People who had vision but lost it later in their lives still remember the images of the world they had once beheld. When someone tells them about the beauty of the sunset, they understand. But for the man born blind from the Gospel, the world was very different, as he had never seen the light of day and its beautiful rich colours. He did not know what it was to bask in the sun, or what the deep blue of the sea meant. To him, the wonderful green of the spring forest was a mystery. His world was painted with only one colour - the black colour of blindness. Blindness was like living in a dark cave.
Illnesses are given to us for our sins. But who sinned in his case, what brought him such immense suffering, what doomed him to such a life? Was it the blind man himself? Or his parents? The Lord did not wait a moment to give his answer. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." The man born blind was God's chosen. He suffered in interminable darkness to make visible to the world and the universe the wondrous works of our Lord. With his miraculous healing, the blind man brought a glorious message to his neighbours and the whole world: Christ is the Light; He illuminates and enlightens every human being who comes. This miracle happened despite human inertness, disbelief and narrow-mindedness. The blind man found the ability to see.
Living one's whole life in blindness is a sad and desperate prospect. But the blindness of the spirit is many times worse. Living without God is nothing else than being blind in the spirit, which, sadly, has become the norm. Many even see this life as synonymous with virtue, finding it fashionable, meaningful and necessary. They choose to live in a void, and as one philosopher remarked, we sin to try to fill this void. People practise many things - drugs, adultery, gambling, or alcohol. They engage in the most exquisite and exotic enjoyments and pastimes, but they can never fill the emptiness within. It remains insatiable and demands more sacrifices and more impressive offerings. "We can never fill the mug of our desires," remarked Saint Gregory of Nyssa.
To see light means to appreciate one's great distance from God. It means to see other human beings and sympathise with their wants and pains. We see the light when we begin to notice beauty in another. We cast away the darkness when we learn to recognise God's providence and His work in every life event and want to thank and worship Him from our hearts. The man born blind from the Gospel did just that - “I do believe," he said and bowed to Him. The passage from blindness to faith, love, humility and thankfulness is one of the most challenging journeys of our lives. It is indeed the business of our whole lives.
Sooner or later in our lives, we will begin to see. Let us be thankful to the Lord for this moment of enlightenment. Let us thank Him for bringing us to his Holy Church, our Pool of Siloam. No one but the Lord can spare us from our blindness. As the Apostle John the Theologian said, "God is light; in Him, there is no darkness."
Hegumen Tikhon (Borisov) of Optina Pustyn
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