Today is the last Sunday liturgy of Paschaltide, and soon we will be celebrating the afterfeast of Pascha. Inevitably, there will be some sadness on that day. No longer will we be holding our processions of the cross to sing glory to His resurrection, His gift of everlasting life and His victory over death. Nevertheless, we are anticipating the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord and the feast of the Holy Trinity as we continue to follow Christ. These great feasts and periods of church life mean a lot to us. We must all learn to recognize their meaning and let them guide our lives, our growth in the spirit and progress towards our salvation.
It is the Sunday of the Blind Man. The blind man from the Gospel met God, and He gave him the ability to see. The blind man fell on his knees before Him and followed Him. We are all like that blind man from the Gospel. We were born into a world of sin, and sin made us lose our ability to see and feel. We have been shunning God and living in fear of one another. Sin makes us anxious and afraid that something bad might happen at any moment. Like the blind man from the Scripture, we try hard to open our eyes and see God. But when we are successful, we face much pressure from the world to close them back again. The blind man heard many things from the Pharisees about his healing. They said that it was not in keeping with the law of the Sabbath and that it had not been from God. They said it was the work of a charlatan, not a saint or prophet.
The world is jealous. One finds God and begins to hold little value in its treasures – money, wealth, power, pride and much else. Yet the world will go to every length to keep us from abandoning these things for the love of God. And so, like the blind man, we hear from many, "You must be mad! Look at yourself! You are a bundle of nerves! When did you last see your psychiatrist?" This kind of resistance is very real for someone who has genuinely been looking for God and comes out to meet Him.
The blind man saw God, and he recovered his true self. Previously, he had been following the lead of others and going where they were showing him, now he was reflecting and questioning himself. The ability to see brought him freedom. He was no longer following the lead of others. He was listening to his conscience. He realized the impossibility of living as before. Seeing God brings us freedom as it did for the blind man, but also the hardships of hearing the voice of our conscience, of changing our lives, of breaking free from the standard that the world had set for us.
There is a war going on, a war for our souls. The world holds value in the body, its care, nourishment, clothing and healing. The body is expensive, but what in the world could be cheaper than the soul? When we recover our vision and find God, we exclaim, “What have we done? We have been caring about our body, but have neglected the nourishment of our souls!” At that point, we begin to change the way we live and confront the customs of this world.
Historically, the war for our souls has taken many forms. There were times when Christians were prosecuted and put to death, physically. At other times, they have had to struggle hard against heresies that were winning many hearts. All too often, the world and its secular customs were penetrating the Church. The emperor was going to Church, lighting candles and crossing himself; all the rest were doing the same, but the life of the spirit was dying out. It was then that the most devout went to asceticise in deserts and established monasteries. The history of monasticism began in this way. Outwardly, the Church is in a better position today, for which we must be thankful. Yet we should remember at all times that the Church is more than Church its golden domes and beautiful icons. They are our valued spiritual treasures, but our most coveted asset has always been the people – their eyes, their thoughts, and their liberty, the inner freedom of man.
By this point, I hope all of you will have realized the deep meaning of the Sunday of the Man Born Blind. The example of the blind man calls us to open our eyes. It also suggests how much of a struggle it is to keep them open. Some of us might wish to say to ourselves, “Let me go blind. I do not care. I will mind my own business and stay comfortable." This attitude is widespread, but it is wrong. No Christian can close their eyes once they see God. They cannot let themselves remain indifferent and say that they do not care. They cannot act on the principle “Do as the Romans do”.
We must take this view to win our freedom. Freedom means to speak the language of the spirit, and not of this world. To be free means to go against the flow, and do what Christ teaches us. It means staying with Him to the end, even when everybody else has abandoned Him. With His example, Jesus showed us the meaning of true freedom. Tied, beaten, blood dripping from his wounds, he stood before Pilate, one of the powerful of this world, and said, “you have no power over me!” We should not concede a single bit of this freedom, we must not exchange it for any amount of money or worldly wealth.
In this fight for our souls, prayer is our weapon. As Saint John Climacus commanded, “Strike the enemy with the name of Jesus”. Let us say Jesus’s prayer, let us pray for one another from the prayerbook and in our own words, for prayer is vital to our victory in this war. Prayer gives us the power to oppose sin, to the very end.
Christ is risen! Truly He has risen!
On the 18th of July we celebrate our Convent's Patron Saint Feast and commemorate the Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elisabeth. "It is a great feast for all those, who are inspired by the life of this great ascetic." Fr Andrey Lemeshonok
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