“And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this one or his parents, that he should be born blind?” [Jn. 9:2] We revisit the man born without eyes today and I wanted to reflect a bit about vision, and our lack thereof. Having eyesight is a blessing! It is so easy to go fill our eyes with everything we encounter from the beauty of nature to the ugliness and misuse of God’s creation. Through all this worldly mess, perhaps we will never get a glimpse of what the Garden of Eden looked, smelled, sounded or tasted like. With sin, corruption entered every living thing.
I don’t know about you, but I could be filling my eyes with more light. The light we need only comes from reading the bible and reading the lives and writings of the saints, and seeing others in need and then acting on that glimpse. It takes prayer and repentance to allow that blinding worldly film to be removed from our eyes. Listen to the instructions of St. John of Kronstadt: “Firmly purpose in your soul to hate every sin of thought, word, and deed, and when you are tempted to sin resist it valiantly and with a feeling of hatred for it; only beware lest your hatred should turn against the person of your brother who gave occasion for the sin. Hate the sin with all your heart, but pity your brother; instruct him, and pray for him to the Almighty, Who sees all of us and tries our hearts and innermost parts. ‘Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.’ (Hebrews 12:4) It is impossible not to often fall into sin unless you have a hatred of it implanted in your heart. Self-love must be eradicated. Every sin comes from the love of self. Sin always appears, or feigns to be, to wish us well, promising us plenteousness and ease. ‘The tree was good for food, and it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.’ (Genesis 3:6) This is how sin always appears to us.” (+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ )
Being focused on oneself is being unfocused on Christ, truly blinded. St. Maximus the Confessor diagnoses it this way: "The self love and cleverness of men, alienating them from each other and perverting the law, have cut our single human nature into many fragments." Maybe another way of saying this is we are a frayed image of Christ. At times we have some resemblances but our allowance of our vanity to nurture us, is starving our salvation. It is day to day combat with this sin. St Paul writes to the church in Philippi: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3) And Ilias the Presbyter writes: "Demons wage war against the soul primarily through thoughts . . ." (Philokalia, III).
Our spiritual death occurs when these thoughts are self centered. We have eyes, but yet we can’t see!
We need each other for our salvation. We need fleshly encounters to expose our vanity. We need to learn to love others more than ourselves. This takes practice. The greatest musician or athlete did not become great through slothfulness. Practice, practice, practice!
May our Lord grant us vision to see our failings as He did the Myrrhbearing Woman, Mary of Bethany. Listen to the Hymn of Cassia: The woman had fallen into many sins, O Lord, yet when she perceived Thy divinity, she joined the ranks of the myrrh-bearing women. In tears she brought Thee myrrh before Thy burial. She cried, “Woe is me! For I live in the night of licentiousness, shrouded in the dark and moonless love of sin. But accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who didst gather the waters of the sea into clouds. Bow down Thine ear to the sighing of my heart, O Thou who didst bow the heavens in Thine ineffable condescension. Once Eve heard Thy footsteps in paradise in the cool of the day, and in fear she ran and hid herself.
But now I will tenderly embrace those pure feet and wipe them with the hair of my head. Who can measure the multitutde of my sins, or the depth of Thy judgements, O Savior of my soul, Do not despise Thy servant in Thine immeasurable mercy. (Hymn of Cassia (Tone 8) of Bridegroom Matins of Holy Wednesday)