Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Face of Christ

Tibi dixit cor meum, quaesivi vultum tuum, vultum tuum Domine requiram:  ne avertas faciem tuam a me. 
To you my heart has spoken, I have sought you face, your face, O Lord I seek, do not turn away your face from me. Ps 26:8-9 (from the Intoit of 2nd Sun. of Lent)

Today the Church bids us contemplate the Face of Christ, radiant with the Father’s glory.  We are not alone.  Moses, who during his earthly life begged to see the face of God and was granted only a glimpse of His back, gazes now with us on the human face of the Incarnate Word.  Elijah, that fiery prophet who recognized the voice of God in a small whispering sound, looks upon the beloved Son and hears the Father proclaim Him as such.  Peter, James and John, who like us have scaled the mountain of prayer to be with Jesus, awaken from their sleep to behold His divine light.  Yes, indeed, this is a mountaintop experience!

But not every mountaintop is like Mt. Thabor.  It will not be long before the three privileged Apostles will awaken from a very different kind of sleep to see the face of Jesus bedewed with a bloody sweat, illuminated first by the glow of the Paschal moon and then by the torches of approaching soldiers on the Mount of Olives.  John will be the only one to witness that beloved face disfigured by thorn, lash and spittle, in the fading light of the eclipsed noonday sun on Mt. Calvary.


Contemplatives learn quickly that Mt. Thabor moments are fleeting spiritual joys meant to strengthen us on the journey to Jerusalem where the Paschal Mystery is to be accomplished.  We might be tempted to try to prolong the moment like Peter who suggested to Jesus they camp out with Moses and Elijah.  But soon we must move on, cherishing the memory, so that when we inevitably climb to the dark heights of sorrow and pain, we will remember and hope for the glory that will never end.  As St. Clare assures us, “If we suffer with Him [Jesus] we will reign with Him”.

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