by Rodney Marsh
“But if you do that, we won’t be able to see your beautiful face.” That’s what I nearly said when advising a group meditation member to switch off their video in Zoom to avoid the connection ‘falling out’. I didn’t say it, but I thought it. I know why I thought it too. I missed the connection with God that came through seeing an image of this person. It is true. Every human face bears the divine image and is therefore beautiful in their own unique way. A deeper connection is missing when we cannot see their face. Our Zoom meditation group meets for thirty minutes once a week. Twenty-five minutes of that time is spent in silence. Yet a connection, (communion is the Biblical word for it) has been built between us – a connection of trust and respect. How? Not by verbal communication but by simply ‘being’ together in silence. Our communion is more deeply shared by video because we can see each person’s unique, beautiful, made-in God’s-image face. For over a hundred years we have been able to ‘ring’ family and now, during the Corona virus lockdown, we are thankful to be able to see digital images the faces of the people we love and who love us. What a wonderful gift. But as with all gifts, a gift that can be misused (or not used).
So, a warning: an icon (or digital image of a person) can be a vehicle, but it is not the person. Whether the person you see over Zoom or in real life is Christ to you depends on your view. So, when Jesus said:
Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! (Matt 6:22,23 MSG),
he placed the emphasis on our quality of looking. The gift to learn to look and see the beauty of another person’s humanity (God’s beauty) is given to us as part of our humanity but to see Christ in another we need the gaze of Jesus. A gaze that is the perfect sister/to the kindness that dwells/in his beautiful hands and to see others with eyes of Jesus we need to be seen by Jesus: The eyes of Jesus gaze on us/stirring the heat’s clay (from John O’Donahue’s poem “The Eyes of Jesus” in To Bless the Space between Us”). And, in my experience, the quality of seeing with the eyes of Christ is developed by being with God in silent prayer. Christian meditation has been, for me, a way of being in which, gradually, as I am seen, I begin to see. When discussing human change, Thomas Merton advises, “Get to the root: union with God…. drop everything and hide in yourself to find Him in the silence where he is hidden within you, and listen to what He has to say” (Journals, II 64,65) and John Main says, “Simply to be with God is to be drawn into being the person God calls us to be.” As we become the person God calls us to be se begin to see others as God has called them to be.
For example, consider these faces (images) and, before you read on, consider how you respond to these faces. Are they attractive/repellant to you? Why?
You may note that these images are all of white people with perfect teeth and hair and fine proportions, but, in Jesus gaze, they are not beautiful. In fact, God does not love the people you can see here and they cannot love him. Why? Because they are not human. God did not make them. They are not in his image. These faces are created by facial recognition software at https://thispersondoesnotexist.com/. On the site you can refresh the page to generate an infinity of new non-persons. If you wish, you can also feed the jealousy, anger, sexual desire, fear or pride with which we all sometimes approach other real human neighbours. Neither can they love you into being who God is calling you to be. That requires a real, beautiful person, like you. To dispassionate AI these faces are numbers in a different forms and so other humans become to us without the eyes of Christ.
No matter how AI views you, or other people see you, you have a beautiful face in Jesus’ eyes. Sit in silence, in God’s presence and allow Jesus to sit with you and then the eyes with which you are viewed will become the eyes which see your own beautiful face and your eyes will see and welcome Christ in others because you will be given the eyes of Jesus to see their beauty.
Thought: To be in Christ means to see all creation (including people) with new eyes…. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were or could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream… it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” Thomas Merton, Journals, March 19, 1958, III.181–83.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see those I meet today through the eyes of Jesus. Amen.
Lovely meditation! However, just before the quote you wrote, “So, when Jesus said…” The quote is not from Jesus, at least from my reading of the gospels.
Mary this is Matt 6:22,23 in The Message translation
Thanks Mary Jane. The ESV version of Mtt 6:22,23 is fairly literal: 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”. It preserves the original ambiguity of Jesus’ words. “The eyes are the window of the soul” can mean that a person’s true self is manifest in their eyes or it could mean that how you see the world is conditioned by the eyes of your soul, or in, Jesus usual way, he could have been deliberately ambiguous and mean both! I chose the Message translation because Eugene Peterson opts for the metaphorical meaning that I speaking about.