The Lord Jesus was coming from the Temple on the Sabbath, when, while walking, He saw a blind man who was born without eyes, and therefore without sight. When the disciples saw this, they asked their Teacher, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" They asked this because when the Lord had healed the paralytic at the Sheep's Pool, He had told him, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee". With this in mind, the disciples wondered, if sickness was caused by sin, how does this work for this man, who had no chance to sin, as he was born with blindness.
However, Christ explained to them that this was for the glory of God. Christ then spat on the ground and made clay with the spittle. He anointed the eyes of the blind man and said to him, "Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam." Siloam (which means "sent"). This was a well-known spring in Jerusalem.
Therefore, Christ sent the blind man to this pool to wash his eyes, which had been anointed with the clay. The pool's water did not necessarily have the power to heal. This was more so done to show the faith and obedience of the blind man, and that this miracle may be more remarkable to all, and leave no room for doubt.
The reading then tells us that the blind man believed in Christ’s words, and went and washed himself, returning with eyes and the ability to see!
This was the greatest miracle that our Lord had so far performed. The man healed of his blindness himself testified, "Since time began, never was it heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind”.
Source:Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Some Take Away Points:
Saint Theophylact explains that this is not the first time Christ has healed a person with blindness, yet this is the first time Christ heals someone who is blind from birth.
The question arises from the disciples who ask Christ, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”. This was more so an issue for them as they had only recently heard the Lord say to the paralytic who He healed, that he should sin no more so that a worse thing does not happen to him. This led the disciples to understand that sometimes our sins and spiritual state are related to our physical health. This is not to be understood as absolute, but that there are times where this occurs.
So, if the man was born blind, how could he have sinned and therefore suffered from blindness?
In wondering this, the idea that someone could sin in another world, to be punished when they enter into this life is not something that the disciples believed. Our faith does not accept the idea that a child would pay for his parent’s sins, so the Lord clarifies the disciples confusion, explaining that even if his parents sinned, this was not how his blindness came about. Rather, his blindness came about so that the glory of God would be revealed, “Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world”.
Hold up. Some of us may be thinking at this point, how could Christ allow someone to suffer, so that His works may be revealed? Wasn’t there another way that Christ could have revealed His works?
St Theophylact clarifies our thoughts here. He says, lets pretend the blind man were in front of us. We might ask him, “How have you been treated unjustly, O man?”. The blind man may have replied, “I have been robbed of light”.
“But what harm did you suffer by being deprived of material light? Now you have received not only physical vision, but that incomparable blessing-the enlightenment of the eyes of your soul." Thus the affliction was to the blind man's benefit, and through his healing he came to know the True Sun of Righteousness. Therefore, the blind man was not wronged; he was blessed."
Therefore, St Theophylact shows us that when we experience sickness, affliction or hardship, many times, through these experiences, we actually gain a greater spiritual understanding and knowledge of God in our lives. We are given greater spiritual sight that we may have been blind to before.
What about spiritual blindness?
Sometimes in life we may have our physical sight, but we can be spiritually blind. Elder Cleopa says that spiritual blindness can be when our mind, heart, will, consciousness and beliefs are darkened by our spiritual and bodily sins or apathies. He says, “All sins sicken and drag the soul into blindness and apathy, and the body into heavy disease…If we don't renounce of those sins that enslave us, through repentance, confession and spiritual renewal, this spiritual blindness, as any disease, will lead to spiritual death”.
We hear the word “sin” a lot, but what does that actually mean? It can sound very harsh, but the word “sin” in greek is “amartia” which translates to “missing the mark" or "missing the target”. We’re not perfect, we all have our weaknesses and shortcoming and make mistakes. Christ knows and acknowledges this, but He wants us to come to Him and use the ability He has given us to change our ways.
A change in heart and mind
Coming out of spiritual blindness could mean we have “metanoia” or “repentance”. This is a “change of heart and mind”. We are asked to think about the direction we are going in, in life, and think about where our relationship with Christ lies in our lives.
Let’s take a moment to look self -reflect and look inwardly. How much time in our day do we give to caring for our souls, as well as our bodies? We might exercise, eat well, keep watch of our skincare , practice wellness for our bodies, and we do well in doing so. But given we are both soul and body, how much attention do we pay to caring for both?
Elder Cleopa says, “For the soul is more precious than the body. As our Saviour had said, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?". Our souls have been created by God for immortality, to experience Life after death. We are only asked to turn to Christ, so He can shine His Light in our hearts, minds and direction of our lives.
Source: St Andrew Greek Orthodox Church
South Bend, Indiana
Kontakion of Sun. of the Blind Man
Plagal of the First Tone
I come to You, O Christ, as the man blind from birth. With the eyes of my soul blinded, I cry out to You in repentance, "You are the resplendent Light of those in darkness."