This month, on the 31st Sunday after Pentecost, a very beautiful Gospel was read in our churches, of the Blind Man of Jericho: “Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. And hearing a multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Luke 18.35–38). When he said, “Son of David,” he implicitly said, the Messiah, meaning the Anointed One (in Hebrew), the One expected by the people and known to be of David’s lineage, which is why they called him that. So, when we say “the Son of David” in this context, we mean the Messiah, or Christ (in Greek). So, the blind man actually said, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! “Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Luke 18.39)—that is, Christ, have mercy on me! “So, Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, that I may receive my sight.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God” (18.40–43).
The Church Fathers say that this evangelical pericope is about the Jesus Prayer, which we have in our Orthodox tradition. Saint Sophrony Sakharov saw in this prayer of the blind man the way the Prayer of the Heart must be practiced: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner. That is, this is how we must cry out to God when we pray the prayer of the heart. For example, in the context of our modern world, when we are surrounded by materialism, unbelief, darkness, it is very easy to feel like a blind man and to shout, “Where are You, Lord?” We see nothing, we are overwhelmed by storms, by loneliness, by the spiritual minority in which we find ourselves, because very few people preoccupy themselves with matters concerning God today. Thus, we can feel overwhelmed by all this, and somehow it is natural to shout with the blind man’s prayer.
But perhaps this is how we Christians must pray all the time, until we see Christ alive or until we enter into His presence. The Holy Fathers say that not only monks, but every Christian must pray the Prayer of the Heart. Many times, we maybe stop after the first shout. In the Gospel we saw that there were two such cries, although it is possible that the blind man cried out more. We seem to stop our cry too quickly after receiving a little grace. As Father Arsenie Papacioc would say, we gain a little grace, and then we pray that we continue to feel that joy. Well, that is not really true prayer. Father said that true prayer is that which is broken from the heart. The heart’s engagement, or sensitivity, is the most important thing when we pray. That is what God asks of us. The fact that He gives us His grace is something else. Our job is to shout our hearts out. A man’s heart has innumerable things in it that are required to be heard by Him. With this cry of the blind man who wants to see, we come alive without realizing it.
So in our prayer, in our cry, we should go to the end. And the end is this: we receive our sight. “What do you want?” the Savior asks. “To receive my sight!” “Receive your sight!” The Savior is generally brief with His words. But the blind man reached Him. He walked the road to the end. So, it would be good not to stop shouting until we enter His presence. For it is possible to enter His presence, and this also represents a type of sight. Not one of the eyes, but an integral sight because we feel Him, and He speaks to us without words.
We end with a cry of St. Silouan the Athonite, who can provide us with much material for meditation:
Where are You, Lord? Where are You, my Light? Why did You hide Your face from me?
For a long time my soul no longer sees You and longs for You and seeks You with tears: Where is my Lord? Why don’t I see Him in my soul anymore? What keeps Him from living in me?
Here is what: There is not in me the humility of Christ and the love of enemies.