Give Glory to God

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall not only see in truth but speak in truth. No longer will they seek practices to build themselves up – to glorify themselves. They will join the whole creation in glorifying God in all things – with their entire being.

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“Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
3 Then he took up his oracle and said:
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,
4 The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open..” (Numbers 24.1-4)

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The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in thy sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19.1-4, 14)

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Inner Blindness

“Sin, having deprived the wretched soul of all the supernatural blessings, strips it also of the natural ones, for it takes away the keenness of the mind, the light and discrimination of reason, the tenderness and perception of the heart, the peace of thoughts and of conscience, and the purity of all the powers. It even weakens the body and defiles the senses.” St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite

Ephesians 4.17-24
[17] Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds;
[18] they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart;
[19] they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness.
[20] You did not so learn Christ! —
[21] assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.
[22] Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts,
[23] and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
[24] and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Romans 12.1-3
[1] I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
[2] Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
[3] For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.

Blindness and Understanding/Comprehension/Right Relationships

Blindness and seeing are a words we use to speak of the ability or inability to understand or comprehend. It is the word we sometimes use to communicate the idea that a person or group has been rendered unable to maintain right relationships with others or effectively participate in life or has experienced a dramatic breakthrough in that realm.

Here are some pieces I came across in my quiet time this morning that amplify this theme of seeing rightly and its role in maintaining right relationships with others.

Book of Tobit 2:9-14.
On the night of Pentecost, after I had buried the dead, I, Tobit, went into my courtyard  to sleep next to the courtyard wall.  My face was uncovered because of the heat.

I did not know there were birds perched on the wall above me, till their warm droppings settled in my eyes, causing cataracts. I went to see some doctors for a cure, but the more they anointed my eyes with various salves, the worse the cataracts became, until I could see no more. For four years I was deprived of eyesight, and all my kinsmen were grieved at my condition. Ahiqar, however, took care of me for two years, until he left for Elymais.
At that time my wife Anna worked for hire at weaving cloth, the kind of work women do.

When she sent back the goods to their owners, they would pay her. Late in winter she finished the cloth and sent it back to the owners. They paid her the full salary, and also gave her a young goat for the table.

On entering my house the goat began to bleat. I called to my wife and said: “Where did this goat come from? Perhaps it was stolen! Give it back to its owners; we have no right to eat stolen food!”

But she said to me, “It was given to me as a bonus over and above my wages.” Yet I would not believe her, and told her to give it back to its owners. I became very angry with her over this. So she retorted: “Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!” (“The Daily Gospel,” June 4)

John 9
[1] As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth.
[2] And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
[3] Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.
[4] We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.
[5] As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
[6] As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay,
[7] saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Silo’am” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
[8] The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?”
[9] Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.”
[10] They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”
[11] He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Silo’am and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.”
[12] They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
[13] They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.
[14] Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.
[15] 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.”
[16] 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.
[17] 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.”
[18] 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,
[19] and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
[20] His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;
[21] 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.”
[22] His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.
[23] Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”
[24] 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.”
[25] He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
[26] They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
[27] 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?”
[28] And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.
[29] We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
[30] The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.
[31] We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.
[32] Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind.
[33] If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
[34] They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
[35] Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?”
[36] He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
[37] Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.”
[38] He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him.
[39] Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”
[40] Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?”
[41] Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, `We see,’ your guilt remains. (RSV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own understanding rely not” (Proverbs 3:5).
If all the mountains would move toward you, would you be able to push them back with your hands? You could not. If darkness after darkness of all the mysteries in the heavens and on the earth rushed to the small taper of your understanding would you, with your understanding, be able to illuminate the darkness? Even less! Do not rely on your understanding for, from the perishable matter which you call intellect, a greater portion of it is nothing more than dead ashes. O man, do not rely on your understanding for it is a road over which a mob rushes a hungry, thirsty, motley and curious mob of sensual impressions.

O man, trust in the Lord with all your heart. In Him is understanding without end and all-discerning. The Lord says: “I am understanding; mine is strength” (Proverbs 8:14). He looks on the paths on which your blood flows and all the crossroads on which your thoughts wander. With compassion and love He offers Himself to you as a leader and you rely on your darkened and perishable understanding. Where was your understanding before your birth? Where was your understanding when your body was taking form, when your heart began to beat and flow with blood, when your eyes began to open and when your voice began to flow from your throat? Whose understanding was all this while your mind was still sleeping as charcoal in a coal mine? Even when your understanding awoke, can you enumerate all the illusions which it has delivered to you, all the lies in which it has entangled you, all the dangers which it did not foresee? O my brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart! Until now, He has rescued you numerous times from your own understanding, from illusions and its lies and from danger in which it has pushed you. A blind man is compared to the man who can see, so is your understanding compared to the understanding of God. O blind one, trust in the Leader. O brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart.

O Lord, All-seeing, Eternal and Infallible Understanding, deeper than the universe and more radiant than the sun, deliver us, even now from the errors of our understanding. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen (Prologue, June 4)

Binocular Vision and Living – The Single Eye

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6.22-23) RSV

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6.22-23) KJV

There are many aspects of our life as disciples of Jesus Christ that seem to require us to find and live in a kind of balance or creative tension. Let me name several:

  • Unconditional acceptance and authentic boundaries in our expression of love towards others.
  • Giving and receiving. The need to know what we need, seek it, and receive it and the need to be pouring out our life to provide for the needs of others before we consider our own needs.
  • The need to be silent and the need to speak.
  • The need to be sober in our judgments and yet to judge no one.
  • Faith and good works in the context of God’s work of salvation.
  • Personal and corporate.
  • Dynamic/changing and regular/consistent/changless.
  • New  being in Christ, zealous for His purpose and an idler and sinner.
  • Death and resurrection.

There are, obviously, many more. The Bible is filled with these paradoxes. What are we to do? How do we live out such commands on the part of God?

One answer that is often opted for is to consider these aspects as somehow in an adversarial relationship as if they do not belong together. In such an approach the proponent does, at times, regard the other facet as certainly belonging in the Christian life but not in the vicinity of their favored facet. An example is the classic adversarial relationship that has been set up by many between faith and works. Works belong in the Christian life but not in the vicinity of the provision of salvation which is by faith alone they say. Another approach is not to exclude one facet for the other but rather to craft a kind of détente relationship. Yet another approach is to try and achieve a life in which the facets live in sort of a “tag team” relationship with one another. Or, to put it another way, a kind of pendulum life in which they swing from one extreme to the other to arrive at an average halfway in between. Yet another approach is to adopt the language of a “creative tension” or “balance.” In this approach the facets are portrayed as opposites or antithetical but partners or companions that provide needed balance for the other.

I would like to put forward the conviction that none of these really satisfies the full mandate of the Gospel. Please do not get the impression that I am saying that some of the approaches all too briefly described above do not have their good points or approximate the truth. They do. I am, of course, overstating the other approaches in order to make my point. But…. The Gospel mandates union not simply partnership and companionship and balance.

We are to live the paradoxes not solve them.

Revisit the passage above from St. Matthew’s Gospel. Notice that Jesus does not say “eyes,” but “eye.” Jesus speaks of seeing in the singular. I know, Jesus is speaking about good and evil and how we cannot live a dual life. But, permit me to use the statement to make a different point (an ancient Rabbinic practice after all. If you will not allow for this usage, I understand. Disregard the association with the passage altogether and continue with the analogy.)… One eye – one vision. Think of the way in which paradoxes are meant to be lived in terms of your eyes. We have, along with other creatures, a unique way of seeing. We have binocular vision. When you look at something you normally look at it with both eyes at the same time. The eyes do not fight one another; switch off; balance one another; or any other penultimate way of seeing. They see as one eye. We don’t even think about the fact. We simply see. We don’t think about seeing out of two eyes. We experience seeing as seeing with a singular vision. The eyes are united in their seeing. When we see in this way the world ceases to be flat. We see with depth and perspective. Neither eye sees fully. Yet each eye is healthy in its seeing as an eye. They are not simply partners. They do not consider themselves as parties to a contract of cooperation, each complete in and of itself. Neither does one healthy eye compete with the other eye to be the one to see particular things. They both see together. They die to individualistic seeing and surrender themselves to the formation of a unified vision. The analogy, as do all analogies, falls short. Nonetheless, perhaps the analogy does help portray the mysterious union.

Fr. Thomas