Sunday of the Blind Man
In the Gospel reading for today, we see a blind man, one who was born blind from birth. One of the Church's traditions is that this man was not just born lacking eyesight, but rather he lacked eyeballs. He did not have the base organ which provided sight, so according to people around him, there was no way that he would ever be able to see.
This is where Jesus Christ came and brought about healing to this man. He took the dirt of the earth, formed a ball of clay, and placed this within the empty eyesocksets of the man. This is in fact what man is made after, dust of the earth. In a sense, Christ as the creator, recreated and gave this man what he was lacking. Through this, the man was able to see and perceive the world around him. He had been given physical eyes, but in fact he was also given spiritual eyes to see the glory and wonders of God. The pharisees in the Gospel were blind to the things of God which is why they accused the man of lying about his blindness.
Christ came to recreate that which was lacking, to rebuild us as new human beings. When we are baptized, we come out of the waters as a new creation. And that is where our life as Orthodox Christians begins, and how we see things need to change. We are called to see things different around us, not like the world around us sees it. Our eyes have been opened to see the glorious things of God.
There is a story of a man named Stamatis who had met Elder Paisios of Mount Athos. I think this story is very fitting since we see craziness in the world all around us. This story is one that takes sin and sees it differently than the world around us sees it. Elder Paisios heals this young man of his spiritual blindness by opening his eyes to God. This story begins with this man Stamatis, who was born in Germany to a Greek father and a German mother. He had a normal childhood, had good grades and eventually became a professor. During this time, he began to have a tendency and developed an affection for the same gender. He had met a man named Michalis, with whom he developed a relationship. However, Michalis was sick with AIDS. Stamatis had such craziness and love for him that he said: “I am going to get AIDS so we can be sick together!”. Michalis would not end up well with his disease. He got sick and went to the hospital. Stamatis would wait outside of the hospital, until he got the news that Michalis had passed away. And when Michalis died, Stamatis said “What am I to do for the one I love, God?” He received his answer; he was told by people around him to go to Mt. Athos and tell the fathers there to pray for the repose of the soul of Michalis. As we see, it was his passion which brought him to mount Athos.
Stamatos came to Mt. Athos, and there he met a Priest named Evangalos. This Evangalos was the one who took Stamatos to Elder Paisios. When Stamatos came to Elder Paisios and asked for his intercessions, Elder Paisios started to ask him: “My Stamatis, can you fast on Wednesdays and Fridays?" To which Stamatos replied with "I can". "You make so much money from the German college, you will keep 1/10 for you and the rest 9/10 you will give it to the poor…can you do that?" "I can!", "Can you read the Akathist Hymn to Theotokos every day?" "I can!" "Can you, Stamatis, go to the hospital once a week and take care of a sick man who has nobody to help him?" "I can!" "Tell me, can you go find a spiritual father and confess?" "I can!" "Can you follow the canon prescribed [for you] by this spiritual father?" "Yes, I can!" "Can you go every Sunday to the Liturgy?" "Yes, I can!"
While they were talking, this guy Stamatis started shining, the darkness of his face was leaving and he began to shine.
And this is the most important part which St. Paisios said: "Go and do what you can…and God will do for you…what you cannot do for yourself!” What he was saying was: Go and do what you can and let God fight your passion. Let God do for you what you cannot do.
Elder Paisios also told Stamatos in order to not remind him of his past passion: “You will never again remember that man Michalis! You will not even commemorate his name among the deceased ones! This will be the duty of the one over there" He said pointing to Father Evangelos. And Fr. Evangalos relates: “The first one I commemorate among the deceased ones, after my spiritual father and the elders and father Timotheos, the first one I commemorate is this servant of God, Michael. Why? Because it is an order from Elder Paisios.”
The Grace of the Holy Spirit covered Stamatis and he lived the rest of his life in an amazing spiritual state. Fast, all-night vigils, prayers, repentances, confession. He devoted himself to this. Whoever had AIDS and had not confessed, Stamatis would take a Priest to him so he could confess. Priests would not usually give Holy Communion to people with AIDS in the hospital at the time. When he found a priest who would give Holy Communion to them, he would drive him with his car to them so that the sick person could receive Holy Communion.
Elder Paisios saw this man differently, he saw him with the eyes of an Orthodox Christian. Elder Paisios did not shun Stamatos or turn him away saying he wants to have nothing to do with him as a lot of extreme Christians would do. At the same time, he did not take the other extreme and say that this man should continue to live his life in the sinful manner that he was living in. In fact, Elder Paisios took the middle path, the one that consists of love and repentance. He told the man simply, give your sin up to God, and God will take care of the rest. He saw within the heart of this man a desire for repentance, but one that was not shown to the rest of the world. And this man came to repentance precisely through fasting, prayers, vigils, attending services, and confession. These are given to us to heal our spiritual blindness, and be able to see God. We just have to do them and do them with a clear and pure heart. And as God took care of the blind man, and healed that which was lacking, He too, will take care of us and heal that which is lacking within ourselves.