Currently, 18 Jul 2012, we are in Week 8 of the Year of Grace, an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. In the official prayer for this Year of Grace is an intriguing line, ‘Gracious God …. You invite us to contemplate the face of Jesus Christ Your Son, that we may experience a new wave of Grace, and that the light of Christ may burn more brightly in our lives.’ Each time we get to know someone better, we come to love them more, and this is especially so of our Saviour. Contemplating the Face of Christ helps us to get to know Him better.
Over the past 8 weeks the good Lord has given me opportunities to contemplate His Face in the Gospel of St Mark, in the pictures of Jesus that Christian artists produce, in the lives of the Saints, in the Rosary and in those who suffer.
In our parish study group, www.ofgraceandfaith.blogspot.com , we have been going through the Gospel of St Mark, chapter by chapter. It’s been surprisingly exciting pondering the life of Jesus in this way. I don’t think I’ve noticed before just how often the Gospel writer shows us various emotions flitting across the Face of Jesus.; He can be grieved Mark 3:5, He can be amazed Mark 6:6, He can rebuke Mark 8:33, He can sigh deeply Mark 8:12, He seeks for those who touch Him Mark 5:31-32. When he doesn’t mention emotions directly, he gives is enough information to be able to work it out; His expression while feeding the crowd, the majesty with which He sent out His disciples, the smile that must have played about His lips when the Syrophoenician woman gave Him the perfect answer Mark 7:28.
Since I’m one of those whose imaginations doesn’t work in colour and is usually very light on detail, it has been a joy to see our artist’s depictions of Jesus each week because they help me enter into the Gospel in a whole new way. For instance, this week, I’ve never really focussed on the apostles only having on loaf of bread between them on the boat, Mark 8:14, but our artist has made it real for me. Earlier there has been the sternness on the Face of Jesus as He rids the demoniac of the legion of evil spirits, Mark 5:13, His prayerful entreaty to the Father for the leper, Mark 1:40-42, the expectancy of Jesus as the paralytic is lowered down on the stretcher, Mark 2:3-4, and the mild distress and bewilderment when after the vast crowds hanging on every word Jesus can’t make His home town take Him seriously Mark 6:30-6. As never before I am gaining an appreciation for the role of Christian art in helping us to know Jesus better, so as to love Him more.
As part of the study group one of the happy challenges has been to find Saints who have lived out a part of the Gospel story in an identifiable way. Until you actually go looking we live our lives unaware of how many Saints have raised the dead, cured the blind, exorcised demons, multiplied food, healed the deaf and even walked on water, let alone all of those Saints who have preached to large crowds and who have sought lonely places to be with God. Their lives remind us that Jesus meant what He said when He gave power to His companions to preach, to heal and to cast out devils. Mark 3:14-15, Mark 6:12-13. More than that, their lives remind us that Jesus can do those things again, in our time, and with us and those we know. ‘God can do it again’ and we should be expecting Him to. The Saints show us Jesus in their lives and in their actions.
Following a set of ‘not as inspiring as usual’ Rosary meditations for the last First Saturday prayers, the thought came that I should write a new set based on Mary looking at Jesus through each of the Mysteries. The window of time hasn’t yet opened up for that idea to come to fruition, but it will, and when it does you’ll find them at the study group site mentioned above. However, the preliminary ponderings have been really interesting, because for some reason when we pray the Rosary we tend to look at the whole tableau and not directly at the Face of Jesus. Images of the developing Jesus inside Mary’s womb serenely making a connection with Elizabeth and John the Baptist have never flitted inside by head before. Ditto with the face of Jesus happily suckling at Mary’s breast, and the spasms of pain contorting His Face when the crown of thorns begins its tortures. Why is that? All I know is that it is worthwhile pursuing because I am getting to know Jesus in a whole new way.
The last way of contemplating the Face of Christ is in those who suffer. Sometimes this happens up close, face to face, when we see the struggle with physical or emotional pain first-hand. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call from a friend going through an extremely challenging time. When ever anyone is hurting, for whatever reason, they give us a glimpse of Jesus during His Passion; and this is usually the only way that we truly come to appreciate what He has done in suffering to redeem us when we see eyes full of pain, venerable people moving slowly and painfully down the communion procession to receive Jesus in Holy Communion and those struggling for breath despite oxygen machines.
It is more than worthwhile seeking the Face of Christ, so why not try at least one of these ways for yourself?
An article by Mother Adela, of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which was written not long after the Jubille Year of 2000, is well worth reading if you would like to pursue Contemplating the Face of Christ further.
6 Oct 2012 : All good things come to those who wait. Just in time for what would normally be the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – 7 Oct – (if it didn’t fall on a Sunday this year), the four sets of Rosary meditations have been completed. The links to the four blog-posts are given below, and a PDF version of all four is available at the Resources page. While the blog-posts contain pictures, the PDF doesn’t.