“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3) Having already discussed our Lord’s passion at the well, and our spiritually paralyzed souls, let us move to discuss the healing of the man born blind, and why this healing, more so than the other two previously mentioned, manifests “the works of God.” What works of God are being manifested other than the healing itself? Before discussing the healing itself, let us examine how we got to this point.
Prior to this healing, Christ has made two statements in chapter eight revealing that He is God. The more obvious of the two is when He refers to Himself as “I AM.” (John 8:58) But there is another, almost missed due to its supreme subtly, which I want to highlight.
“Are you the Messiah? I am the same as I have told you from the -beginning-” (John 8:25) I have bracketed beginning for emphasis. This is a clear creational statement. Christ is saying, “I am He who formed the heavens and the earth. I am He who was in the beginning.”
“So in the Gospel, in answer to those who were inquiring of Him ‘Who art thou? He replied: ‘I am the beginning, I who speak with you. All this was that you might know that He gave to all created things their beginnings and that He is the Creator of the world.” ~St Ambrose of Milan, Hexaemeron
“When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay” (John 9:6) Though not apparent in this translation, we must emphatically state here that Christ did not merely heal this man’s previously formed, yet unseeing, eyes. Christ fashioned entirely new eyeballs. He physically creates a pair, that is two, of seeing eyes. I say “seeing” because He not only made the pair of eyes, He gave the man vision. St Theophylact of Ohrid, in his commentary on this, states:
“Earlier He announced, in so many words, “I am He Who formed Adam,” offending His listeners; now He demonstrates with an irrefutable deed the truth of that proclamation. Jesus created eyes for the blind man out of clay, just as He had done for Adam. He did not merely fashion the eyes, or open them, but gave them vision. This proves that it was He Who breathed the soul into Adam. Without the soul being present to impart its divine energy, even a perfectly formed eye would see nothing.”
Let us do a symbolic rendering, then, of this healing, underlining it with the creation narrative, first looking at that narrative in Genesis.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:1-2)
In the beginning the earth was formless and void. This is humanity without God, unfinished and empty, being disunited from the Divinity. And the darkness was on the face of the deep, for ignorance is the gateway into the abyss of sin and hades. I do not say that ignorance is sin, but that it is a gateway, the face of the deep. Ignorance leaves us sick for many years (John 5:5; The Paralyzed Soul), and though we bare the heat of the midday Sun, standing in the bright light of this world, we do not know who it is who is asking us a question. (John 4:9; Election at the Well)
Then God said, Let there be Light, that is, He brought forth His Son, who is the Light of the world, to come into the world and shine on all people. (John 1:9) Knowledge had come into the world. Illumination had sprung forth. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5) This is the same Light which God first called forth, “Let there be Light.” (Gen 1:3) Note that it does not say, “And God made the light.” It says, “And there was Light,” because the Son of God is eternally begotten and not made. So God calls forth His Son to enlighten the world, which was covered by waters, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. This darkness was ignorance of God, of who had created the world out of nothing. And though He came to bring knowledge to those who were ignorant, we still did not know Him, nor were we able to receive Him. (John 1:10-11)
And so God divided the waters, that is, He spit on the two worlds (John 9:6) that they may come to be able to see Him. God creates two bodies, heaven and earth. He also creates for these bodies two types of beings capable of seeing God: Man, who is fashioned with “nous,” and the Angels who are pure “nous” or “noetic beings.” “Nous” or “noetic” pertains to intellection, that faculty which apprehends spiritual realities in a direct manner. (Intellection, Glossary, Philokalia vol 1) I happen to like the definition of the name Cherubim, “full of knowledge.”
Because neither could see Him, He fashioned them sight. And though one praised Him continually yet could still not see Him (the angels), He came in like manner to them who had forsaken Him and never praised Him (man). He did this, that, seeing Him in their manner they would come to believe, and bear as witness to them who before praised Him continually, yet could not see Him.
“God, whom the angels had not seen before, was introduced to them by men. What an incomprehensible wonder! They had been praising with hymns their God, but they had not seen whom they were praising. The Thrones had been holding God aloft, but they had not seen whom they were carrying. And the angels with six wings and many eyes had been worshiping and glorifying him without a moment of silence, yet they had not perceived whom they were honoring. For this reason, while genuflecting, they longed, thirsted, prayed, and entreated to look upon the invisible, to see him who could not be seen, or to gaze upon him if only as in a cloudy mirror, or just to glimpse him and see whom they were adoring and hymning! But they could not. The divine essence was unapproachable and incomprehensible.” ~St Anastasios of Sinai, Hexaemeron
Christ forms two eyes, that is, two bodies capable of sight. He does so by spitting on them, that is, revealing that they are covered by water. Spitting comes from the mouth, much like breathing does, so we can draw symbolic connections to Pentecost when Christ breaths the Spirit, which hovers on the waters, on the Apostles. But much like God giving but the power to become His children (John 1:12), Christ fashions not merely the capability, but the realisation of seeing Him, per the St Theophylact quote above. So we can right say that, though the angels themselves have been with God continually from the creation of the heavens, and though they be “full of knowledge,” they, too, have never seen God.
This He did to show His Glory. And God gathered the waters together, that is, our drowning in ignorance, sin and Hades, evaporated them in His Justice, that without the waters we may come to know Him who made us. And so our ignorance and sin evaporated and brought forth dry land, bearing every type of suitable and good vegetation. This was the good existence intended by God for those who lived in darkness. This is the illumination of the world.