SUNDAY OF THE BLIND MAN
Sunday of the Blind Man, Constantine and Helen, Equal-to-the Apostles, Pachomios the Righteous New Martyr
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 26:1, 12-20
IN THOSE DAYS, King Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: "I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.' And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles-to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' "Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance."
At that time, as Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know.
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet.
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess him to be Christ he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him.
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him.
Sunday of the Blind Man
At the end of Chapter 8 in Gospel of Saint John, the Savior was disputing with the Pharisees in the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles. He told them, "Your father Abraham was glad that he should see my day; and he saw it and rejoiced" (John 8:56). The Jews said that Jesus was not even fifty years old, so how could He claim to have seen Abraham? The Lord replied, "Before Abraham was, I am." I am, of course, is the name that God revealed to Moses in the Burning Bush. When the Jews picked up stones to throw at Him, He hid Himself and went out of the Temple.
We read in SaInt John's Gospel (9:1-38): "As He passed by, he saw a man who was blind from birth." It might appear that Jesus was on His way to something or someone else, but in his Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John, the ever-memorable Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas, quotes from Homily LVI of Saint John Chrysostom: "that on going out of the Temple, He proceeded intentionally to the work, is clear from this: it was He who saw the blind man, and not the blind man who came to Him…."
Christ's disciples asked Him who had sinned, the blind man or his parents that he had been born blind. Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be manifested in him" (John 9:3). It was thought that a person who had some affliction must have sinned (or his parents did) to deserve such punishment. In the Book of Exodus (20:5), God said that he would visit "the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." This, however, applied to the sin of idolatry, if the children emulated their parents' behavior.
The blind man was not born blind just so the miracle could be performed, but seeing the man in such a condition, the Lord decided to use him in a way that would manifest God's glory. He Who is the Light of the world healed the blind man and enlightened him. Giving sight to the blind was one of the signs which would identify the Messiah (Matthew 11:4-6).
The Lord made clay when He spat on the ground, and placed it in the man’s empty eye sockets and sent him to the pool of Siloam to wash. Most versions of the Gospels translate the word επεθηκεν as "anointed," but it can also mean "to spread on," or "to smear." Siloam means "sent," and in Saint John's Gospel Christ says about forty times that He Himself had been sent by the Father."
This manner of healing reminds us of the way God created man by fashioning him from the dust of the earth. In the Old Testament God created man from the dust of the earth, now Christ, the same God, fashions eyes from the clay and places them in the blind man’s empty sockets. Here are some quotes from the Pentecostarion:
At the Oikos of Matins: "He receives physical eyes as well as those of the soul."
In the Verses of the Synaxarion: O Bestower of light. Who are Light coming forth from Light; You gave eyes to the man who was blind from birth, O Word."
In the second exapostilarion: "Along the way, the Savior found a man who lacked both sight and eyes."
At Monday Vespers (stikheron of the Feast) we sing, "With his whole soul, and mind, and his tongue, the man who in times not long passed had been blind, confessed Him Who had fashioned eyes for him out of spittle and clay…"
Saint Theophylaktos says in his Commentary that "Jesus our Lord fashioned all the members of the blind man's body except for the eyes, which He omitted. By healing them now, he completes the divine act of creating and demonstrates that He is the Creator."
Jesus tests the faith of the blind man by sending him to the Pool of Siloam (which means “sent”). He respects the man’s freedom, but asks for his voluntary and free participation in the miracle. The blind man, with faith, obeys God’s command. He goes and washes in the pool, and he returns seeing.
The former blind man’s life was not made easier, however. He becomes the object of the Scribes' and Pharisees' evil and hatred, those who believed in God and in the observance of His Law. They themselves were blind, yet they were suspicious of the formerly blind man, imagining that he only pretended to be blind and now was able to see. "They willingly were made blind by the dark letter of the Law, in which Christ, the resplendent Sun shines."1
They questioned the man who was blind, but when they see the miracle before their eyes, instead of believing, they shut the eyes of their souls. Then the man's parents were questioned. They were afraid to confirm the miracle that happened to their son who was born blind, because they did not want to be expelled from the synagogue. They tried to avoid trouble by concealing the truth. Therefore, they said, "He is of age, ask him!"
We who receive benefits from God every day are ashamed or afraid to confess God because of our lack of trust. We put our own interests above God, knowing that He will understand us! He will understand us, but He will also see our faith and what priorities we have in our lives. Christ will see what "gods" we have put in His place, but He will not cease to remind us that He is the light of the world.
The blind man was healed, not only in the eyes of his body but eventually in his soul as well. He recognizes Jesus as God, and does not hesitate to confess it before the religious rulers with courage that many of us would envy. Faith alone is not enough, we also need to confess our faith in order to become genuine children of God. When we confess Christ before men, He will confess us before His Father, as the Lord has promised us: "Everyone who shall confess me before men, I also shall confess him before my Father who is in Heaven; and whoever denies me before men I also will deny him before my Father who is in Heaven" (Matthew 10:32).
1 Sunday of the Blind man, at Vespers, fourth stikheron on "Lord, I Call."
Equal of the Apostles and Emperor Constantine with his Mother Helen
The Church calls Saint Constantine (306-337) “the Equal of the Apostles,” and historians call him “the Great.” He was the son of the Caesar Constantius Chlorus (305-306), who governed the lands of Gaul and Britain. His mother was Saint Helen, a Christian of humble birth.
At this time the immense Roman Empire was divided into Western and Eastern halves, governed by two independent emperors and their corulers called “Caesars.” Constantius Chlorus was Caesar in the Western Roman Empire. Saint Constantine was born in 274, possibly at Nish in Serbia. In 294, Constantius divorced Helen in order to further his political ambition by marrying a woman of noble rank. After he became emperor, Constantine showed his mother great honor and respect, granting her the imperial title “Augusta.”
Constantine, the future ruler of all the whole Roman Empire, was raised to respect Christianity. His father did not persecute Christians in the lands he governed. This was at a time when Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire by the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and his corulers Maximian Galerius (305-311) in the East, and the emperor Maximian Hercules (284-305) in the West.
After the death of Constantius Chlorus in 306, Constantine was acclaimed by the army at York as emperor of Gaul and Britain. The first act of the new emperor was to grant the freedom to practice Christianity in the lands subject to him. The pagan Maximian Galerius in the East and the fierce tyrant Maxentius in the West hated Constantine and they plotted to overthrow and kill him, but Constantine bested them in a series of battles, defeating his opponents with the help of God. He prayed to God to give him a sign which would inspire his army to fight valiantly, and the Lord showed him a radiant Sign of the Cross in the heavens with the inscription “In this Sign, conquer.”
After Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which guaranteed religious tolerance for Christians. Saint Helen, who was a Christian, may have influenced him in this decision. In 323, when he became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire, he extended the provisions of the Edict of Milan to the Eastern half of the Empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians could finally practice their faith without fear.
Renouncing paganism, the Emperor did not let his capital remain in ancient Rome, the former center of the pagan realm. He transferred his capital to the East, to the city of Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople, the city of Constantine (May 11). Constantine was deeply convinced that only Christianity could unify the immense Roman Empire with its diverse peoples. He supported the Church in every way. He recalled Christian confessors from banishment, he built churches, and he showed concern for the clergy.
The emperor deeply revered the victory-bearing Sign of the Cross of the Lord, and also wanted to find the actual Cross upon which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. For this purpose he sent his own mother, the holy Empress Helen, to Jerusalem, granting her both power and money. Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem and Saint Helen began the search, and through the will of God, the Life-Creating Cross was miraculously discovered in 326. (The account of the finding of the Cross of the Lord is found under the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14). The Orthodox Church commemorates the Uncovering of the Precious Cross and the Precious Nails by the Holy Empress Helen on March 6.
While in Palestine, the holy empress did much of benefit for the Church. She ordered that all places connected with the earthly life of the Lord and His All-Pure Mother, should be freed of all traces of paganism, and she commanded that churches should be built at these places.
The emperor Constantine ordered a magnificent church in honor of Christ’s Resurrection to be built over His tomb. Saint Helen gave the Life-Creating Cross to the Patriarch for safe-keeping, and took part of the Cross with her for the emperor. After distributing generous alms at Jerusalem and feeding the needy (at times she even served them herself), the holy Empress Helen returned to Constantinople, where she died in the year 327.
Because of her great services to the Church and her efforts in finding the Life-Creating Cross, the empress Helen is called “the Equal of the Apostles.”
The peaceful state of the Christian Church was disturbed by quarrels, dissensions and heresies which had appeared within the Church. Already at the beginning of Saint Constantine’s reign the heresies of the Donatists and the Novatians had arisen in the West. They demanded a second baptism for those who lapsed during the persecutions against Christians. These heresies, repudiated by two local Church councils, were finally condemned at the Council of Milan in 316.
Particularly ruinous for the Church was the rise of the Arian heresy in the East, which denied the Divine Nature of the Son of God, and taught that Jesus Christ was a mere creature. By order of the emperor, the First Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Nicea in 325.
318 bishops attended this Council. Among its participants were confessor-bishops from the period of the persecutions and many other luminaries of the Church, among whom was Saint Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. (The account about the Council is found under May 29). The emperor was present at the sessions of the Council. The heresy of Arius was condemned and a Symbol of Faith (Creed) composed, in which was included the term “consubstantial with the Father,” at the insistence of the Emperor, confirming the truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ, Who assumed human nature for the redemption of all the human race.
After the Council of Nicea, Saint Constantine continued with his active role in the welfare of the Church. He accepted holy Baptism on his deathbed, having prepared for it all his whole life. Saint Constantine died on the day of Pentecost in the year 337 and was buried in the church of the Holy Apostles, in a crypt he had prepared for himself.
Venerable Constantine, (in baptism Yaroslav), with his children Michael and Theodore, Wonderworkers of Murom
The Holy Princes Constantine and his sons Michael and Theodore of Murom lived during the eleventh-twelfth centuries.
Prince Constantine, a descendant of Saint Vladimir, asked his father, Prince Svyatoslav of Chernigov, to give him the city of Murom, which was inhabited by pagans, so he might enlighten this land with the light of the Christian Faith.
The prince sent his son Michael as emissary to the Murom people, but the pagans murdered him. When Prince Constantine arrived in the city with his retinue, the people quieted down and accepted him, but for a long time they would not give up paganism.
Once, they went to the prince’s home, intending to kill him, but the prince came out to the crowd holding the Murom Icon of the Mother of God (April 12). The mutinous people unexpectedly quieted down and agreed to accept holy Baptism at the River Oka.
At the place of the murder of his son Michael, Saint Constantine built a church in honor of the Annunciation, and later on another church named for the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb. Prince Constantine zealously assisted his son, Prince Theodore in spreading the Christian Faith among the people of Murom.
Saint Constantine died in 1129, and was buried in the church of the Annunciation beside his sons, Saints Michael and Theodore.
Venerable Cassian the Greek of Uglich
Today we commemorate the namesake of Saint Cassian (in the world Constantine). Today's commemoration of Saint Cassian is in honor of Emperor Constantine, his patron Saint at Baptism. When he became a monk, he was tonsured with the new name Cassian, in honor of St. John Cassian (Feb. 28), (Feb. 29 in Leap Year). See October 2, the date of his repose, for Saint Cassian's life account.
Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God
The Celebration of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was established to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from an invasion of Tatars led by Khan Makhmet-Girei in 1521. The Tatar hordes approached Moscow, burning and destroying Russian cities and villages, and exterminating their inhabitants.
Great Prince Basil raised an army against the Tatars, while Metropolitan Barlaam and the people of Moscow prayed fervently for deliverance. At this time a certain pious blind nun had a vision. She saw Moscow’s bishop-saints exiting from the Savior gates of the Kremlin, forsaking the city and taking with them the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, the holiest object in the city of Moscow. This was God’s chastisement for the sins of its inhabitants.
At the Savior gates the holy hierarchs were met by Saints Sergius of Radonezh (Sept. 25) and Barlaam of Khutyn (Nov. 6), tearfully imploring them not to leave Moscow. All of them offered intense prayer to the Lord for the forgivness of their transgressions and the deliverance of Moscow from its enemies. After this prayer the bishop-saints returned to the Kremlin, and they carried back the holy Vladimir Icon.
St Basil the Blessed (August 2) saw a similar vision. It was revealed to him that Moscow would be saved, through the intercession of the Theotokos and the prayers of the saints. The Tatar Khan also had a vision of the Mother of God with a fearsome host, contending against his forces. The Tatars fled in fear, and the capital of the Russian realm was saved.
The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God is also commemorated on June 23 and August 26.
“Tenderness” Icon of the Mother of God from the Pskov Caves
The sacred Tenderness Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was painted and brought to the Pskov Caves monastery through the efforts of the devout Pskov merchants Basil and Theodore. It was transferred it to the town of Pskov in the year 1521, and was glorified by miracles of healing in 1524. The Tenderness Icon is especially honored as the protector of the city when it was besieged by the Polish King Stephen Bathory (1533-1586) in the year 1581. Both the Tenderness Icon and the Dormition Icon were glorified at that time.
The Tenderness Icon is also honored on October 7, the day when Pskov was liberated from Napoleon's invasion in 1812. Other days on which the Tenderness Icon is commemorated are: June 23, August 26, and on the Seventh Sunday of Pascha.