1. We have just read the long lesson of the man born blind, whom the
Lord Jesus restored to the light; but were we to attempt handling the
whole of it, and considering, according to our ability, each passage
in a way proportionate to its worth, the day would be insufficient.
Wherefore I ask and warn your Charity not to require any words of
ours on those passages whose meaning is manifest; for it would be too
protracted to linger at each. I proceed, therefore, to set forth
briefly the mystery of this blind man's enlightenment. All,
certainly, that was done by our Lord Jesus Christ, both works and
words, are worthy of our astonishment and admiration: His works,
because they are facts; His words, because they are signs. If we
reflect, then, on what is signified by the deed here done, that blind
man is the human race; for this blindness had place in the first mar,
through sin, from whom we all draw our origin, not only in respect of
death, but also of unrighteousness. For if unbelief is blindness,
and faith enlightenment, whom did Christ find a believer at His
coming? seeing that the apostle, belonging himself to the family of
the prophets, says: "And we also in times past were by nature the
children of wrath, even as others." If "children of wrath," then
children of vengeance, children of punishment, children of hell. For
how is it "by nature," save that through the first man sinning moral
evil rooted itself in us as a nature? If evil has so taken root within
us, every man is born mentally blind. For if he sees, he has no need
of a guide. If he does need one to guide and enlighten him, then is
he blind from his birth.
2. The Lord came: what did He do? He set forth a great mystery.
"He spat on the ground," He made clay of His spittle; for the
Word was made flesh? "And He anointed the eyes of the blind man."
The anointing had taken place, and yet he saw not. He sent him to
the pool which is called Siloam. But it was the evangelist's concern
to call our attention to the name of this pool; and he adds, "Which
is interpreted, Sent." You understand now who it is that was sent;
for had He not been sent, none of us would have been set free from
iniquity. Accordingly he washed his eyes in that pool which is
interpreted, Sent he was baptized in Christ. If, therefore, when
He baptized him in a manner in Himself, He then enlightened him;
when He anointed Him, perhaps He made him a catechumen. In many
different ways indeed may the profound meaning of such a sacramental act
be set forth and handled; but let this suffice your Charity. You
have heard a great mystery. Ask a man, Are you a Christian? His
answer to you is, I am not, if he is a pagan or a Jew. But if he
says, I am; you inquire again of him, Are you a catechumen or a
If he reply, A catechumen; he has been anointed, but not yet
washed. But how anointed? Inquire, and he will answer you.
Inquire of him in whom he believes.
In that very respect in which he is a catechumen he says, In
Christ. See, I am speaking in a way both to the faithful and to
catechumens. What have I said of the spittle and the clay? That the
Word was made flesh. This even catechumens hear; but that to which
they have been anointed is not all they need; let them hasten to the
font if they are in search of enlightenment.
3. And now, because of certain points in the lesson before us, let
us run over the words of the Lord, and of the whole lesson itself
rather than make them a theme of discourse. "As He passed out, He
saw a man who was blind;" blind, not from any cause whatever, but
"from his birth." "And His disciples asked Him, Rabbi." You
know that "Rabbi" is Master. They called Him Master, because
they desired to learn. The question, at all events, they proposed to
the Lord as a master, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents,
that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither hath this man
sinned, nor his parents," that he was born blind. What is this that
He has said? If no man is sinless, were the parents of this blind
man without sin? Was he himself either born without original sin, or
had he committed none in the course of his lifetime? Because his eyes
were closed, had his lusts lost their wakefulness? How many evils are
done by the blind? From what evil does an evil mind abstain, even
though the eyes are closed? He could not see, but he knew how to
think, and perchance to lust after something which his blindness
hindered him from attaining, and so still in his heart to be judged by
the searcher of hearts. If, then, both his parents had sin, and the
man himself had sin, wherefore said the Lord, "Neither hath this
man sinned, nor his parents," but only in respect to the point on
which he was questioned, "that he was born blind"? For his parents
had sin; but not by reason of the sin itself did it come about that he
was born blind. If, then, it was not through the parents' sin that
he was born blind, why was he born blind? Listen to the Master as
He teaches. He seeks one who believes, to give him understanding.
He Himself tells us the reason why that man was born blind:
"Neither hath this man sinned," He says, "nor his parents: but
that the works of God should be made manifest in him."
4. And then, what follows? "I must work the works of Him that
sent me." See, here is that sent one [Siloam], wherein the blind
man washed his face. And see what He said: "I must work the works
of Him that sent me, while it is day." Recall to thy mind the way
in which He gives universal glory to Him of whom He is: for that
One has the Son who is of Him; He Himself has no One of whom He
is. But wherefore, Lord, saidst Thou, "While it is day"?
Hearken why He did so. "The night cometh when no man can work."
Not even Thou, Lord. Will that night have such power that not even
Thou, whose work the night is, wilt be able to work therein? For I
think, Lord Jesus, nay I do not think, but believe and hold it
sure, that Thou wast there when God said, "Let there be light,
and there was light." For if He made it by the Word, He made it
by Thee: and therefore it is said, "All things were made by Him;
and without Him was nothing made." "God divided between the light
and the darkness: the light He called Day, and the darkness He
5. What is that night wherein, when it comes, no one shall be able
to work? Hear what the day is, and then thou wilt understand what the
night is. But how shall we hear what the day is? Let Himself tell
us: "As long as I am in this world, I am the light of the
world." See, He Himself is the day. Let the blind man wash his
eyes in the day, that he may behold the day. "As long," He says,
"as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Then will it
be night of a kind unknown to me, when Christ will no longer be
there; and so no one will be able to work. An inquiry remains, my
brethren; patiently listen to me as I inquire. With you I inquire:
With you shall I find Him to whom my inquiry is addressed. We are
agreed; for it is expressly and definitely stated that the Lord
proclaimed Himself in this place as the day, that is, the light of
the world. "As long," He says, "as I am in this world, I am
the light of the world." Therefore He Himself works. But how long
is He in this world? Are we to think, brethren, that He was here
then, and is here no longer? If we think so, then already, after
the Lord's ascension, did that fearful night begin, when no one can
work. If that night began after the Lord's ascension, how was it
that the apostles wrought so much? Was that the night when the Holy
Spirit came, and, filling all who were in one place, gave them the
power of speaking in the tongues of every nation? Was it night when
that lame man was made whole at the word of Peter, or rather, at the
word of the Lord dwelling in Peter? Was it night when, as the
disciples were passing by, the sick were laid in couches, that they
might be touched at least by their shadow as they passed? Yet, when
the Lord was here, there was no one made whole by His shadow as He
passed; but He Himself had said to the disciples, "Greater things
than these shall ye do." Yes, the Lord had said, "Greater things
than these shall ye do;" but let not flesh and blood exalt itself:
let such hear Him also saying, "Without me ye can do nothing."
6. What then? What shall we say of that night? When will it be,
when no one shall be able to work? It will be that night of the
wicked, that night of those to whom it shall be said in the end,
"Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his
angels." But it is here called night, not flame, nor fire.
Hearken, then, why it is also night. Of a certain servant He
says, "Bind ye him hand and foot, and cast him into outer
darkness." Let man, then, work while he liveth, that he may not be
overtaken by that night when no man can work. It is now that faith is
working by love; and if now we are working, then this is the day
Christ is here. Hear His promise, and think Him not absent. It
is Himself who hath said, 'Lo, I am with you." How long? Let
there be no anxiety in us who are alive; were it possible, with this
very word we might place in perfect security the generations still to
come. "Lo," He says," I am with you always, even to the end of
the world." That day, which is completed by the circuit of yonder
sun, has but few hours; the day of Christ's presence extends even to
the end of the world. But after the resurrection of the living and the
dead, when He shall say to those placed at His right hand, "Come,
ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom;" and to those at His
left, "Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his
angels;" then shall be the night when no man can work, but only get
back what he has wrought before. There is a time for working, another
for receiving; for the Lord shall render to every one according to his
While thou livest, be doing, if thou art to be doing at all; for
then shall come that appalling night, to envelope the wicked in its
folds. But even now every unbeliever, when he dies, is received
within that night: there is no work to be done there. In that night
was the rich man burning, and asking a drop of water from the beggar's
finger; he mourned, agonized, confessed, but no relief was
vouchsafed. He even endeavored to do good; for he said to Abraham,
"Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my brethren, that he may tell
them what is being done here, lest they also come into this place of
Unhappy man! when thou weft living, then was the time for working:
now thou art already in the night, in which no man can work.
7. "When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made
clay of the spittle, and He spread the clay upon his eyes, and said
unto him, Go and wash in the pool of Siloam (which is, by
interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and
came seeing." As these words are clear, we may pass them over.
8. "The neighbors therefore, and those who saw him previously, for
he was a beggar, said, Is not this he who sat and begged? Some
said, It is he: others, No; but he is like him." The opening of
his eyes had altered his countenance. "He said, I am he." His
voice utters its gratitude, that it might not be condemned as
ungrateful. "Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes
opened? He answered, The man who is called Jesus made clay, and
anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and
wash: and I went and washed, and saw." See, he is become the
herald of grace; see, he preaches the gospel; endowed with sight, he
becomes a confessor. That blind man makes confession, and the heart
of the wicked was troubled; for they had not in their heart what he had
now in his countenance. "They said to him, Where is he who hath
opened thine eyes? He said, I know not." In these words the
man's own soul was like that of one only as yet anointed, but not yet
seeing. Let us so put it, brethren, as if he had that anointing in
his soul. He preaches, and knows not the Being whom he preaches.
9. "They brought to the Pharisees him who had been blind. And it
was the Sabbath when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then
again the Pharisees also asked how he had received his sight. And he
said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do
see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees;" not all, but some;
for some were already anointed. What then said those who neither saw
nor were anointed? "This man is not of God, because he keepeth not
the Sabbath." He it was rather who kept it, who was without sin.
For this is the spiritual Sabbath, to have no sin. In fact,
brethren, it is of this that God admonishes us, when He commends the
Sabbath to our notice: "Thou shalt do no servile work" These are
God's words when commending the Sabbath, "Thou shalt do no servile
work." Now ask the former lessons, what is meant by servile work;
and listen to the Lord: "Every one that committeth sin is the
servant of sin." But these men, neither seeing, as I said, nor
anointed, kept the Sabbath carnally, and profaned it spiritually.
"Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?"
These were the anointed ones. "And there was a division among
them." The day had divided between the light and the darkness.
"They say then unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him who
hath opened thine eyes?" What is thy feeling about him? what is
thine opinion? what is thy judgment? They sought how to revile the
man, that he might be cast out of the synagogue, but be found by
Christ. But he steadfastly expressed what he felt. For he said,
"That he is a prophet." As yet, indeed, anointed only in heart,
he does not thus far confess the Son of God, and yet he speaks not
untruthfully. For the Lord saith of Himself, "A prophet is not
without honor, save in his own country."
10. "Therefore the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he
had been blind, and received his sight, till they called the parents
of him that received his sight;" that is, who had been blind, and
had come to the possession of sight. "And they asked them, saying,
Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now
see? His parents answered them, and said, We know that this is our
son, and that he was born blind: but how he now seeth, we know not;
or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. And they said, Ask
himself; he is of age, let him speak of himself." He is indeed our
son, and we might justly be compelled to answer for him as an infant,
because then he could not speak for himself: from of old he has had
power of speech, only now he sees: we have been acquainted with him as
blind from his birth, we know him as having speech from of old, only
now do we see him endowed with sight: ask himself, that you may be
instructed; why seek to calumniate us? "These words spoke his
parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had conspired
already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should
be put out of the synagogue." It was no longer a bad thing to be put
out of the synagogue. They cast out, hut Christ received.
"Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask himself."
11. "Then again called they the man who had been blind, and said
unto him, Give God the glory." What is that, "Give God the
glory"? Deny what thou hast received. Such conduct is manifestly
not to give God the glory, but rather to blaspheme Him. "Give
God," they say, "the glory: we know that this man is a sinner.
Then said he, If he is a sinner, I know not: one thing I know,
that whereas I was blind, now I see. Then said they to him, What
did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?" And he, indignant now at
the hardness of the Jews, and as one brought from a state of blindness
to sight, unable to endure the blind, "answered them, I have told
you already, and ye have heard: wherefore would ye hear it again?
Will ye also become his disciples?" What means, "Will ye also,"
but that I am one already? "Will ye also be so?" Now I see, but
see not askance.
12. "They cursed him, and said, Thou art his disciple." Such
a malediction be upon us, and upon our children! For a malediction it
is, if thou layest open their heart, not if thou ponderest the words.
"But we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spoke unto
Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is." Would
ye had known that "God spoke to Moses!" ye would have also known
that God preached by Moses. For ye have the Lord saying, "Had ye
believed Moses, ye would have also believed me; for he wrote of
me." Is it thus ye follow the servant, and turn your back against
the Lord? But not even the servant do ye follow; for by him ye would
be guided to the Lord.
13. "The man answered and said unto them, Herein is a marvellous
thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine
eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man is a
worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth." He
speaks still as one only anointed. For God heareth even sinners.
For if God heard not sinners, in vain would the publican, casting
his eyes on the ground, and smiting on his breast, have said,
"Lord, be merciful to me a sinner." And that confession merited
justification, as this blind man enlightenment. "Since the world
began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born
blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing." With
frankness, constancy, and truthfulness [he spoke]. For these
things that were done by the Lord, by whom were they done but by
God? Or when would such things be done by disciples, were not the
Lord dwelling in them?
14. "They answered and said unto him, Thou wast wholly born in
sins." What means this "wholly"? Even to blindness of the eyes.
But He who has opened his eyes, also saves him wholly: He will
grant a resurrection at His right hand, who gave enlightenment to his
countenance. "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach
us? And they cast him out." They had made him their master; many
questions had they asked for their own instruction, and they
ungratefully cast forth their teacher.
15. But, as I have already said before, brethren, when they
expel, the Lord receiveth; for the rather that he was expelled, was
he made a Christian. "Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and
when He had found him, He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the
Son of God?" Now He washes the face of his heart. "He answered
and said," as one still only anointed, "Who is he, Lord, that I
might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen
Him, and it is He that talketh with thee." The One is He that is
sent; the other is one washing his face in Siloam, which is
interpreted, Sent. And now at last, with the face of his heart
washed, and a conscience purified, acknowledging Him not only as the
son of man, which he had believed before, but now as the Son of
God, who had assumed our flesh, "he said, Lord, I believe."
It is but little to say, "I believe:" wouldst thou also see what
he believes Him?"He fell down and worshipped Him."
16. "And Jesus said to him." Now is He, the day, discerning
between the light and the darkness. "For judgment am I come into
this world; that they who see not might see, and they who see might be
made blind." What is this, Lord?
A weighty subject of inquiry hast Thou laid on the weary; but revive
our strength that we may be able to understand what Thou hast said.
Thou art come "that they who see not may see:" rightly so, for
Thou art the light: rightly so, for Thou art the day: rightly so,
for Thou deliverest from darkness: this every soul accepts, every one
understands. What is this that follows, "And those who see may be
made blind?" Shall then, because Thou art come, those be made
blind who saw? Hear what follows, and perhaps thou wilt understand.
17. By these words, then, were "some of the Pharisees"
disturbed, "and said unto Him, Are we blind also?" Hear now what
it is that moved them, "And they who see may be made blind."
"Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin;"
while blindness itself is sin. "If ye were blind," that is, if ye
considered yourselves blind, if ye called yourselves blind, ye also
would have recourse to the physician: "if" then in this way "ye were
blind, ye should have no sin;" for I am come to take away sin.
"But now ye say, We see; [therefore] your sin remaineth."
Wherefore? Because by saying, "We see:" ye seek not the
physician, ye remain in your blindness. This, then, is that which a
little above we did not understand, when He said, "I am come, that
they who see not may see;" for what means this, "that they who see
not may see"? They who acknowledge that they do not see, and seek
the physician, that they may receive sight. And they who see may be
made blind:" what means this, "they who see may be made blind"?
That they who think they see, and seek not the physician, may abide
in their blindness. Such discerning therefore of one from another He
called judgment, when He said, "For judgment I am come into this
world," whereby He distinguishes the cause of those who believe and
make confession from the proud, who think they see, and are therefore
the more grievously blinded: just as the sinner, making confession,
and seeking the physician, said to Him, "Judge me, O God, and
discern my cause against the unholy nation," namely, those who say,
"We see," and their sin remaineth. But it was not that judgment
He now brought into the world, whereby in the end of the world He
shall judge the living and the dead. For in respect to this He had
said, "I judge no man;" seeing that He came the first time, "not
to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."