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So Much More than Healing: Newness of Life Through Obedience

June 9, 2013

He has renewed the heaven, because foolish men had worshipped all kinds of stars; He has renewed the earth which had grown old in Adam.  With his spittle there took place a novel fashioning:

He who is capable of all things puts aright both bodies and minds.  He is the Creator’s Son, whose treasure stores are filled with every benefit.  He who needs pupils, let him approach him:

He will fashion mud, and transform it, fashioning flesh and giving light to the eyes.  With a little mud he showed how, through Him, our dust was fashioned; the soul of the dead man, too, bore witness to Him how, by Him, man’s breath is breathed into him.  By these latter witnesses He is to be believed to be the Son [of God], the First Principle.”  Saint Ephraim the Syrian

JCBLIND1The Church Fathers, including Saint Ephraim, recognize in the Gospel account of the man born blind more than a physical healing, but an act of creation.  The man in today’s Gospel had no eyes with which to see. The Church hymns refer to him as eyeless (ἀόματος).  Christ’s Incarnation, His Death, and Resurrection effect more than a restoration to what was prior to the Fall.  It is an entirely new creation.  This new creation takes on new life when it is joined to the actions and words of the blind man who dared to believe.

Today’s Gospel is similar to the one we heard a few Sundays ago concerning the paralytic.  The manifestation of God’s glory requires our cooperation.  Once the Lord anointed the place where the man’s eyes should have been, He ordered him to wash in the pool of Siloam.  The blind man immediately did what he was told, new eyes were formed, and the glory of the Lord was made manifest. This newness of life that the blind man experienced is the legacy that every Christian is meant to inherit. It means new thoughts, new feelings, new actions all welling forth from a new relationship with Jesus Christ.

In cognitive therapy, there is much talk about modifying thought patterns as well as reconstructing thought patterns, but in the case of our relationship with God, we need not modified or reconstructed ways of thinking, but entirely new ways of thinking, new eyes with which to see, a new mind with which to perceive. For this new creation to be effected, we need to be open to Christ’s action upon our spirit and to be willing to obey whatever He asks of us, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense, such as putting mud on our eyes and going to wash in a pool. Obedience creates new eyes. And new eyes can enable us to see Christ.

As we approach the Feast of the Ascension, we are reminded of God’s great love for us.  However, for that love to be made effective in our lives, we must cooperate with that love.  Faith and obedience are essential requirements.  The man born blind received his physical sight and much more.  Our tradition tells us that he became a devout follower of Christ and was known as Saint Celidonius.  This gift of physical sight was nourished and fed through his encounter with Christ.  From physical sight, the man born blind beheld the Creator and Savior of the world.  From that day forward, he worshipped him as Son of God. Through holy obedience to the commandments of Christ recorded in the Gospels, may we do the very same.

  1. mary benton permalink

    I have been reflecting much on obedience lately and am therefore grateful for what you have written. However, perhaps the obvious question is how to know who/what/when to obey. My own sense of what God is asking of me may be distorted, as I am a sinner. The advice of others, however holy, may also be distorted as they too are sinners.

    I ask with genuine interest, though I am not caught in any personal dilemmas at present. I would like to understand the concept of obedience more fully, given that, unlike the blind man, I do not have the human Jesus speaking to me with clear verbal instructions. I would welcome any further thoughts you have.

  2. Mary,

    Thank you again for your comments. Obedience, like other virtues, has degrees. The obvious answer is that as Christians who have renounced Satan and allied ourselves with Christ, we will be obedient to what Christ commands us to do in the Gospels, which extends beyond the Ten Commandments and is summarized with His “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Likewise, we are all called to be obedient to His

    “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
    But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
    But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
    But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
    But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

    Being obedient to such commandments will bring illumination and grace to the soul.

    The next level of obedience is to find a spiritual father who obeys Christ commandments and to be obedient to him in terms of reception of the Holy Mysteries and advice about expressing one’s personal repentance. This kind of obedience is humbling and humility also brings illumination and grace to the soul.

    Yes, there may be distortions in the advice of others, but that is where a certain degree of faith in God’s loving providence comes in. If the advice does not run counter to the spirit of the Gospel and the practice of those Christians who have successfully completed the course being purified, illumined, and glorified in Christ, we can release ourselves into the hands of God and trust in Him as we strive to be obedient.

    Fr. Alexis

  3. Χριστός ανέστη!

  4. mary benton permalink

    Thank you, Fr. Alexis. This is a helpful perspective.

  5. You are quite welcome, Mary.

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