May 17, 2015

The Man Born Blind and the Malicious Exaggeration of the Scribes and Pharisees

By His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

Saint Asterios, Bishop Amaseia, interpreting empirically the sacred text of the Gospel Reading that refers to the miracle of the man born blind, is both revealing and timely.

Besides, the Holy Fathers, having in their hearts the living presence of Christ and being enlightened with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are always relevant and timeless.

Saint Arsenios reveals, through a series of explanations, the problem which occupied the Scribes and Pharisees, that came from the healing of the man born born blind, which primarily was the sickness which hid in the space of their heart, where the evil passion of slander resided.

He wrote: "They (the Scribes and Pharisees) occupied themselves first with whether or not the blind man was the same person and not someone else who presented himself as the blind man. Their second strategy ... was to deny the event and try to prove that Christ was not the One who performed the healing. Third, they rush again to examine the malady to see if the man was indeed blind from birth, seeking out the parents of the man and scrutinizing every detail, not to certify the act, but to find out by overthrowing it how this miracle indeed took place, manufacturing a conspiracy to overthrow the momentum of the crowd that believed. O malicious exaggeration!"1

First. Behold the ancestral illness, slander.

What is it? How is it defined?

It is an unfounded accusation neither based on truth or reality. It is a medium which people always used and continue to use in order to harm others.

It is a wound in the body of society. It is a sick and pathological condition, indicating the muck that exists in the heart of man.

The Fathers of the Church, those experienced physicians, call slander the daughter of hatred and envy.

This is why the slanderer is a copycat of the first accuser and slanderer, who is the devil. The slanderer envies the virtues of others and hates the truth.

Even hypocrisy defines them, which was so loudly denounced by Christ ("Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"2).

When the slanderer cannot deny reality, they use satanic skills and the perversion of the truth as a pretext to justify themselves, to be "blameless" and "moral", in order to beat their opponent in the battle.

Sometimes they don't even need to open their mouth in order to hit someone with the poison of slander, but they fire the arrows of grimaces, gestures, smiles full of innuendos and a spirit of irony.

The mud is fashioned with such mastery, that the accused is unable to defend themselves.

Therefore the pious psalmist asks God: "Redeem me from the slanders of men that I may keep your commandments."3

Second. The Fathers of the Church, when speaking of slander, call it a killer virus.

This virus harms: a) the object of the slander, b) the one who accepts the slander, c) the one who slanders, who incurs God's wrath and the indignation of the people.

This is why Basil the Great, who tasted of these awful arrows, adds his own experience: "Slander makes a man humble and slander makes a man poor."4

The throat of a slanderer resembles a grave ("Their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue."5).

This is because the sting of a scorpion can be cured, but the wound caused by an unjust accusation cannot be healed.

No one is able to predict and stop this slander, says Saint Cyril the Patriarch of Alexandria. At the same time it is revealing what the wise opinion of the author of Ecclesiastes says about this passion: "Again I looked and saw all the slandering that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the slandered - and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their slanderers - and they have no comforter."6

Third. The slanderer is characterized by Saint John Chrysostom as worse than the beasts, and even worse than the devil: "The devil accuses and slanders people, but none of the other demons."

For this reason the God-bearing Fathers characterize this crime as worse than murder.

The murderer removes life instantly, while the slanderer removes the reputation leading the victim to a perpetual death.

How many families were dissolved, how many spiritual efforts were destroyed, how many spiritual workers were defamed and leaders erased unfairly, leaving this world with bitterness on their lips?

But what am I saying? Was not Christ Himself slandered during His earthly life? Is He not slandered until today, when some impute their own passions and diseases onto the all-holy face of Christ?

Is not the Church, where Christ Himself dwells, defamed and slandered until today?

We talk about the social service of the Church and we are deliberately silent about its core mission and work, which is the salvation of immortal souls.

How right was the ancient philosopher Theophrastus who, when asked what was the most bloodthirsty beast, replied: "In the hills bears and lions, in the cities publicans and slanderers."

It should be remembered that responsibility for slander comes not only from the one who shoots the arrow, but those who accept it with much pleasure and without complaint.

This is why Saint Augustine in one of his homilies says that the responsibility for the stoning of Stephen lay not only on those who threw the stones, but also on those who observed the event.

Everyone, therefore, is responsible. Within us we all, more or less, have this awful passion.

Therefore, those who are hit by its arrows and drink from the cup of its poison, should bear in mind the words of the Apostle Paul: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord."7 God is the One who will reciprocate in full.

Those of us who have come to depend on this awful passion, let us run to God our Savior with tears of repentance and ask for the remission of our faults and the healing of our passions that we may receive His mercy and His grace.

"The Blind Man, regarding the whole of life as night, cried out to You, O Lord, open my eyes, O Son of David, our Savior, that with all people I too may hymn Your power."7

1. Saint Asterios, Homily 7.

2. Matthew 23:13

3. Psalm 118:134

4. Saint Basil, Epistle 223.

5. Psalm 5:10

6. Ecclesiastes 4:1

7. Romans 12:19

8. Doxastikon of Aposticha for Vespers, Sunday of the Blind Man.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.