Now, since some people seek other things ( 30.12.2007 )
Today, on the feast day of the Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Young Men: Ananias, Azarias and Misael, Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica celebrated Divine Liturgy in the monastery of Saint Maximus the Confessor and Saint Gregory Palamas in Star Dojran.
Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant.
So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.
And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.”
And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. (Luke 18:35-43)
In today’s Gospel reading, my children, there are two states described which simply do not leave room for anything else but ascetical-hesychastic interpretation. Moreover, I think that this passage is among the more indicative ones in the whole Holy Bible as regards the stages of spiritual development, and these can be recognized by the kind of prayer. We are clearly shown the state of blindness or non-illumination and the state of receiving sight i.e. illumination.
The first state is when the blind man is sitting and crying out to the Godman Christ, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This state shows the first stage of spiritual growth—purification of the heart from the passions. You know that characteristic of this stage are the oral prayer and the purification of the mind’s energy—that is, the first beholding of uncreated light; yet there are also the still present closure of the heart and non-illumination of the mind—that is, spiritual blindness. We observe in the blind man not only his persistence in the oral prayer but also the awareness that he is blind and must be freed of this blindness. The blind man believes that Christ can heal him and therefore, despite the bans, no one can stop his prayerful crying out to Christ. This is a genuine demonstration of faith united with deeds.
The same applies to us as well. We must know we are spiritually blind, we must believe that Christ can heal us and must prove this faith of ours by calling out the name of Jesus as frequently as we can. When through the practice of prayer we gradually start purifying the mind’s energy, that will enable us to see where we are, to se we are fallen, we are blind compared to Christ’s ideal and to cry out to Him yet more powerfully. However, if we use this first purification (illumination) to observe and judge others’ sinfulness and blindness, then we choose the wrong way, which takes us much more back than we were before.
In this Gospel passage we also see how correctly the blind man says the formula of the Jesus prayer—Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! What can be also nicely noticed is the Lord’s commandment to bring the blind man to Him. This is an image of, by the Lord established, spiritual guidance—the sole way through which the blind man can come near Christ and hear the words, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The one who is under a proper spiritual guidance and is aware of his blindness, knows well what to seek first: “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”
For, some people seek other things first—authority, health, money, job, wife, husband, slave’s peace etc… Some, to be just to them, along with all this seek also salvation… That is good, yet the Lord Jesus Christ did not call to salvation His brothers and sister by grace, but to perfection: “Be perfect as You Father in Heaven is perfect!”
The second state that can be detected in today’s Gospel reading is when Christ makes the blind man see. This state shows the second stage of spiritual growth, and that is the illumination of the mind. In fact the receiving of sight itself signifies illumination. Illumination, on the one hand, presupposes sufficiently purified essence of the heart from the passions; on the other hand, it is a gift of God. Therefore does the Lord Christ say, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” This pureness of heart makes possible for the baptismal grace to manifest itself in the heart and the mind to descend in it. Since the mind knows the ‘place of the heart’, it abandons the oral prayer and continues to pray inside the heart. There, inside, united through prayer with God’s grace, the mind illumines itself.
Following Christ of the formerly blind man is in fact a depiction of the beginning of the third stage of spiritual growth, and that is deification. The dimensions of the stage of deification are not described in the personal struggle of the formerly blind man. We can observe these in the works of our Lord, the Godman Jesus Christ.
My children, it is good for you to know this, too: those who are at the stage of illumination also feel themselves blind compared to them who behold with their transformed physical eyes the uncreated Divine light; they feel their blindness even more than the truly blind people, who are at the stage of purification of the heart from the passions—if the latter feel this at all… Therefore did Saint Gregory Palamas in this period of his spiritual development cry out in prayer, “Lord, illumine my darkness!”
(as recorded by the Sisters)