The manner in which Christ healed the blind man was very strange, and caused much questioning among those who witnessed the event. I do not intend to concentrate on the miracle as such, but rather on one detail which is of symbolic significance for anyone who has learnt to look beyond the merely apparent. For the one who has learnt to think, to contemplate, to penetrate the signifiers and reach the signified.
What does the reading mean when it states: “He made mud and spread it on my eyes”? This symbolic gesture of Christ is intended to show us that salvation is in our midst, and that healing is by our side. The earth which we tread upon and exploit is sacred ground.
And when man takes it into his hands with a pleasing and grateful spirit, this earth not only produces all kind of fruit (how many colours, aromas and tastes!), but has the capacity of moving us to the point of realizing that God is in and on the soil. Since God created the world and gave it to humankind to enjoy.
He placed man and woman in paradise (see Gen. 2:8), which means in the midst of happiness.
And this humble ground which we do not value, respect or honour sometimes, and which has so many natural powers, surprises us with its nakedness and the sheer variety of its products.
When we are faithful to the earth, it is our body, and our body is the earth. Sooner or later, they are identified with each other once again; my body and yours will return to the body of the earth from where they came, and they will glorify God in silence – not in rebellion, as when we are alive.
So, in this world, within us and around us, is salvation. Do not expect supernatural actions of God on a daily basis: for the heavens to open up and for angels to come down. Do not wait for a message to come on the clouds. Do not wait for the invisible God to speak to you in a thunderbolt.
God gave all creation for the purpose of thanksgiving and transfiguration. He placed the human person at the centre of the world, between earth and heaven, between visible and invisible. He established the human person not as an abuser of the gift, but as priest and celebrant and beholder of the divine. To take creation in his hands and offer it as we offer the bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ.
The blind man was a tragic figure because, as we chanted in the relevant hymn of the Church: “I could not see the sun shining, nor even could I see the image of Him who made me.” The reality is that the blind man is less tragic and unfortunate than us who think we can see. We who have our health, our sight, with everything around us observable like an open book, in fact remain blind.
Our eyes function, but we do not use them in a manner that is worthy of God. We have ears, but do we listen to His word? We have hands, but have we performed His will? We have legs, but have we brought His Gospel to those who have yet to know it? We have the sense of smell, but do we perceive that from all created things a fragrance rises, to the glory of God?
And in spite of this, only man pollutes the earth and creates ecological problems. Which other creature of God, which animal – even the wildest – has created an ecological problem in the world? Neither the lion, nor the ravens have managed to bring to extinction any species created by God in the Six Days of Creation. Man is close to extinguishing so many species of both flora and fauna. Man is in danger of extinguishing the human race itself.
You may ask: How can you call us all blind? It is not I who say this. Everyday experience tells us that we are all blind. I will only remind you of the definition of the creative and sensitive person, i.e. of the poet, given by Yannis Ritsos, one of the greatest poets of modern Greece. Ritsos said: “The poet is one who has overcome blindness”. Why did he say this? Because the poets manage to see in the same mundane things which we all see around us, and handle and use on a daily basis, an eternal dimension: the voice of God, as well as His and our fellow human being’s ‘nobility’. They see the spirit taking tangible form, ‘solidified’ in specific objects.
They see beyond the visible, and hear beyond the audible. Let us pray that God will enable us to see within ourselves the spiritual blindness, the inner blindness which affects the whole person, and that our eyes will be open to see further and deeper into the daily reality of life.
By Archbishop Stylianos of Australia.