06 March 2011

The Need of Eternal Light

Today at Carthusian Matins for Quinquagesima Sunday:

As our Creator draws near to Jericho, a blind man receives his sight. While God takes unto Himself our weak human nature, man receives again the light which he had lost. By God’s suffering in the Manhood, man is raised up to the divine life. This blind man is also well described as sitting by the wayside begging; for the Truth says: I am the way. He that does not know Him Who is eternal light, is blind. But as soon as he believes in Jesus, the Redeemer, then he is sitting on the road leading to salvation. When man has faith, but is not continually asking to be enlightened by Divine light, he may, like the blind man, sit on the road, but he is not begging alms. But when by means of faith he begins to believe, when he recognises the blindness of his heart, and unceasingly asks to be delivered from it and to receive the light of truth, then he is like to the poor and unhappy blind man who, sitting by the wayside, was begging. Let him, therefore, who recognises his darkness, and the need of eternal light, cry out with all the desires of his heart and all the fervour of his soul: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

Those who went before our Lord rebuked the blind man of Jericho, that he should hold his peace; and we learn therefrom the important lesson that, before Jesus comes into our hearts, the awful image of our sensual pleasures rises in our memory, so as to prevent the effects of our prayers. Our prayer must be the more ardent and assiduous, the stronger the noise of wicked thoughts that rise in our mind and endeavour to prevent it. When the stormy crowd of temptations call back the remembrance of our sins, and assail us from all sides, trying to make us neglect, if possible, our prayers, then our powerful and repeated cry towards heaven will render all these phantoms useless and powerless. For when we begin to tear our thoughts and desires away from the world, and to turn them to God; when we give up our mind to prayer, then the worldly thoughts and sinful pleasures of our former life return to attack and distract us. And this assault of our former thoughts is so strong that, in spite of good desires and even tears of repentance, it is only by the greatest care and watchfulness that we succeed in keeping our hearts in safety.

We may be sure that, if we persevere in our prayers, Jesus will remain with us, as He stayed for some time with the blind man. And Jesus, standing, commanded him to be brought unto Him. And the words of the Gospel tell us, not without a special motive, that Jesus was first passing by, then was standing. We learn from this that, when powerless phantoms endeavour to disturb us in our prayers, Jesus seems to be passing by; but that when, in spite of their attacks, we persevere in these prayers, Jesus remains standing by us, and delivers us from blindness. For when God takes His abode in our heart, He dispels darkness by His Divine light.

For our further instruction we hear Jesus, as soon as He saw the blind man, say to him: What do you want Me to do for you? Our Saviour, having the power to restore the sight to the blind man, was certainly not ignorant of that which he was going to ask. But He wished to teach us that it was His will we should ask Him, though He knows our desires and is willing to grant them. He, therefore, very often exhorts us to pray to Him, though He assures us that His Father in heaven knows all our needs before we ask. He wishes to encourage us to trust in Him, and to awaken in our hearts real love for prayer. We hear the blind man at once uttering his request, and asking to receive the light. He was asking neither for gold nor for riches of any kind, but for light, since, without this gift, all other goods could not satisfy him. Let us, then, beloved brethren, imitate this man in his prayer, for he received therewith the health both of soul and body. Let us beseech the Lord not for the riches of this world, nor for the perishable blessings of honour and fame, but for the true light, and not for the limited light, which for a moment only interrupts the long night, and is common to us with the unreasonable animals. Let us ask for the uncreated light to be seen in the company of the elect, that light having no beginning and being eternal in its duration. Faith will lead us to this light, according to the words of Jesus to the blind man: Receive your sight ; your faith hath made you whole.

~ Pope Saint Gregory the Great ~