The unknown but vital mind.
Homily 445 – 33rd Sunday After Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 24, 2021
Epistle: (257) Colossians 3:4-11 and (99) Romans 8:28-39
Gospel: (93) Luke 18:35-43 and (105-106) Luke 21:8-19
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
In the account of the Blind Man, a man, a beggar, received his sight from Christ. I’ve mentioned before that I’m hopeful the man was prepared for how life-changing this event would be.
This man was suddenly a beggar that could no longer beg. Did he have a means of support other than begging?
It is doubtful. He says he wants to see again, meaning at some point he had seen. He wasn’t always blind.
And depending on how long he had been blind, even navigating the city might be a challenge.
Of course, we are also blind – spiritually blind. We are born that way, fallen, blind, unaware of the reality that surrounds us.
We have the visual sense, but our essence, our heart – our nous – is blinded, clouded, and we can only see what is in this created world.
Nous is a Greek word. There isn’t a really good English translation for it. It is a term from classical philosophy for the faculty of the human mind necessary for understanding what is true or real.
In the Church, that word, that faculty of the human being, is particularly identified with the comprehension of God. God who is Truth. God who is. He who is without cause.
We find that word scattered throughout patristic literature. In English, if we see “mind” or “heart”, we have to first think that they may be referring to nous.
In that famous verse in Romans – Chapter 12, verse 2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
That word “mind” is the Greek word “nous”. So, it is the renewal of our ability to see God. To see Truth.
When the disciples ascended Mt. Tabor with Christ and experienced the Transfiguration – it wasn’t Christ who changed. Rather, the “nous” of the three Apostles was cleansed, so that they could see reality, as far as they could stand it.
As a side note – over the last several years, our society has been beset with people who struggle to identify Truth. Who struggle to identify Reality. I’ve questioned my own understanding, many times.
What this means, in the understanding of the Gospel and of the Church, is that our “nous” is clouded – maybe to the extreme of blindness.
As such, we run the risk of being led astray, as the second passage of the Gospel tells us. The only way to identify truth and reality is by cleansing of the nous. Transformation of the nous.
In the second passage, which is read to honor the new martyrs and confessors of Russia, particularly those under the Bolsheviks, we are told that without that cleansed nous, we cannot properly discern truth. We cannot properly discern reality.
Don’t be deceived – don’t be led astray. Have discernment, have knowledge of Truth and Reality. Have a clean nous – allowing the light of Truth and Reality to permeate your being.
But what if we haven’t gotten there yet? What if our self-serving ego still clouds our nous?
We can always follow the Church. We can follow the example of the Apostles, the example of St. Paul. The example of the martyrs and the ones who did successfully cleanse their nous to become recognized as holy – as saints.
We can stand squarely in their shadow. Underneath their protection. Go where the Church goes. And by Church, I mean the consensus of the whole Church. Where there is division in the Church, that is not a settled place to tread.
We follow our Bishop. And by extension, follow our Church. And that obedience is accounted by God to us as righteousness, just like for Abraham who found grace in God’s sight.
Meanwhile, we continue to repent, to polish and clean our nous, through our ascetical disciplines and self-denial. And we keep knocking, keep asking, keep pushing – that our own nous will lead us to the place of discernment, where we will see clearly the Truth and Reality of our world.
Until then, Christ tells us we shouldn’t even pre-plan our defense when we are called to account by those in the world who will accuse and condemn us. Christ will cleanse our nous and the words we speak will not be ours, but His.
And once we achieve that place, that purity, called theosis, it will be Christ speaking through us.
More than that – by cleansing our nous by our repentance and ascetical disciplines, we live our lives – every day, every moment – without getting in the way of ourselves, allowing Christ to live in and through us. We will be one with Christ, happily letting go of our need and desire to control.
Happily letting go of our ego.
Then, life will be such joy – no worry, no thought to what lies ahead. Only the peace that comes from knowing that whatever happens, it is for our benefit, and for our salvation.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!