Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration


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Sister Tarsykia Matskiw, SSMI (1919-1944)

“She modeled saintliness in life’s ordinariness.”

Текст по-українському: August 08.2021U

  The period of the underground for the UGCC, revealed the love and devotion to Christ’s Gospel of bishops, monastics, and laity. Their lives and martyrdom gave witness to the holiness and action of the Spirit “in” them and “through” them. When, in 2001, 28 Ukrainian Catholics were recognized as “blessed”, they represented the enduring loyalty of our Church to Christ. There are so many more whose names we will never know, but we acknowledge that due to their self-sacrifice and commitment our “silenced Church”, “Church of the martyrs”, has emerged from the underground bursting into bloom from the bountiful seeds sown by its saints. The Church has seen both destruction (liquidation) and resurrection (legalization); it was a silenced Church with its hierarchy in the camps of Mordovia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan, but it endured and received the “wreath of glory”, which was her renewal at the end of the century. . . .

Whenever we speak of saints, subconsciously we expect to hear about extraordinary events or suffering that resulted in sainthood. There was little of this in the life of Blessed Tarsykia. Her life became extraordinary by fulfilling daily tasks responsibly and being ready to give her life for Christ. She modeled saintliness in life’s ordinariness. Here we may not face persecution, but Blessed Tarsykia exemplifies the need for each of us to strive towards sainthood in our quotidian living.

Olha Matskiv was born on March 23, 1919 in Khodoriv, Ukraine. She was the eldest of Roman and Maria Matskiv’s four children. Her father had a supervisory position at the railway, and the family moved to Ravy-Ruska when his job required it.  As a child Olha developed a love for nature, all living things, church and prayer. Her niece, Olha Kudlyk, describes Olha’s childhood from her memoirs, as she heard from family stories: “She was obedient, thoughtful, and loving towards her parents and siblings.” Similarly, another sister recalls: “She would gather flowers from the field to decorate the roadside chapel on her way to baba’s. She would save injured creatures and mend their wounds.” Olha’s mother taught her to see the world as God’s gift. No wonder she began to feel called to a monastic life, after finishing high school in Lviv.

Olha’s mother, however, was so against her entering a convent that she forbade her attending daily liturgies. Undeterred, Olha secretly left for church in the early mornings and returned in time to make breakfast for the waking family.   In time, Olha asked for her parents’ blessing and despite her mother’s objection, Olha joined the SSMIs in Krystynopil. So began a new chapter of her life which ended at the “Golgotha” of the second descent of Bolsheviks on Lviv. From the start, with her joyful nature and dedicated service, Olha embraced the monastic life. On the 4th of November, 1938, she accepted her habit, took the monastic name of Tarsykia, and made her first vows. Her responsibilities included overseeing the convent workshop, teaching sewing, and being the gatekeeper. In September, 1939, Soviet armies came to Krystynopil. The front line of battle was close to the monastery. In a letter to her parents, dated September 2nd, 1941, Sr. Tarsykia writes: “We have experienced much: war, bombs, bullets, and the front line. We have lived through horrendous waves of endless bombing by the Bolsheviks. At times we were more certain of death than survival.”

  In 1943-44, when the Soviet armies advanced through Western Ukraine, the sisters were given the option to leave the community and go home, but according to Sr. Daria Hradiuk, not one of them left.

 On the morning of July 17, 1944 you could sense that military action would begin again and that evening the bombing started. . . The next morning combat lessened and the sisters prepared for the Divine Liturgy with Fr. Josyf Zahvijskyj.

 . . . An eyewitness states: “It was already early morning, we were waiting for Father to come for the service; we heard the bell; someone was at the gate. Sister went to it . . . the Bolshevik fired and one of our sisters was shot . . . she hadn’t even made it to the gate.”

Sr. Demyana Chepil writes in her memoirs, that all the sisters were in the basement, “the only ones in the house were myself, Sr. Maria Borodijevych and Sr. Tarsykia. Unexpectedly the soldiers rang the bell. We jumped at the sound, Sr. Tarsykia ran out ahead of me. She noticed that she hadn’t brought the key and turned to ask Sr. Maria to get it. In that moment the soldier shot his automatic rifle through the opening in the gate. He shot Sr. Tarsykia in the head. I saw her fall immediately.”

  . . . On entering the Bolsheviks saw Sr. Tarsykia’s body. “The officer asked in amazement: ‘Who did this?’ One of them admitted, ‘I killed her.’ Our superior Sr. Monica Bolesta asked why. He answered, “Because she’s a nun.”

  . . . Not far from the monastery was the cemetery, but because of the combat nearby we couldn’t bury her there. So, she was buried in the monastery garden near the statue of the Mother of God. Even those who killed her attended her funeral.  . . . Subsequently her remains were moved from Krystynopil to Lviv where she was interred in the Sisters’ gravesite at Lychakiv monastery.

  Thus the events of the Second World War destroyed the regular monastery life. . . . In early spring of 1946 it was clear that the Soviet authorities would not allow our monastery to continue, inasmuch as the preparations for the destruction of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church were well underway. . . . After the so-called “Lviv Sobor” and the arrest of our hierarchy, the authorities went after the monasteries. . . . A similar fate awaited other, both men’s and women’s, monasteries. The life of blessed Tarsykia and her fate foresaw the period of persecution of our Church and her death was as if a sign of the Soviet intent for the death of our defiant Church.

The life of blessed Tarsykia witnessed complete faithfulness to Christ and His Church. . . In her death she gave witness to her love, as her life witnessed holiness. She demonstrated that holiness is not limited to a small circle of the early Christians, but also is possible in our world.

Her life should be an example for our life; her service should be continued by our service, and her death and holiness should call us all to holiness.  May Sr. Tarsykia’s intercession grant us all the gift of sacrificial love and a passion for holiness lived out in our world. This is something we all need. (R. Syrotych)


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The Church solemnly proclaims the blessed martyr Volodymyr Pryjma patron of the laity

Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma: Patron Saint of Ukrainian Catholic Laity (1906-1941)

(Текст українською мовою в бюлетені 1.08.21)

Volodymyr Pryjma, the son of Ivan and Hanna, was born in the village of Stradch, Yavoriv District, July 17th, 1906. Volodymyr’s family were active members of their community: his father—church cantor and secretary, and brothers—both ordained priests.  After graduating from the School for Cantors of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptysky, Volodymyr became the cantor and choir director in his village church. He married Maria Stojko November 10th, 1931. With their 4 children, the family played a vibrant role in the life of the parish.

  On June 26th, 1941, Volodymyr accompanied Fr. Mykola Konrad to home of a woman who was ill and asked to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On their way home they were accosted by the NKVD (Soviet Secret Police responsible for prisons and labour camps) and taken into the Birok forest. There, the NKVD agents brutally tortured and murdered cantor and priest. After a week of desperate search, their broken bodies were found by villagers. Volodymyr Pryjma had been repeatedly stabbed in the chest with a bayonet.

In 2001, when Pope John Paul II came to Ukraine, he recognized Cantor Pryjma and Fr Konrad as Blessed Martyrs of Christ’s Church. The Synod of Bishops of UGCC in Winnepeg, September 2012, proclaimed Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma the patron of laity. The next year, June, 2013, Patriarch Sviatoslav made the official announcement confirming Pryjma as patron of Ukrainian Catholics.

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She was simple, good, humble, compassionate; she simply loved people

Let’s get to know the martyrs represented in our parish’s icon “Synaxis of Ukrainian Martyrs”. We begin with the young woman seen in the icon’s top centre: Maria Shved (1954-1982).

(Текст українською мовою в бюлетені 25.07.21)

  While the 1970s and 80s were generally a time of optimism in North America, in Ukraine people continued to be persecuted for being Ukrainian-Catholic: arrested, tortured, even killed. Maria Shved, vivacious, funny, generous and kind, was murdered before she could celebrate her 27th birthday. She was born on October 17th, 1954, in the village of Yaremkova, Sambir Region. Her mother took Maria and her 2 siblings, the older Stefania and younger brother Bohdan, with her to church whenever possible. Maria fervently prayed for her father to stop drinking, and according to the parish priest, this small child’s devotion brought peace to their household. Maria grew up with a strong faith and concern for others. After completing school she went to work in the factory “Progress” and later in a telegraphic equipment plant in Lviv. She lived with her sister Stefania, who already had a family of her own. Stefania recalls how they could stay up all night talking, laughing and listening to Maria’s stories. A fellow factory worker (Nadia Vytvytska, a Basilian nun) remembers her as looking so much younger than her years. She would give away anything she owned if someone asked her for it. She was “quiet and humble. She never raised her voice, and I never saw her bad-tempered.”Maria supported Bohdan, her brother, sending him money if needed and keeping him “in line”. She was a people person and others valued her view and advice. In time, this colleague learned that a fellow worker was an informer to the authorities and was tracking Maria’s movements.

The Soviets had outlawed the Ukrainian Catholic Church, closing our churches or declaring them Russian Orthodox. So Maria attended the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Lviv for daily liturgies. There she met several of our underground clergy and nuns and assisted Fr. Peter Perizhak in his secret ministry to Ukrainian Catholics. She was so engaged that, although the Sisters of St. Joseph did not accept new members in those dangerous times, they could not reject her wish to join them. As a novice she continued her ministry with Fr. Perizhak. On Sept. 29, 1982, (the feast of St Sofia) Maria planned to visit her mother in the evening, because it was her mother’s name day. She went to church after work and boarded the streetcar with Fr Perizhak after Liturgy. At the church of St Elizabeth and Olga, the two sat on a bench to talk. Father gave her a holy card for her mother’s name day. Suddenly the secret police appeared and demanded Father’s papers. While he was being questioned, Maria quietly slipped away taking Father’s bag containing his vestments and liturgical objects so that he could not be charged with illegal activity. She ran along Turgenev Street to the gate of building #10. The “guards” pursued her, brutally attacked and killed her. The authorities tried to blame Fr. Perizhak for her murder, but eventually let him go. Ultimately, despite an eyewitness to the attack, no one was charged.

  Maria’s family was not given her body until 5 days after her death. She was buried in her village of Yaremkova. Approximately a hundred people gathered at her funeral on that still autumn day. They made a wreath of fresh blooms. She lay dressed in white. A single bell tolled from behind the locked doors of the village’s small wooden church. As she was carried to the cemetery, hymns were sung and, in his homily, the Roman Catholic priest (our priest would have been arrested had he been present) asked that we not pray for Maria, but to her . . .

  She was simple, good, humble, compassionate; she simply loved people and knew how to accept that which Jesus prepared for her each day. (Sr. Halyna Sovhan)

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How fitting….

(Текст українською мовою в бюлетені 18.07.21)

How fitting, that from this Sunday, dedicated to All Saints of Ukraine, an icon representing recent Ukrainian witnesses of Christ, will appear in our church of the Transfiguration: the icon of the Synaxis of Ukrainian Martyrs (of the 20th century).

We thank God for the dedication of the iconographer Kseniia Sapunkova and the generosity of the donor Mary Gaida (Steve and Mary Gaida Ohar Foundation), in memory of their deceased parents.

Commonly, the mention of Ukrainian saints evokes an image of the 10thc royals, Volodymyr and Olha, responsible for Christianizing Ukraine: recognizable, yet hardly relatable. Since that time, the Church has recognized the holiness of innumerable Ukrainians. More than can be named have been martyred—within our lifetime and that of recent generations.

  As Western Europe and North America celebrated the end of the 2nd World War, Ukraine suffered a renewed onslaught of vicious religious persecution by the Soviet regime. Priests, monastics, lay people, children were hunted, murdered, tortured, and starved in prison and Siberian camps. To this day, the political oppressors of Ukraine continue to target our Church and Faith Tradition as well.

  These were people no different from you or me, leading mundane lives: buying groceries, singing in the parish choir, changing diapers, taking out the garbage, meeting up for coffee. . .  suddenly faced with unspeakable evil, unimaginable torment. Individuals forced into evil yet maintaining faith, continuing to be kind, loving, generous—serving others. We look to these individuals and see God. Let us, each of us, come to know and understand the figures represented, so that we can tell their stories to our visitors, and to our children, so that future generations will find strength and inspiration through these saints of our people.

  In the next few weeks, our website will include information on each saint in the icon. Let’s remember them: vichnaia pamiat. With this icon, let’s honour them and join our prayers and lives to theirs. Let’s follow their example and live as saints in our own ordinary lives so that we may actively build a world that opposes evil and persecution of others.

Synaxis of Ukrainian Saints

  We first gaze at this icon as if seeing through a window. The gold background and light surrounding the heads of the figures evokes the Pentecostal flame—the divine Spirit envelopes the air around the figures, while their feet are firmly standing on a (very familiar) solid floor. The figures appear alight. In Matthew (5:14-16) Christ exhorts us to let our light shine and not hide it beneath a bushel. The martyrs shine, during and even after their lives were extinguished.

The figures create a domed shape, as if a church. At the top of the dome, the title of the icon and the building forma cross. The church is the Sobor of St George in Lviv, the seat of the Metropolitan. The martyrs represented are from Western Ukraine.

  The title, Synaxis of Ukrainian Martyrs, points to their symbolic representation of all untold numbers of Ukrainian martyrs.

  As our gaze focuses on the figures themselves we see both religious and lay people forming the body of the Church: the body of Christ.

Directly below the sobor, in the centre, we see a young woman in a kerchief. At her heart we see our Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who foresaw that our Church would “rise from the grave”. On either side of him we see other church leaders: bishop, monk, nun, priest. The sister and priest hold a palm branch—the symbol of martyrdom. Above are men and women and another nun. We see signs of our Faith: crosses, Gospels, hands in blessing.

Now we ask who. Who are these figures, human and luminous?

First row (left to right):

Sister Tarsikia Matskiw SSMI (1919-1944)

Bishop Nykyta Budka (1877-1949)  

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky (1865-1944)

Archimandrite Klymentij Sheptytsky (1869-1951)

Fr. Omelan Kowch (1884-1944)

Second row (l to r):

Cantor Volodymyr Pryjma (1906-1941)

A woman/жінка representing all unnamed martyred women.

Sr Maria Shwed (1954-1982)

A man/чоловік representing all unnamed martyred men.

Sr Lavrentia Harasymiw SSJ (1911-1952)

The Sisters represent all martyred women monastics.

Maria Shved represents women who served as nuns secretly in the underground church.

Klymentij Sheptytsky represents all male monastics.

Fr. Kowch and cantor Pryjma represent both ordained and lay people who served in the underground church.

Bishop Budka is the first bishop of the UCC in Canada who returned to Ukraine and died in a Soviet camp.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky was the Head of our Church from 1901-1945.

In the coming weeks the website will have the stories of these saints and martyrs.

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Help us have the courage to awaken to greater truth, greater humility, and greater care for one another.

This past Sunday the Bishops of Saskatchewan released a description of their response in support of the Truth and Reconciliation commission. Please read the letter from our website to better understand the vast issues surrounding Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

In former bulletins we have described the wrongs of the Church in the words of the philosopher Ivan Illich as a “betrayal of relationship,” where desires for power and money have closed the minds and hearts of the hierarchy, and thus communities, to the Spirit of the Divine Trinity. In a reflection on Pentecost and the need for our hearts to be ignited by the fire of the Holy Spirit, Brian McLaren writes that over the centuries, since the early Church, “We’ve traded the gentle dove of peace for the predatory hawk or eagle of empire”.

And today’s reading from Matthew calls the Church and us back (as always) to Truth. In this story Jesus tells us to stop our obsession with stuff: clothes, drinks, restaurants, fashion . . . God knows we need these things, but that’s not all there is. Seek first his kingdom and his justice,”

(Mt 6:33) and these other things will fall into place.

Ok, we may not be birds or lilies resplendent without worry about money, but the opposite is seen in human behaviour—when we seek money rather than God’s justice, what is left? We have a world where atrocities are committed by people against people. 

And justice? It’s not revenge, punishment, retribution. “What is God’s justice? It is certainly not our Western image of a blindfolded woman standing with a scale and weighing the different sides. God’s justice is delivered simply by God being true to God’s nature. And what is God’s nature? Love. God is love, so God’s justice is in fact total, steadfast love, total unconditional giving of love. ([aka] … “restorative justice” instead of retributive justice.)” (R.Rohr, 06/07/21) 

 So what do I do? I can recognize the difference between manifesting my faith in words or in actions; I can open my heart to be on fire. I can open my mind and arms to others who are different from me. This is easier said than done. Living God’s love requires patience, endurance, and the discernment of personal prayer, the wisdom of faith tradition, and the shared support of community. Together we are better.

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God is with us

The Synod of Ukrainian Catholic Bishops has designated this Sunday as the Sunday of “The Mother of God of Perpetual Help”. This icon, no doubt, is familiar to us: The Mother of God (Theotokos) holds her son, terrified by the vision of his future. The angels Gabriel and Michael on either side, hold symbols of the crucifixion.

As with all Byzantine iconography, the represented images guide us to contemplation, to a sacred meaning for us, both personally and collectively. This icon illuminates the fact that through our humanity and material reality we encounter God. God in Jesus is afraid of the cruelty and suffering life presents and, as the loose sandal suggests, he runs to the arms of his mother for comfort.

Every human being has a mother. Mary, the mother of Jesus grounds us in the unfathomable notion that we can see God as human. To be human is to feel pain and fear as well as pleasure and comfort. No one can escape suffering in life, yet we can endure so much when enfolded in the arms of someone who loves us. Symbolically, a mother embodies love—creative, selfless, nurturing, unconditional. The life of her son, Jesus, demonstrates that God is love.

  The figures of mother and child in this icon visually suggest a profound bond. They meld into one entity. They are surrounded by horror.

  Oftentimes we may imagine that as people of faith we are to be protected from life’s problems. Pandemic news has been full of stories of churches of various traditions that defy public health policies because they think God will keep them safe. Not surprisingly, time after time these same gatherings have led to viral spread. Where is God? The icon tells us unequivocally: no matter what suffering surrounds us, God is with us. But it is up to us to open our hearts, to recognize love around us and to be its purveyors. In this icon, Christ looks to the signs of His cruel death.

  God’s mother looks at us while clasping her child to her heart. What do we see? Am I the child finding solace in her embrace? Do I turn to the Love of God for my strength and peace? Or am I the threat that drives away goodness? Do I have the consoling arms of a mother? Perhaps in contemplating our Mother of Perpetual Help, I can strive with greater intention to look to her for help so that I too can be an icon of divine help.

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Canada day/All saints’ day

  During the 2nd World War, my mother was a teenager, taken from her village and forced to work in German factories. As with so many of our people, as a “displaced person”, she would never see her parents, or her home, again. Despite the horrors of war and the subsequent experience of prejudice and marginalization during the post war years in Canada, my mother never wavered in her belief that Canada was among the best countries in the world. Her life here was far from easy, yet although she died nearly 30 years ago, her thoughts ring true for me today. Why? Much is wrong. Canada’s systemic destruction of indigenous populations is unfathomable and a betrayal of humanity. The difference, however, between here and so many other places, I imagine my mother would say, is that we can name the wrongs without fear. We can elect leaders who will admit to offenses and injustices and take action to improve and prevent more injury.

  Prejudice against others who are identified as “different” from those in power is easily normalized. Once it’s normal, we may not even recognize that we treat someone in a biased way. For example, when Ukrainians first settled in Canada, the majority of Canadians were British (WASP). Ukrainians were considered backward, uncivilized, and called “garlic eaters” and honkies. Now, when garlic is a standard ingredient and speaking various languages is valued here, Ukrainians are part of the mainstream—no longer “different”—therefore no longer targeted with insults.

  July 1st is Canada Day. Both COVID and recognition of widespread Indigenous suffering is presenting an opportunity to reflect on our role in the spirit of Canada. Do I treat “others” (homeless, racialized groups, various genders or faiths) with dignity and respect? Do I listen to Indigenous voices and try to understand Canadian history?

  Each of us participates in making Canada a better place when we try to treat each other well, when we care about the natural environment, and when we elect leaders who show they care more for the collective wellbeing of all people, than for a balanced budget.

  We have the Gospels to guide us in questioning the status quo and caring for the vulnerable. The Church’s participation in residential schools in this country demonstrates how positions of strength and power can obscure Christ’s ever-present message of love and compassion for all people, regardless of their culture or religion. With Residential Schools, the Church embraced cultural norms, rather than Gospel teaching.

  On this Sunday of all saints, our faith tradition reminds us that we are all called to sainthood: not perfection or miracle work, but the understanding that Christ is in us and around us. As saints, we bring divine love to life here and now, in each act of kindness, compassion, and generous joy.

Here is an article about research looking at Indigenous and Ukrainian settlement on the prairies: Ukrainians have forgotten their shared history with the Indigenous victims of residential schools. We found this article helpful to understand why so many of us have just learned about the residential schools.

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“That they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”

This is the first Sunday after the Easter season; instead of greeting one another with the extraordinary exclamation that “Christ is Risen!” we now remain gratefully in wonder: “Glory to Jesus Christ”. 

  What news we’ve had this Ascension week. Canada as a nation finally seems to be awake to the horrors of the Residential School System after the unearthing of 215 children’s graves. Still reeling from the acknowledgment of such recent history, we recoil from the current reality of the London family out for a Sunday stroll, murdered for being Muslim. The Delta strain of COVID, the most contagious and deadly variant so far, has arrived in KW. The gypsy moth infestation threatens the health of our trees and forests.

These are simply a few headlines; no need to touch on other world news to see that there is trouble in the world. How can we feel Paschal joy? What difference does it make to be Christian? Every week our liturgical readings speak to us of these same issues of trouble in the world—and the response needed from us. In short, our Gospel readings grapple with the ever-present dilemma of good and evil in the world.

  In the life of Christ, as written by the evangelists and seen through the letters of Paul, we are given a clear foundational message. We have Christ’s example for living and Paul’s application of Christ’s standard to communities of followers. You know it; I know it. The difficulty lies in applying it to our daily lives in our specific contexts. What is “it”?

God is Love. We are to love one another, treat others as we would want to be treated. God is compared to a loving Father, as in the example of the Prodigal Son. We are all children, no favourites. We are all interconnected. In today’s reading, John describes the relationship of Jesus and the Father as one. Christ prays that we—his followers—”may be one” as God and Christ are one. The prayer concludes saying “1that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”

   Ultimately there is joy in Christ, in God, in Love. Yet, we know that Christ’s demonstration of life lived in God’s love led to his torture and death. Somehow, despite our churches, our histories, and our identification as Christians, we blame God for the world’s trouble, like those who encountered the man born blind (see last week’s bulletin.) It is easier to blame God than to recognize human failings.  We prefer an image of God as a vengeful, strict, dictator, demanding sacrifice and doling out punishment, rather than seeing not only that we have free will, but also that choosing to turn away from Divine Love has consequences for individuals and communities and environments

  Paul begs the Ephesians to be “on guard”, because inevitably some will “arise and distort the truth.” Some will speak as Christians for their personal ends. Christ exemplified a radical inclusion, mercy, and empathy, that shattered taboos and undermined popular authority. We are indeed Church only when we strive to be moved by the Spirit in respectful dynamic relationship with others. As we celebrate Pentecost 2021, let’s consider how we can proceed to create a post covid reality where we might demonstrate, as did Paul that “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Through the incarnation, we know God as a human being, and through the Holy Spirit we strive to meet God in our world.

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This divine light shines through us!

The gospel of John was written decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Because readers would have known the content of the earlier writings, John’s writing focusses on the meaning of Christ that has become clearer to him in retrospect. The gospel of John strives to convey that the man Jesus, with whom the disciples ate, travelled, and lived, was, in fact, God incarnate. Consequently, the stories in John are replete with symbol and metaphor.

  This Sunday’s account of the man born blind has John’s typical complexity. While the practice of blindness as a figure of speech has been problematic for individuals with impaired sight, John makes full use of it as a metaphor for being “in the dark.”

Significantly, the man and the miracle are deeply symbolic of all of us.

Christ encounters a man begging, born blind. Immediately the apostles presume the old reasoning that this fellow suffers because of a divine punishment for something he, or his parents, have done wrong. Christ simply dismisses that theory. Christ’s life persistently rejects the notion of God as a vindictive ruler, demonstrating God as Love, yet his disciples themselves are, as it were, still blind. So too, the Pharisees refuse to see Christ, clinging to their power by accusing Him of wrongdoing. In effect, people generally, we included, fail to see the Light of Christ, even though He is with us.

  But what about the blind character? Unequivocally, we hear that the darkness of suffering or disabling illness is not from God; it is not punishment. We end up in darkness of many kinds for many reasons, but God is not to blame. We blame one another, ready to condemn and denigrate. John’s story points out that Christ is the light in the world. This light helps us endure the suffering of life, and this divine light shines through us when we embrace it, uniting us, allowing us to see each other as sisters and brothers, rather than “sinners”. Imagine if we, all people, saw each other and the world through the eyes of Christ. What might we see? How would we treat each other? How would we treat our natural environment?

  Christ’s teaching was revolutionary to old ways of seeing God, others, and creation. Think of mud and spit. This is what we (metaphorically) sling at each other in derision and hate. In this story Christ reverses this process, taking these fundamental elements of the earth (mud) and humans (saliva) and manifesting them as healing. The blind man is able to wash away the dirt to see the light: the truth of Christ. Can we?

  Every moment of our life we make unconscious choices to be in light or darkness. This reading asks us to open our eyes, as it were, to consciously recognise our choices and help each other to see and in fact to be our world transfigured through God’s love.