St. Seraphim, in explaining the goal of the Christian life described the creation of man and the condition of Adam and Eve before the fall. He said: “Adam was not created dead, but an active living being like all the other animate creatures of God living on earth. … If the Lord God had not breathed afterwards into his face this breath of life (that is, the grace of our Lord God the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son and is sent into the word for the Son’s sake) Adam would have remained without having within him the Holy Spirit, Who raises him to Godlike dignity. However perfect he had been created, and superior to all the other creatures of God as the crown of creation on earth, he would have been just like all the other creatures which, though they have a body, soul and spirit each according to its kind, yet have not the Holy Spirit within them. But when the Lord God breathed into Adam’s face the breath of life, then according to Moses’ word, Adam became a living soul, that is completely and in every way like God and like Him, forever immortal. Adam was immune to the action of the elements to such a degree that water could not drown him, fire could not burn him, the earth could not swallow him in its abysses, and the air could not harm him by any kind of action whatever. Everything was subject to him as the beloved of God, as the king and lord of creation; and everything looked up to him, as the perfect crown of God’s creatures. Adam was made so wise by this breath of life which was breathed into his face from the creative lips of God, the Creator and Ruler of all, that there never has been a man on earth wiser or more intelligent than he, and it is hardly likely that there ever will be. When the Lord commanded him to give names to all the creatures, he gave every creature a name which completely expressed all the qualities, powers and properties given it by God at its creation.
“Owing to this very gift of the supernatural grace of God which was infused into him by the breath of life, Adam could see and understand the Lord walking in paradise and comprehend His words, and the conversation of the holy angels, and the language of all the beasts, birds and reptiles and all that which is now hidden from us fallen and sinful creatures, but was so clear to Adam before his fall. To Eve also the Lord God gave the same wisdom, strength and unlimited power, and all the other good and holy qualities. …
“But when through the tasting of the tree of knowledge of good and evil – which was premature and contrary to the commandment of God – they learned the difference between good and evil and were subjected to all the affliction which followed the transgression of the commandment of God, then they lost the priceless gift of the grace of the spirit of God.”
Having lost this gift of grace, Adam and Eve became spiritually blind and deaf and dumb. They lost the ability to see God, to hear His words, and even to speak to Him. It is this very loss that we see clearly manifested in the Gospel today. Our Lord healed two blind men who came to him and later a dumb man was delivered from his inability to speak. These miracles were presented as physical and material lessons about the spiritual state of us all. We are blind and deaf – we perceive God only with great difficulty and only indirectly and even then our perception is imperfect. We do not, as the scripture tells us, know how to pray as we ought, that is we have forgotten even how to talk with God and so we are mute and dumb.
These blind and dumb men were healed by our Lord Jesus Christ and in the same way He heals us of our blindness and our inability to speak. How is it that He restores us to these vital spiritual faculties? He restores to us the great gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit. He gives us the sacrament of Holy Baptism by which we are born anew and in the sacrament of Chrismation we are endowed with the “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We are given again the gift of grace, just as it was given to Adam at his creation.
St Seraphim goes on in his conversation to point out that the goal of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit – that is we center our lives around acquiring and using this gift of grace so that by it we are regenerated and renewed and again brought into conformity with His image and likeness – just as Adam was before the fall. This is then our healing, our restoration, the restoration of our purpose – to live in union and communion with God. As we are filled more and more with the Holy Spirit and as His grace becomes more and more active in us, we begin to see the restoration of the qualities that Adam had before the fall.
We perceive God, no longer indirectly, but rather we experience His presence with us directly. We speak not from theory or conjecture about Who God is and how He relates to us, but rather we speak from our own experience. Our eyes and ears are opened and we are no longer blind but now we see.
In the same manner our mouth is opened and we are able to speak to God in prayer. The prayer of the psalmist when he says, “Open Thou my lips, and my mouth will show forth thy praise” is fulfilled and we see it happening in our own lives. We pray and speak directly to God. His Holy Spirit in us teaches us to pray, both by the direct action and inspiration in our hearts but also through the life of the Church, the body of Christ, by which He acts in this world. We open our mouths and He fills it with His praise. We glorify God and exalt Him. We offer to him our prayers of repentance and our cry for mercy. We tell Him of our joys and our sorrows, the blessings of our life and the difficulties and suffering that we face. For the joys we offer thanks and for the struggles we beg for His mercy and intervention. We are no longer dumb but we speak directly to God and He hears us and comes to us and covers us with His boundless compassion and love.
In the lives of the saints we can see that as this grace continues to grow and become active in the lives of men some of the abilities bestowed upon Adam by the grace of God are also renewed in the lives of these holy men and women. There are those who were befriended by the animals, just as they flocked around Adam. There are those who see and hear the angels as they too praise and glorify God. There are those who are protected from the necessities of creation, needing no food nor sleep and who walk upon the water and are not burned by fire. This is nothing new or remarkable, rather it is the natural result of the action of grace on the body and the soul of the fallen man, restoring to him the glory that was once given to him by God before the fall.
Let us therefore brothers and sisters exercise our faith and follow the direction of St Seraphim that we might spend our lives no longer in useless pursuits, but now pursue only the acquisition of the Holy Spirit and the active working of His grace in our lives. Our Lord Jesus Christ heals us, releasing us from the bonds of sin – from the spiritual paralysis, the blindness, the deafness, the dumbness that sin imposes on us. Our Lord reminds us, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” Seek to acquire the Holy Spirit, seek the working of grace in your life. Order your life no longer according to the things of this world, but always remember that everything you experience, all that you do and say, can become a means by which you acquire the Holy Spirit and a vehicle for the grace of God in you. Our Lord Jesus Christ has come to heal us from the disease of sin and he bestows upon us the grace of His Holy Spirit. It is our task to use what He has given us that we might be transformed into His image and His likeness.