I see, said the blind man. It is an old and tired joke, yet it stays in our vocabulary because so often it rings true. We hear someone’s words to us, even comprehend the sentences, but cannot grasp the meaning behind them. We understand, but we don’t understand.
I cannot un-see an image I saw inadvertently of the beheading of twenty-one Coptic Christians on the shore in Libya. It is painful, frightening, and discouraging all at once. But today I saw another image of those same Coptic martyrs, and it changed everything.
The twenty-one souls on the shore look to Christ their Savior, who beckons them come to Him. The angels descend, bearing crowns of martyrdom, even as the waves turn red with their blood. Their orange garb is covered over by red, yes the red of martyrs’ blood, but also the red of Christ’s own Divinity. It looks nothing like the internet image I saw, but reveals better the reality.
This evening, as I prayed the psalms of Vespers, the evening office, I came to the line Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, and the phrase the Lamb who was slain caught my attention and rang again and again in my mind. Once again the image of those innocents being slain came unbidden to my eyes. But those words stand in the midst of the great hymn from Revelation: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Rev 5:12). And the eyes of my heart were opened wider.
Suddenly those words brought to mind others. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. (Is 53:7) And, For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pt 2:21-24)
By his wounds you have been healed. Those words that I associate with Sunday Vespers every week of Lent have long been pure consolation for me. But they mean more to me now than they did even a few hours ago.
Jesus gave Peter, James, and John the consolation of seeing His transfiguration, His true identity and glory revealed, in advance of their witnessing His passion and death. I see now, said Peter; let us stay here. But the vision passed, Jesus led them back down the mountain, and they asked one another what rising from the dead meant. They had seen, but were still blind.
I read somewhere that the last words from the martyrs were, Lord Jesus Christ. He gave them eyes to see, what we need the icon to begin to imagine. I see, said the blind man.