Ephrem the Syrian takes us to the importance of the Incarnation. God had seemed remote and far from us – to be worshipped and feared, but far above us and not to be touched. The Incarnation changed that. God was literally with us, and as St John said, they beheld him with their eyes and they touched him. But he was God as well as man. So here we see that just by his touch he can heal the mute. Are we not too often mute as well as deaf? We do not hear the word and we do not praise Him. In the beginning He had breathed over the world and given it life, and his touch had given Adam speech; these things are recapitulated here so that we might hear – and see and praise.
St Ambrose draws a parallel with the sabbath, in which we witness the opening up of a mystery. The homilist should touch our ears and open them, and then our mouths should show forth his praise. Ephphathat – ‘be opened’ – is the message of the Christ to all who hear him – and we, too, should be opened to his grace and the salvation it brings. The man could not speak, but the Word is life and gives life, and his word is life – and here the man who was mute is given new life. We see, in all of this, the model of our discipleship. We receive the Word and he frees us from the dumbness of being unable to speak the words of God; now our tongues, too, are loosened, and we should not be slow or hesitant in his praise. It is for this Word that we hunger, and it is to us life.
Again, our Patristic sources do not offer great riches, but they get to the essential point. For those wanting an excellent homily on this theme, Fr James Bradley’s Thine own service has a superb one, which I recommend highly.