Having just discussed the healing of the blind man as symbolic map of the first day of creation, let us return to the blind man, him washing his face, and this as continuation of the creation narrative in Genesis.
“And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” (John 9:7) Much commentary on this verse is rooted in how the man does not question the command, but immediately goes to wash. While not ignoring this instruction and lesson of humility, let us, rather, continue our symbolic journey alongside the creation narrative. Christ has fashioned a pair of eyes for the man born blind, that in a symbolic way is understood as “heaven and earth,” and now tells him to wash, that is covering these bodies by water. Let us take a quick moment to discuss the waters.
“then over us would have gone the raging waters.” – Psalms 123:5, LXX
In his commentary on psalm 123:5 LXX, St Augustine says:
“Hence He, our Head, first drinketh, of whom it is said in the Psalms, “He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall He lift up His head.” For our Head is already exalted, because He drank of the torrent by the way; for our Lord hath suffered.”
And elsewhere he says:
“Let us consider Him drinking of the brook in the way: first of all, what is the brook? the onward flow of human mortality: for as a brook is gathered together by the rain, overflows, roars, runs, and by running runs down, that is, has finished its course; so is all this course of mortality.” commentary on psalm 110, LXX
And we read in the Pentecostarion for the Sunday of the Man born blind:
Of the Blind Man. The Irmos.
O Lord, make firm my heart shaken by the waves of life, as God guiding it to a fair haven.
We see the waters as a symbol of ignorance and suffering. Water forms waves which, like temptation, crash on us and rock our foundations. St Augustine uses the waters as a symbol of our mortality, of our passability, that is mutability to suffering, and death. This is also precisely what Christ takes upon Himself both at His Incarnation, and in His Passion, that is, our humanity, our suffering, and the curse of the transgression: death.
We must, here, acknowledge that there are simultaneously other symbolic meanings to “the waters,” and by no means are we trying to be literal or fundamentalist in our usage of the symbol of water. We can most definitely interpret the waters as a type of baptism, as a type of cleansing, and rightfully so!
But let us return and map this symbolic understanding of waters, that of ignorance, suffering, and death, with our previous thought of the healing of the man born blind as creation narrative. Christ first fashions “seeing” eyes for the blind man, that is heaven and earth, what is known as the first day of creation. The Spirit of God hovered above the waters which raged over the earth. There was no dry land to bear life, for all was drowned under the ignorance and darkness of sin.
And so we can rightly say that the blind man going to wash, that is his eyes symbolically standing for heaven and earth, is God separating the waters on the second day.
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” (Gen 1:6) This is the man washing his eyes, this is God washing the two worlds which He created.
“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” (Gen 1:9) Christ has come into the world as Man. He has drunk the brook of our mortality, He has gathered together our suffering, and He has separated them from us. (Gen 1:6) But He has not merely drunk the brook of our mortality, culminating in His Passion, but He has washed the world that it may be lifted up, therefore shall He lift up His head, exalted as His gift to God the Father.
By the washing of the man’s eyes, we see again how Christ does not merely give him eyes but also “seeing” eyes, that is, the Lord “opens” the spiritual sight of the man. This is in direct opposition to Adam and Eve unlawfully partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, who were tricked about opening their eyes, but fell into darkness, ignorance, and sin. What is it that the man is now capable of seeing with this new “spiritual” sight? Jesus Christ as the Word and Son of God, through Whom all things were made!
From the Pentecostarion for the Sunday of the man born blind, Ode 5. troparia
Having opened the eyes of one who had not seen the natural light, you enlightened the pupils of his soul and led him to give glory when he recognised you as maker, through compassion seen as a mortal.
Now that the waters have dispersed, now that our carnal eyesight has been cleansed that we may see not only natural light but also see spiritually with “seeing” eyes, we recognize Jesus Christ, the God-Man, as creator of the universe. This is, as St Anastasios says, the good existence. The waters of our sins are swept away, revealing the earth, and all kinds of suitable vegetation. Now we see Christ is risen from the dead!
From the Pentecostarion for the Sunday of the man born blind, Ode 3. Troparia
Now all things are filled with light, both heaven and earth and those beneath the earth: so let all creation sing Christ’s rising, by which it is established.
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