I stood in the grocery line and wondered why the cashier was ignoring the customer…
“If looks could kill…”
We can all remember moments when another’s look did violence to our hearts: looks of contempt, disgust, indignation; looks of lust or objectification; and perhaps worst of all… to be looked at knowing you are not really being seen at all.
Nobody who looks at me (including myself) sees me clearly; sees me truly as I am. Everyone – even those who love me and have only good intentions – looks at me through a lens tinted, however slightly, with self-focus or self-interest. That is an effect of life in our fallen world.
Jesus is the only One who sees me clearly. His gaze is perfect as is everything else about Him. The way He looks at me is perfect, pure and healing. It is also true to say that what He sees – who He sees – when He looks at me is the “real me.”
I was astounded the first time I read the scripture verse below with the realization that this is how Jesus sees me:
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.”
– The Song of Songs 4:7
I thought I had to be flawless, unbroken, unblemished, before Jesus would genuinely look at ME and say these words! But that is not Truth. It is a deception of the Deceiver that keeps me striving to do what I could never do on my own, namely: become flawless and unbroken. I need my Savior to save me from my flaws and brokenness! He came for me knowing full well how imperfect I am (ref Romans 5:8-9). And in His amazing, gentle way, He begins His saving work by inviting me to simply be with Him. To sit with Him, still and calm, and let Him look at me.
“If we want to see Jesus, we must first let Him look at us.” – St John Paul II
One of my favorite books is “The Cantata of Love, a Verse by Verse Reading of The Song of Songs” by Father Blaise Arminjon. Father Arminjon takes 357 pages to unpack the beautiful poetic duet between the Bride (each human soul) and the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ). In verse 1:5 of The Song of Songs, the Bride tells her maiden companions, “I am black but lovely, daughters of Jerusalem.” Father Arminjon draws on the teachings of St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Augustine (among many others) to explain that the “blackness” of the Bride (and you and me) is “the effect of pain that dries up, pinches and darkens her face. The beloved is black, which is the color of the night, the color of trial, the color of her exile.”
But the second half of that verse proclaims such an important Truth: “but lovely…” No amount of pain, sin, trial, or suffering impacts our loveliness or original beauty.
“Yes, marred as I am, if I am willing to expose my face to the eyes of the Bridegroom [Jesus], His look does change me. The Bridegroom necessarily transforms what He sees.” – Father Blaise Arminjon, The Cantata of Love.
“What brings about the return of beauty is to go back to the True Beauty from which one had gone away.” – St. Gregory of Nyssa
What does it look like, in practical terms, to sit in the gaze of Christ?
The first way is to sit literally in His gaze through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Venerable Fulton Sheen tells us that we are transformed by what we gaze upon. For example, when we sit looking at the sun, our faces become golden from its light. The same is true when we gaze upon the Son of God in the Blessed Sacrament. When we sit before Jesus, gazing upon Him as He is gazing upon us, we begin to radiate with His Light. St. Gregory of Nyssa puts these words in the mouth of the Bridegroom, “You became beautiful as soon as you approached My Light, drawing to yourself through this very approach a share in My Beauty.”
A second way we can sit and let Jesus look at us is through the use of icons of His Holy Face and other Sacred Art. Is there an image of Jesus you feel drawn to or particularly love? One of my favorites, pictured below, is called, “Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ II” by Artediseño piezas maestras. Sometimes my entire prayer is just, “Here I am Lord, love me,” as I sit and contemplate His eyes, His heart, His will for me.
Perhaps the simplest way yet is to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and envision His Sacred Face in your mind’s eye. What do you see as you look into His eyes? How do you feel as you sit face to face with our Jesus?
Jesus, I desire to see myself through Your eyes of Love. Please remove all lies and distortions that veil my vision of myself. May I see Your Truth in my own eyes and a reflection of my image in Your eyes. Your gaze is pure Love, the look that reveals my true beauty. I uncover my face and my heart and open my eyes before You. Come Lord and see me as I am, for I believe Your looking upon me will heal and restore me. Amen.
Image: “Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ II” by Artediseño piezas maestras
Copyright 2021, De Yarrison and Laura Ercolino