Advent Reflection – “Sight”
For many years my family lived in a house on the backroads of the Ottawa Valley, across from a church that was mostly attended by hardy farmers and lumber-workers. Try as they might, the church choir could never get that congregation to sing the songs with them at Mass.
But there was one exception: whenever they began to lead particular hymn, the whole assembly would break into song. That hymn was “Amazing Grace”, its summary line “was blind but now I see” seemingly relatable to everyone.
The life of faith is primary about seeing. As G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “religion is not the church a man goes to, but the cosmos he lives in.” Our faith helps us see the world around us differently.
Everything in our sacraments, our liturgies and prayer, begins and ends with our visual metanoia, the transformation of our manner of seeing from the distorted view of sin to the clear-sightedness of goodness and truth.
Consider how all of creation is held in the loving gaze of God. The very first words uttered by God in scripture are “let there be light!”, that fundamental quality which is necessary for seeing. At the end of each day of creation, God looked at what he had made and saw that it was good.
Sin enters into the world because of misguided sight. Eve looked at the tree and “saw that it was good for food and a delight to the eyes.” Indeed, most sin is a result of vision misapplied and misdirected.
Then consider what God does! He comes into the world in the most visible form possible: a baby. The spiritual carol “Do You See What I See?” sums up the vision of divine splendor now wrapped in human flesh.
The shepherds go to behold the miracle. The wise men from the east follow a star in the sky that leads them to that vision of God’s love incarnated.
Arguably, one of the most poignant of Jesus’ miracles are when he returns sight to the blind. Jesus rubs his saliva into dirt, and applies it onto the eyes of the blind man. After washing his eyes in the pool, the man can only say to the skeptical Pharisees, “all I know is I was blind and now I see”.
In what does this new way of seeing consist? It’s mainly about casting off fear, and placing our trust in the God. Remember the blind man Bartimaeus who shouts and shouts until Jesus hears him. “have mercy on me, O Lord”, Kyrie elesion! It’s the cry of a soul seeking release from darkness.
The Lord’s question is to the point “what do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus’s answer resounds through the ages: “Lord, that I may see again.”
While physical seeing matters, in the end, it is our interior eyes that matter most. Our faith in Jesus must be greater than the proof of sight with our eyes. Thomas learned that hard, since he spoke his need for visible proof by saying “unless I can put my fingers in his wounds, I will not believe.” After seeing Jesus risen and in the flesh, the Lord says to him “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29).
This Advent, then, let us ask Christ to rub his healing balm onto our eyes. Let’s ask him for new sight of radical trust, so that we may cast out fear and anxiety from our lives.
One day we may gaze upon God forever in what the saints call “the beatific vision”. Though now we see “in a mirror, dimly, then, we will see face to face.” (1 Cor 13:12). Come Lord Jesus!
Video version here.