Bartimaeus the Blind

Bartimaeus the Blind Gospel Reading

Do you want be a Child of the Light?

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The healing of Bartimaeus the blind is the last of the Lenten healing Gospels before Hosanna Sunday. It is an important Gospel in Syriac writing. Through it we see that Christ the light has restored mankind. With the fall of Adam, mankind had become blind to the light.

In his hymn on the fast St Ephrem’s explains –

“Great is the gift which is set down before our blind eyes;
For even though we all have a pair of eyes each,
few are those who have perceived that gift,
who are aware of what it is and from whom it comes.”

The blind man was aware of his blindness. We also must recognise our own blindness.

On being told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, the blind man began to cry out and say, “Jesus son of David have pity on me.”

The blind man recognised that Christ is the Messiah. This is explained in the prayer of forgiveness for this Liturgy – we hear this Sunday:

“By your miracles, you proved that you are the awaited Messiah of whom Isaiah spoke: ‘Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.’”

Bartimaeus come to see through hearing.

This is a favourite paradox of St Ephrem. Faith comes through hearing from the Word of God:

“Illumine with Your teaching
The voice of the speaker
And the ear of the hearer
Like the pupil of the eye
Let the ears be illumined,
For the voice provides the rays of light.”

Also for us, in order to see we must hear. We must hear in faith so the ears can receive light and we must persevere. Bartimaues is told by the crowds to be silent, yet he persevered. Of this St Ephrem praises:

“Blessed are you, too, courageous blind man
Whose great boldness enlightened you.
For if you had been silent as you were admonished,
silence would have kept you in darkness.
Blessed is your boldness for in it you also offer a type,
That the sinner, if he be bold, will obtain mercy.”

This is our own call to confession, we must also be bold and obtain mercy. Our silence will keep us in our sin.

On being told he was being called by Jesus Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

Many commentators have regarded the throwing aside of his cloak as a detachment from the only thing left that he owns.

However, there could be another explanation. The robe of glory is significant theme of the Syriac Fathers. In Ephrem’s Commentary on Genesis he explains:

“It was because of the glory in which they were wrapped that they were not ashamed. Once this glory had been taken away from them, after the transgression of the commandment, they were ashamed, because they had been stripped of the glory. Thereupon the two of them rushed to the fig leaves in order to cover, not so much their bodies, as their shameful members.”

In his commentary on the Diatessaron, Ephrem further explains:

“When Adam sinned and was stripped of the glory in which he was clothed, he covered his nakedness with fig leaves. Our saviour came and underwent suffering in order to heal Adam’s wounds and to provide a garment of glory for his nakedness. He dried up the fig tree (Matthew 21:20-21) in order to show that there would no longer be any need for fig leaves to serve as Adam’s garment, since Adam had returned to his former glory, and so no longer had any need of leaves or ‘garments of skin’.”

Jacob of Serugh in his Hymn on the Soul tells us:

“Strip off your rags and the leaves that cover your nakedness;
Take and put on the glorious robe,
Enter into Eden which is opened up and awaits you.”

The Syriac authors, Jews, early Christians and even other religious thinkers such as the Mandeans believed that Adam and Eve had been clothed in the robe of glory or light and that robe was lost when they sinned. Christ came to return Adam to Eden in the garment of light. He came to make humanity which had fallen right and he did that by clothing himself in Adam. This is the Incarnation.

This is perhaps the call to the blind man who symbolises mankind, to rid himself of the rags that have covered him in the darkness. Christ has now come, clothed in humanity, bringing with him Salvation. We are no longer in need of our rags, as Christ has bought light back into Eden for all of us to see.

Christ gives us the choice as to whether we want to choose him and see. It is our faith in him that will save us and allow us to a see the light.
We are here and Christ is here, he was not only for the blind man, but for all of us. We can see him every time we partake in the Eucharist. We can all call Son of David, have pity on me. Next time you look up to the consecrated Eucharist, think of St Ephrem’s words:

“Let us look with the hidden eye
And see Him hanging from the Tree;
Let our eyes behold the Blood
That flowed from his side”

Let us pray to our Lord in the words of the Liturgy this Sunday:

“In your compassion, open our eyes,
so that we may know you and follow you.
With the children of light
we praise and thank you,
your Father, and your Holy Spirit,
for ever.”

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Fr Abdo Badwi’s Icon of Bartimaeus the Blind

 


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