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Believing is Seeing - A Seasonal Holy Communion
Reading: Mark 8, 22 - 25
Jesus and the disciples arrived at Bethsaida. There the people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him away out of the village. Then he spat on his eyes, laid his hands upon him, and asked whether he could see anything. The man's sight began to come back, and he said, "I see men; they look like trees, but they are walking about." Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; he looked hard, and now he was cured so that he saw everything clearly.
Demonstration 1 - Seeing is Believing
In the final weeks of the Summer Term the Sunday School explored the technique of wax-resist painting.
The technique itself is simple. You draw an invisible picture using a candle stub. You then apply water colour. The paint soaks into the paper, but runs off those areas which have been waxed, causing the invisible picture to be revealed.
The first use we made of this technique was to explore the story that we have just heard read as the lesson. We begin with an apparently blank sheet of paper. This represents what the blind man saw before Jesus intervened. He saw nothing.
But then we apply the paint. The effect is akin to the experience of the blind man as he recovers his sight. The veil is gradually removed from his eyes. He sees, and the first person he sees is Jesus. It is a very simple technique, but it does very graphically convey the impact on the blind man of what Jesus did for him.
Jesus opened the eyes of the blind. That, in itself, was wonderful. But what he had really come to do was to open the eyes of those who could already see. It is to that dimension of his work that we shall in come to.
Demonstration 2 - Believing is Seeing
Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, but his real aim was to open the eyes of those who could already see. He wanted them to look beyond what eyes could see. It was this central goal of his work that we moved on to in the second phase of our exploration of wax-resist.
Now things become infinitely more sophisticated. The object of the exercise this time was to paint a visible picture over an invisible picture, and the number of colours required rose from one to three.
The visible picture was a landscape. There was a blue sky. The blue of the sky was to be reflected in the water of a river that flowed across the land. In the distance, purple hills arose. Nearer at hand, bordering the river, there was rich grassland. We had our visible picture, but as we painted it, the invisible picture below rose up through it. There emerged in the heart of the landscape, the figure of Christ. We had a picture that looked beyond what eyes can see to detect the presence of God at the heart of all things.
This was the picture that Jesus wanted to open people's eyes to see. If you want to see things as they really are, he said, you have to look with the eyes of faith. At the moment you think that seeing is believing. What I have to tell you in that it's only by believing that you will truly see.
An Example - Believing is Seeing
An example of believing being seeing, and one of particular relevance to what we are doing now, is provided by the French priest and distinguished palaeontologist, Teillard de Chardin.
On a fossil-gathering expedition in the Gobi desert, he wished to celebrate mass but lacked the materials with which to do so. In prayer, therefore, he took an imaginary paten and placed upon it all the labours of mankind. He took an imaginary chalice and poured into it all the sorrows of mankind.
He then spoke over them the words of institution "This is my body." "This is my blood."
The vision that followed he described like this:
"It is done. Once again the Fire has penetrated the earth. Not with sudden crash of thunderbolt, moving mountain-tops: does the Master break down doors to enter his own home? Without earthquake, or thunderclap the flame has lit up the whole world from within. All things individually and collectively are punctuated and flooded by it, from the inmost core of the tiniest atom to the mighty sweep of the most universal laws of being: so naturally has it flooded every element, every energy, every connecting link in the unity of our cosmos, that one might suppose the cosmos to have burst spontaneously into flame."
To the eyes of faith, the invisible is made visible and in a way that makes one very conscious of the high and holy things with which we engage now as we move forward to Communion.