TO GAZE INTO HIS FACE
READ: II Corinthians 4:5,6
“It is not we ourselves who are proclaiming the Good News but Jesus Christ as the Lord, and our own selves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. It is God who declares, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone into our hearts to enlighten them with the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ.” – II Corinthians 4:5,6
“… the glory on the face of Christ …” In the library of Greyfriars’ Abbey is a collection of portraits of Christ, portraits created by many different artists from many different cultures from many different periods in history. They all are quite distinctive from each other and each is distinctive from all the others; yet, in some mysterious way, they all capture the same essence. Possibly … all these artists were able to convey that “glory” in the face of Christ of which Paul speaks. Ironically, Paul never looked into the face of Christ, at least, not in the physical sense. But still, Paul speaks of seeing the “glory on the face of Christ.”
One of those library portraits of Christ, a contemporary rendition, I find most unusual and intriguing. The artist has etched Christ’s face into mirrored glass, life-size, eye level. When you look at the portrait of Christ, you see your own face within the face of Christ. Some days I find that double image quite troubling, I feel so inadequate in comparison to Christ’s glory… yet, on other days, I find that double image quite inspiring, so wanting to be a reflection of Christ’s glory, at least in some humble measure.
I recall a question offered by my elder son many years ago when he was maybe the age of five. I was readying for a Maundy Thursday tableaux of the Last Supper. That night I was preparing to play the part of Christ. With my sandals, my robe, my long hair and beard, all fitted and donned, I looked over to my son and asked, “Shawn, how do I look?” He asked, “Who are you suppose to be?” I answered, “Jesus, of course. I am playing the part of Jesus.” He thought for a moment and then answered, “Dad, you sorta look like Jesus. But who is playing the part of the Pastor, who’s playing you tonight?”
I can still remember how vivid was the thought I had at that moment …“Good question! If I am playing the part of Jesus, then who is playing the part of me? If Jesus were playing the part of me, the Pastor, how would He play the part?” And through the years, I asked versions of that same question ...”If Jesus were playing the part of me, the father … or the husband … or the neighbor …, how would Jesus play the part?”
I am afraid that when I portray Christ in my living, there is probably too much of me. But if I were to allow Jesus to portray the part of me, how would I look, how would I sound, what would I say, what would I do, how of Christ would be in me?
Over at the Sisters of Mercy convent, in a prayer garden near their chapel, there is a statue of a most pensive and gentle Christ. When I have occasion to visit, I always take a few minutes to sit before that statue for a time of contemplation. I find I keep gazing into the face of that beautifully sculpted Christ. I suppose there is something of the sculptor in that marble face of Christ. And when I look upon that face, I suppose there is something of me in my beholding that marble face of Christ. Though neither the sculptor or I have seen first hand the face of Christ, we sense that somehow we have can beheld the face of Christ … yes, somehow we have beheld the glory in the face of Christ.
Occasionally, during my daily practice of quiet contemplation, I will gaze for that half-hour into a portrait of Christ – I try to find a different portrait for each time. I gaze deeply into that rendition of the face of Christ. I look into His eyes; I behold His expression; I even try to imagine His voice. I find this spiritual exercise to be a most enriching and deepening experience. And often I think … how seldom we as Christians, in all our busyness, actually take the time to meet Christ, face to face.
Brother Anthony of the Cross