look back to the healing of the paralytic, Christ asked him if he wished to be healed, for he was fully aware of his state, and how he ended up where he was. The blind man was given without request, without prayer, and without any sign of faith. This is grace. This is the free gift of healing, or σῴζω, often translated as salvation in the scriptures. Christ, who created the heavens and the earth, who authored all of creation, He who spoke all things into existence, He who created man from the dust of the earth, knelt down and fashioned clay with his own spittle and dirt, then placed it over the blind man’s eyes. Some say he fashioned new eyes with the very clay. Then, Christ’s work complete, commanded him to wash in the pool at siloam. The blind man was bidden by the unseen, and by faith he obeyed, and in his obedience his eyes were opened. Such is our own life in Christ.
The story of the blind man is the story of us all. We were all blind, but now we can see. We were all blind, but healed by the grace of God, and by our own obedience and contrition of heart, our eyes were opened in the waters of baptism, for which the blind man’s bathing in the pools of siloam is a typology. We were blind, but now we can see the light of life, and fully see, receive, and experience the joy of our salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. It is within this joy that we proclaim Christ to the world, much like the myrrh bearing women preached the Risen Christ to the apostles; and the blind man, once healed, proclaimed Christ to the Pharisees, even though he did not yet know who Christ was as the Son of the living God. For, it was not by great knowledge of God that he was healed and brought to Truth, but by faith. All knowledge of Truth can be brought by faith. Indeed, the Pharisees had all knowledge of Truth, but not Truth itself; they possessed great intellectual wealth, but were poor in spirit. They lacked faith.
Our Epistle reading for today tells us about this faith; a faith in action and what it looks like (in part), giving us an idea of what the Pharisees lacked. They were hearers of the word, but not doers. The Pharisees thought themselves religious, but their praxis of faith was empty, and without justification. For the θρησκεία, or religion, of the Pharisees was one of intellect alone. They knew the prayers, but did not live them. They knew of love, for God is Love, but possessed none themselves. They possessed the Law, but did not follow it. They worshiped God, but their offering was empty, because they lacked a “broken and contrite heart,” of which God will not despise.
We, as the body of Christ, are to manifest Christ into the world; we as the body of Christ are to live out and manifest the light Truth and the joy of salvation into this world. This is why we hear James, the same who penned that “faith without works is dead,” also wrote in our epistle reading for today that “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
So as we regard the courageousness declarations of the blind man before the Pharisees, we look forward to the ascension of Christ, only a few days ahead of us, whereupon we receive our great commission to go forth into the world and “ make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” For, the joys of Holy Pascha are not confined to a season; the joy of our salvation is not confined to us alone who have received it; the light of Christ is not confined to the Church, for one does not light a lamp to hide it under a basket; the light of Christ is for the whole world, for whom Christ came to save.
The way is open. It was made by He who gave life, and the living keep it until the end of days. So, lead the blind to the hospital for our souls, the Holy Orthodox Church, wherein Christ the great physician will heal them of their blindness and infirmities. May we all walk the way together and keep it, that the blind shall not stumble on their way to be healed. May we not stumble in our own journeys, keeping Christ’s commandments and true religion through contrition of heart, prayer, humility, obedience, and our participation in the Holy Mysteries of the Church.
Our participation in our faith is required. For, If the paralytic did not pick up his mat and walk, would he have been healed? If the blind man had not washed, would he have received his sight? We can receive the free gift of God’s grace, but if we do nothing with it, then it is of no benefit to us. So, just as Paul lived out his faith among the Ephesians; as James has exhorted us to incarnate our faith in deeds beyond words; as the blind main proclaimed Christ in the face of great opposition; as Paul instructs us to run the race, and work out our faith with fear and trembling; as Christ himself begins his ministry with the words “follow me,” go and do likewise.
By the prayers of our holy Fathers and Mothers, and all the saints, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us.