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Contemplating the Face of Christ

St Marys Axedale Altar tabernacle Stained glass 4 350pxFor a short while after being born, a baby remains quite wakeful.  The little one is laid in her mother’s arms and her wide, wondering eyes meet  for the first time her mother’s gaze. It’s a mutual bonding, and the beginning of a lifelong love.  

The new father will hold his child, gaze at the tiny face, and know deep inside himself that he would give up his life to protect this little one.  Both parents will count hours well lost looking into their baby’s face to win a smile. When she grows a little older, she will run, and climb, and dance and call, “Look at me, Mummy! Daddy, look at me!” For their blessing is what she needs to grow in grace and confidence, to become whom she is meant to be.

Love begins so simply – we look into the beloved’s face, and they look at us.  We love to spend time with the people we love, and nothing substitutes for being ‘face to face’.  

We long for the familiar faces of home when we are far away.  We look forward to seeing each other after time apart.  We can’t wait to share the news, and ‘see the look’ on someone’s face.  

We smile as we look at the faces in our photo album, and we buy special frames for the special photos – weddings, graduations, christenings, displaying them proudly.

We remember times when we shared  great moments in life with those who love us; how wonderful to see in their faces their pride and delight in our achievement!  

Other times we recall when it was so difficult to ‘look them in the eye’ – times when we have got things wrong;  times when we needed to say sorry.  

Sometimes it can be very hard to look, because of the pain or grief in a loved face – yet harder still not to look, to turn away.

And there were times when we remember only the expression of compassion, of kindness, or forgiveness, of sorrow shared. Times when we learnt the truth from another’s face.

Moses and God were good friends. They’d spend a lot of time in conversation over the years in the wilderness, and come to know each other very well. Then one time, Moses asked to see God in His glory. He longed for the intimacy that seeing someone’s face creates.  

God explained to him that, “You cannot see my face, for man cannot see Me and live.” Instead, God hid Moses in a cleft in the rocks, and shielded him with His hand as he passed by. It was the gesture of a friend, kind and caring. But  although Moses knew God’s glory, he did not see God.(Exodus 33:20-23).

Like Moses, we long to see him, and we seek his face. However when God came as Jesus into our world and our lives, he became one with us; living, eating, drinking, sleeping,  laughing and crying as we do. So we can see his face in the faces of those we meet. In Jesus, God shares our lives, and becomes our daily bread.

There is a  lovely story in the Gospel of John describing how the disciples met Jesus. They followed him, and when he turned to ask them what they wanted, they asked “Where do you live, Teacher?” asked the disciples. “Come and see,” Jesus replied.  So they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of the day (John 1:39).

What did they do in that time?  What we do, when we are with people we love to be with.  They shared food, told stories, asked questions and answered them, listened and laughed as friends do. It was easy to be friends with Jesus, and they brought others to meet him, to learn about this wonderful Kingdom of God he preached.

There are many ways in which people have tried to depict the face of Christ, and the variety allows many ways for us to respond. At different times, different aspects of his life will draw our gaze, just as they have drawn the eye of the artist.  No one picture will ever be the last word, and yet each shows us something we recognise of the Jesus who calls us into friendship.  Like our photo album, these images become an invitation to remember.

As we contemplate the face of Christ, wherever it is we find it, we allow our gaze to meet his. We allow his gaze to rest on us. We see the face of God and live, assured that “If you make my word your home, you will learn the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 7:31-32).
Spending time with Jesus, looking at him, talking with him in prayer, sharing a meal with him, asking questions and opening to answers,  is to live  more and more in God’s light, and God’s Kingdom.  It is to come home.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.   (Numbers 6;24-26)

by Margaret Mary Flynn
Sandhurst Diocese Year of Grace Co-ordinator

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