Orthodox America

Healing the Blind and Dumb
Sermon on the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

Excerpt from The One Thing Needful, sermons by the late Archbishop Andrew; Novo- Diveyevo Convent, Spring Valley, N.Y.

The first Sunday readings after Pentecost showed us the commandments of God according to which lived all the saints of the Universal Church and our Russian Orthodox Church. These commandments are like steps into the Kingdom of Heaven. And the Merciful God has prepared this Kingdom of Heaven for all. This means that these steps are leading there; these commandments of God are a must for every one of us. So with such a purpose the Holy Church presented them to us.

But now for the last several weeks the Holy Church has begun to show us not what we should cultivate in ourselves, but things which we should avoid, against which we should fight. These readings told about the evil power, about being possessed by it, about passions, sins, slavery to sin, bodily paralysis which is the result of sin; and this pointed out to us our spiritual paralysis which is always the result of sin.

In the same way, today's Gospel tells us: When Jesus departed thence, two blind men fo1lowed ..... . As they went out, behold they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil (Matt. 9:27, 32). And Christ healed all of them. Yes, there is physical blindness, but there is also spiritual blind ness. This is our unbelief, our stoniness of heart Such a state may be temporary, as a storm cloud rushes in and goes away, with God's help... This is a terrible feeling of being forsaken by God, a horrible loneliness. And there is another condition: this is when we can talk about anything except spiritual things, godly things. Or when before us a brother is suffering, is living through some terrible grief... and we don't have even one word of comfort. Or again, a state of mind when we cannot even pray.. .Are not such states, the state of spiritual dumbness? And Christ alone can heal us, heal our blind and dumb soul. But how does it happen?

Well, in order to answer this question I should like to relate one example, one experience from my own life. I will tell just how this experience was inscribed on my heart. This was a very difficult period of my life. It seemed there was no way out. My church in the town of Romni was closed, I was exiled from Romni, and my family was left to the mercy of fate. To be registered in any church in Kiev was impossible. I had to live from day to day, hiding out with friends, knowing that by doing this I could harm them. At church services I could only be present secretly, hiding somewhere in a corner of the altar. And not every church would let in an unregistered priest. Ahead of me was something like impenetrable darkness.   I was losing heart. I felt both blind and dumb-in a spiritual sense.

Then came a thought: i should go to the Lavra [Kiev Caves Monastery], to the early Liturgy at the cave church of St. Anthony. I wanted to believe that maybe there, at the relics of the saints, the veil would fall from my eyes and I would once again see God's Providence in my life. I stopped for the night in the Lavra and stayed with a close friend of mine. At 3 a.m. the bell rang. We dressed quickly and went out. It was pitch dark. But from all sides stretched lines of flickering lights; these were monks with lanterns going to the ser vice in the caves. Everything was quiet, reverent, mysterious. And the two of us also started to go down into the cave.

As we descended I grew more and more oppressed. The Liturgy began. I saw how everyone was praying. And I... I could not pray. Something terrible was happening to me; the ceiling of the cave pressed down on me. I felt as though I were suffocating, not so much physically, as spiritually. Anguish was simply tearing my chest apart. If I had been able to run away I would have. But by a supreme effort of will I forced myself, at least outwardly, to stay at the service which passed for me automatically. I was both blind and dumb. Minutes seemed like hours. I felt that I was perishing. Silently, from the depths of my heart I cried out: "Lord, have mercy!" not even understanding the meaning of these words. Had the service lasted another minute I could not have stood it.. But here was the end. I simply ran out onto the surface of the ground.

And then a miracle happened to me.... The sun was already high; the grass, the leaves, the trees, covered by morning dew, seemed to be strewn with diamonds. In the distance I could see the blue Dnieper River, and this blue was broken up by the bright reflection of the rising sun. This reflection was like gold which had fallen from heaven, and beyond the Dnieper were fields, forests the world of God! I breathed deeply. Before me was hope. God had taken the stone away from my heart. l had been blind, and suddenly I had recovered my sight. All these earthly beauties became for me symbols - symbols of unearthly beauty and Eternal Life. I wanted to live for eternity, and I wanted to share this joy with those around me. The dumbness passed and I started to talk to people again; they had all become near and dear to me. See how God heals our spiritual blindness and dumbness!

So let us go in His Way. Let us endure. Let us imitate the blind men. They did not see Christ. And what's more, they had never even seen the image of a human being.. but they knew that Christ was there, near, and they believed that He could heal them. This is a classic image of prayer. The Orthodox Faith never forms any images, but only knows that Christ is, and He is near and can do anything.

But let us be attentive, because He will ask us too: Believe ye that I um able to do this? (Matt. 10:28). Then let our answer to Him be: "Yes, Lord! We believe."