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May 23, 2020

Sermon for the Sunday When the Gospel of the Blind is Read (St. Sebastian Dabovich)

By St. Sebastian Dabovich

(Read first the ninth chapter of St. John)

His is the Gospel for today. What lesson have we to learn on this day? We must find the substance in these words, and feed on it, for it is spiritual food. When we have digested this Divine food, it will be assimilated with our natures, and our humanity will become purer, brighter, stronger, yea—and perpetual, so long as it lives with the Word of God, for hath not the Savior Himself said when the devil tempted Him who hungered in the wilderness: That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God? So then, have we considered the Gospel while being read? If so, we find that the principal subject of it is the miracle which was worked by our Lord Jesus Christ. Next, we observe the man who was the object of the miracle, and finally we get a perspective of the condition. The circumstances which surrounded this miracle were most unfavorable for the blind man's confirmation in the faith, although he succeeded against such materialistic odds, and likewise for an open manifestation of the glory of the Wonder-worker Himself, yet the greatness of which became the more conspicuous as passion-bound opinions, systems and classes strived to overcome or, in the least, to belittle it. When I stop to meditate, it seems that I am transported to the green hills of Judea, where the common folk of both hill country and populous valley are all astir with lively discussions in the midst of their every-day duties, as in their homes they go about to and fro, and, mind you, it is all about religion and politics; religion first and politics after—insomuch as it is related with the proud nature of a people, who boasted of being the chosen race of God, who expected His messenger, and were to be ruled by none other than the Messiah Himself, unto all ages. It was a day of expectations, indeed. The intellect of the masses had been sharpened to a turning point. The very “times” themselves were full with signs. Everybody was inquiring. The people willingly divided themselves into two sets: those that taught and those that were taught. The nearer that some of them had gotten to the truth, the more danger there was of taking falsehood for the truth, and thereby more danger of two blind men falling into one pit. Passions, although with a semblance of a higher quality, yet human and materialistic, ruled the hour. In such a midst Christ, the only true teacher of men, had come. No one condemned false doctrine so energetically as this teacher had done, and no one had taught with such invincible strength and power as He did. Now the whole company of teachers arose against this One, and, notwithstanding their divisions, they knew how to agree in one and the same decision which suited them all, and that was: That He led the multitude astray (John vii: 12), He speaketh blasphemies (Luke v: 21), He pervertelh our nation (Luke xxiii. 2), and, at the end, for His teaching said they: He is worthy of death (Matt. xxvi. 66). But they could not destroy the work of Him, whom they hated, for the people did see in Him The Great Prophet (Luke vii: 16). Above His calling as a teacher, He had the merits of a miracle worker. What now could His angry enemies do or say against this?

Now they would do as they have done at that time, viz: murdered Him. But His works remain, and for that the glory of His resurrection is the brighter. When the different conditions of a changing world, together with the many representatives of opinions have exhausted their machinery, all their means, and wasted their fine scholastical dialectics, while the simple facts, told by him who had once been blind, remain as simple facts, which he-who now sees—will not renounce, then society answers and says to the followers of Jesus Christ: “You were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us?” When Christians cannot be subdued, nor compelled to follow the ways of politicians or the world in general, then they are left all to themselves. And they cast Him out. The Son of God, manifesting His power in miracles that we may desire Him alone and thereby become strong in faith—this is the lesson that we are to learn today. Now the learned tell us that the nineteenth century (which happily is in its death-throes) requires “advanced thought.” I wish the nineteenth century was over; we have heard it bragged about so much that one actually gets sick with the nineteenth century. We are told that this is too sensible a century to need or accept the same Gospel as the first, second and third centuries. Yet these were the centuries of martyrs and confessors, the centuries of heroes, the centuries that conquered all the gods of Greece and Rome, the centuries of holy glory, and all this because they were the centuries of the Gospel. But now we are so enlightened that our ears, strange to say, really ache for something fresh, and under the influence of so-called refined literature (how about ordinary novels?) our beliefs are dwindling down from mountains to ant-hills, and we ourselves from giants to pygmies. By God's grace some of us abide by the Orthodox Faith, and mean to preach the same Gospel which the saints received at first. It is a foundation which we dare not change. It must be the same, world without end, for Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

From Preaching in the Russian Church, Or Lectures and Sermons by a Priest of the Holy Orthodox Church.