They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. -Mark 10:46-52
Crying out. Throwing off the cloak. Entering the way.
Week by week the Marken Gospel stories have been leading us into deeper dedication. The story AFTER Bartimaeus is Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. If, after throwing off his cloak he follows Jesus “on the way,” Bartimaeus walks immediately from his blindness into the Passion.
Had he not cried out and persisted, he might have stayed a beggar in Jericho (Meditation One).
And what about that cloak? Is the son of Timaeus throwing philosophy over for the way of Christ? (Meditation Two). And by engaging fully in the way, does he represent the TYPE of the newly baptised, clothed in white, witnessing to the resurrection at the empty tomb - with his own eyes? (Meditation Three)
Still clinging to my cloak, - Suzanne
Meditation One (Introit) Cry Out And It Shall Be Given
As Jesus went into Jericho town, Twas darkness all, from toe to crown, About blind Bartimeus. He said, "My eyes are more than dim, They are no use for seeing him: No matter—he can see us!"
"Cry out, cry out, blind brother—cry; Let not salvation dear go by.— Have mercy, Son of David." Though they were blind, they both could hear— They heard, and cried, and he drew near; And so the blind were saved.
O Jesus Christ, I am very blind; Nothing comes through into my mind; 'Tis well I am not dumb: Although I see thee not, nor hear, I cry because thou may'st be near: O son of Mary, come!
I hear it through the all things blind: Is it thy voice, so gentle and kind— "Poor eyes, no more be dim"? A hand is laid upon mine eyes; I hear, and hearken, see, and rise;— 'Tis He! I follow him!
- George Macdonald 1825-1905
Plato, copy of portrait bust by Silanion
The following quote is from Plato’s dialogue The Timaeus. In Mark’s Gospel, Bar-timaeus is the “son of Timaeus”. " Gordon Lathrop suggests that "Timaeus" may be a reference to Plato, and that Bartimaeus is throwing off the philosopher's cloak when he comes to Jesus. This passage about sight reflects a detached contemplation of the cosmos, a cosmology very different from one Bartimaeus will encounter as a follower of Jesus about to undergo his passion.
(Timaeus is speaking). The sight in my opinion is the source of the greatest benefit to us, for had we never seen the stars and the sun and the heaven, none of the words which we have spoken about the universe would ever have been uttered. But now the sight of day and night, and the months and the revolutions of the years have created number and have given us a conception of time, and the power of inquiring about the nature of the universe. … God invented and gave us sight to the end that we might behold the courses invented and gave us sight to the end that we might behold the courses of intelligence in the heaven, and apply them to the courses of our own intelligence, which are akin to them, the unperturbed to the perturbed, and that we, learning them and partaking of the natural truth of reason, might imitate the absolutely unerring courses of God and regulate our own vagaries.
– Plato (428/427 BCE – 348/347 BCE) The Timaeus
Three Women at the Tomb (and young man in white), Bassa, c.1346
Jesus said, Recognize what is in your sight and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest.
-Gospel of Thomas
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
The young man running away naked from the Garden of Gethsemane, Unknown Illustrator, Nuremberg, 1702
Bartimaeus, Gurdon Brewster, 1937-2017
The poem on the right was partly inspired by this beloved sculpture by mentor and friend, Gurdon Brewster. -sg
The Two Blind Men, detail, 6th Century Mosaic, Sant' Appollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
Meditation Two (Insight)
Following In The Way
But unlike the figure in the Timaeus, this blind beggar does not lament in vain. Throwing off his cloak (the "philosopher’s cloak? is it philosophy itself that is blind?) he comes to Jesus (). Calling Jesus "my teacher," he asks to see. And upon receiving his sight, he follows Jesus "in the way" (). What follows immediately in the book is the beginning of the Markan passion account, the enacting of Jesus' cup and the baptism of his death. The "way" that Bartimaeus follows is the way into this death, not the unperturbed and reasonable courses of the heavenly bodies. Participation in this way seems to invite us to a different sort of cosmology, a different view of the constitution of the universe and a correspondingly different estimate of the good life.
-Gordon W. Lathrop Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology p.32
Meditation Three (Integration)
The "Type" Of The Newly Baptized
One might assume that the figure of Bartimaeus then disappears from the Gospel. His name does not occur again. But given the crucial location of this figure in the structure of the Gospel, the open-ended report of his following on the way, and the narrative interest in both his clothing and his sight, it is not impossible to suggest that the evangelist sees this same figure recurring, first as the young man who is following Jesus (14:51; compare 10:52) and who runs off naked, then as the young man in the empty tomb, now dressed in a white robe, announcing where Jesus is to be seen (16:5,7). These latter two figures have been linked in recent exegesis of Mark, and the single "young man" has been seen as a type of the newly baptized, of those who are immersed in the death of Jesus in order to be clothed in his life and made witnesses of the resurrection….
Throwing off the cloak of philosophy or of begging, he has come to the teacher (-51) and entered into the way of the catechumen. That way involves more than ideas and reason. It leads to naked need and immersion in Jesus’ death (-52) Finally, this very same figure, now clothed in resurrection life, bears witness to a new use of sight: beholding Jesus "in Galilee" as he promised (16:5-7).
-Gordon W. Lathrop Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology p.32
The Last Word
The Spirit of the Lord comes touching you himself,
So there is born in you eternity’s own child.
-Angelus Silesius 1624-1677
A Meditation Excercise
In the first chapter of Gordon W. Lathrop’s Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology, he discusses the story of Bartimaeus, Son of Timaeus. Here is an interesting line of thought in which clothing plays a part:
First, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and follows Jesus “on the way” to the passion in Jerusalem. (Mark 10:46-52)
Second, A young man slips out of his garment and runs away naked as a soldier grabs at him in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Mark 14:51)
Third, A young man dressed in white (baptismal clothes?) witnesses to the resurrection of Christ at the sepulcher. (Mark16:5)
Lathrop writes, “These latter two figures have been linked in recent exegesis of Mark, and the single ‘young man’ has been seen as a type of the newly baptized, of those who are immersed in the death of Jesus in order to be clothed in his life and made witnesses of the resurrection.”
Here’s a suggestion for meditation this week. Imagine four scenarios:
First. What does your cloak represent? You call out to the Beloved. The Beloved responds with an invitation. You know instinctively to throw off your cloak and whatever your cloak represents.
Second. The Beloved is taken away. You are left, naked, vulnerable, in danger, in utter not-knowing.
Third. What does the white garment represent? And empty tomb? What are you doing there?
To bring the exercise to completion follow through to the inevitable next scene. Christian life truly begins after folding the white robe, putting it away and putting on your ordinary work clothes, (perhaps saving your baptismal gown for grave clothes as many Christians do, symbolic of birth into heaven).
Imagine putting on your work clothes - or, when you dress next, take the story of the cloak, the naked man in the garden, the white-robed man at the tomb, into your work day.
The Christian life matures through seasons of penance and purgation, of illumination and nights of the soul, of union and being sent out. Not only does the Christian evoke this life ritually in the liturgical year, but cultivates this movement in a transformative inner life.
-Have fun, Suzanne
Let your light so shine, O God, upon us, that, the darkness of our hearts, being wholly passed away, we may attain to the true Light, even Christ our Saviour.
Compline Antiphon on the Nunc dimittis, Trinity and Double Feasts in the season of Pentecost
detail, crucifixion, Van Eyck
In his book Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology, Gordon Lathrop cites the interest in linking Bartimaeus and his cloak, the young man running away naked from the Garden of Gethsemane and the man (or angel) dressed in white at the tomb of Jesus. (see meditation three) Throwing off the cloak of philosophy or of begging, he has come to the teacher (10:50-51) and entered into the way of the catechumen. That way involves more than ideas and reason. It leads to naked need and immersion in Jesus’ death (14:51-52) Finally, this very same figure, now clothed in resurrection life, bears witness to a new use of sight: beholding Jesus “in Galilee” as he promised (16:5-7). --Gordon W. Lathrop
I see him in slow-motion Leaping to his feet Then leaping again Blindly through The parting crowd His mantle soaring above them Like a sail That one thing necessary -warmth, shelter - Thrown to the wind For one dim risk.
I never liked the phrase “Leap of Faith.” (It's not quite what the Philosopher* meant, Nevertheless the Idea fixed itself in the Christian Mind).
Why not reason your way Gently to the other side? Or Build a bridge of solid, Logical beams? Or Ask some adept beyond to Weave a ladder of wisdom To toss across the chasm, And that way you could peer into The Abyss safely while you pass over? Or, if you are squeamish, take your Ponderous way around the rift?
Bartimaeus, not taking time to think, Leaps into the quickly passing moment.
And what of the abandoned garment? I want to know. Did some Thoughtful person take up the cloak And carry it for him along the way Knowing the once-blind man would Need it again in the dark days to come?
Or, did Bartimaeus let his mantle fall To the ground, leaving it for the next Beggar waiting along the roadside?