One characteristic of our Byzantine Spirituality is that of light. Light is all around us. We have candles on the altar, candles that illumine the faces on the icons in the Church. We light candles for those who have died and for the living. Light is all around us. I told you on Easter night, that the light that we hold in our hands, that was lit from the light that never goes out, is the light that we have to take into the darkened world, the light of the Resurrection of Christ, and that we have to let that light shine, especially in the world around us today that tries very hard to darken that light.
There is a direct link between the light of the Resurrection of Christ and the light that shines into our consciousness. But this light is of little value to our souls if it does not translate itself in an increase of that inner light which must direct and transform our lives. If we are not first transformed by the light of the Resurrection then we have little or no hope of trying to transform the world with that same light.
We hear, in today’s Gospel passage from St. John, of the healing of the man born blind. The important part of the passage to keep in mind is that the man was born blind, he did not become blind at some point in time in his life, he was born this way. In the hymns of the Vespers service last night we hear the Man Born Blind saying this: “I am not content to continue asking whether it is night or day. My feet can no longer endure tripping on the stones. I have seen nothing: neither the sun shining, nor the image of my Maker.” He has never seen anything!
But he meets Jesus, and with some spittle and dust from the earth, Jesus tells the man to go and wash in the pool in Siloam. After he does this he receives his sight. But, as we read, he becomes an object of hostile curiosity and insidious questions from the Pharisees. At this point the Pharisees are trying to find a way to catch Jesus, and they are using whatever means they can to do just that. Eventually the man is expelled from the Temple by the Pharisees and is found by Jesus. Jesus reveals to the man that He is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Scripture tells us that the man believed and worshipped.
But there is an interesting part of the story here that deserves some attention from us today. Notice that after the man was expelled from the temple he did not go in search of Jesus. Jesus found him, Jesus sought him out and when he was found he preached the good news to him. Jesus was not sitting somewhere waiting for the man to come to Him, no, Jesus brought the light, the light of the truth and the light of the Gospel to the man. This is what we have to do, and we do that by letting the light of the Resurrection shine from within each of us.
But, as always, there is more to the story. We see the man, blind from birth, but is this story just about the physical blindness of the man? No, I do not think so, what the story is about is spiritual blindness. Sure Jesus healed the man of his physical blindness, but most importantly, and this came after he had been thrown out of the Temple, Jesus healed the man of his spiritual blindness. However, we cannot separate the two events, the man not only had to be willing to be healed of his physical blindness but also had to be willing to be healed of his spiritual blindness the two are not always the same.
It has become fashionable in 21st century American religious life, for the church to be about entertainment, good music that makes you want to clap your hands, and for sermons to be preached that make us feel good, touchy feely as I like to call them. I do not recall any point in Scripture where Jesus tells everyone that what they are doing is okay. I do not recall any sermons by Jesus, or in the hundreds of thousands of sermons from Church fathers, where we are told that everything is fine and we are great people and what we are doing is okay. It is my belief that this type of preaching and these types of sermons only aid in our spiritual blindness. In order for us to seek out any sort of healing we need to first come to the understanding that we are sick. The role of the Church is not to make you feel good about yourself, the role of the Church is to assist you to come to realization that you are sick, in a spiritual sense, and that you need healing. It is the role of the Church, just as Jesus did today with them an born blind, to give you the tools that will enable you to be whole and well. We cannot transform the lives of others if we ourselves are not first transformed!
The hymns of the Matins service speak of this truth:
“I come to You, O Christ, the eyes of my soul blind as the eyes of the man born blind, and in repentance, I cry to You, You are the light of supreme brightness for all those who are in darkness.”
The staying power of Orthodoxy is that we strip away the “I’m okay You’re okay” spirituality of the 21st century American Religious experience, we get our hands dirty with spittle and the dust of the earth, and we bring the healing and transforming power of Jesus Christ to people, not through drums and hand clapping, but through the ancient rites and rituals of the Church of Jesus Christ. We bring the truth of the Gospel message, not some poll tested popular Gospel, but the actual hard nose, we are all sinners and need the help of Jesus, His Church, and one another, for salvation. We preach the Gospel, revealed to the Church, that we are not saved, but we are in the process of being saved and that it is a daily struggle that we must, absolutely must, work on each and every day. We are not okay, in fact we are far from it!
We stand here today bathed in the light of candles, bathed in the light of the son and we must take this light inside of us and let it transform us in ways that we have never experienced before. We have to let Jesus use His spittle and the dust from the earth to heal us and transform us. One does not seek out medical help if one is well, no, one seeks out medical help when one is sick. We do not go to the doctor so the doctor can tell us that we are okay and that our lives are fine just the way they are, no we go to the doctor when we need their expert healing to make us well. The Church is just the same. We do not come here just so we can feel good about ourselves what would the point of that be? Jesus did not condescend to become human just so we could feel good about ourselves. Jesus, the God Man, become man so that we might become god! And the only way we can do that is to allow the healing power and the healing presence of Jesus Christ transform our lives.
Let the light of the Resurrection into our lives and into our hearts and let is transform us. If we are able to do that, if we allow that to happen, that light that will then come from each of us will set the world on fire!