I have a large Icon of Christ in my room (see photo at right). What icons from the Eastern tradition do best is to capture “the Look.” No matter where I move in the room, Christ is looking right at me. His look is intense, though not severe. In the Eastern spirituality, Icons are windows into heaven. Hence, this icon is no mere portrait that reminds one of Christ, it is an image which mediates his presence. When I look upon him, I experience that he knows me. It is a knowing look and a comprehensive look.
The Book of Hebrews says of Jesus, No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. (Heb 4:13).
But his look in the Icon is not fearsome; it is serene and confident. Hence the text from Hebrews goes on to say, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Heb 4:14-16)
Particularly in Mark’s Gospel, there is great emphasis on the eyes and the look of Jesus. A frequent expression in that Gospel is “And looking at them He said….” Such a phrase or version like it occurs over 25 times in Mark’s Gospel referring to Jesus.
Looking on Christ and allowing him to look on you is a powerful moment of conversion. Jesus himself said, For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn 6:40) and the First Letter of John says, What we shall later be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2).
There is just something within us that seeks the face of God and desires that look of love that alone can heal and perfect us. I often think of this verse from Scripture when I am at Eucharistic Adoration: Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice. (Song 2:9). Yes, I long to see the Lord, and the Scripture also speaks of his longing to “see” us.
Here are some scriptures that remind us to seek the face of the Lord and to look to him:
- Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! (1 Chron 16:11)
- If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)
- You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Ps 27:8)
- Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. (Ps 105:4)
- I [the Lord] will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. (Hosea 5:15)
- Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)
- He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matt 5:8)
- Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. (1 Cor 13:12)
- For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor 4:6)
An old song says, We shall behold Him, Face to face in all of His glory…The angel will sound, the shout of His coming, And the sleeping shall rise, from their slumbering place. And those remaining shall be changed in a moment. And we shall behold him, then face to face.
Allow Christ to look on you.
This video is a wonderful collection of many of the looks of Jesus and the reaction of the people following those looks. Pay special attention. The video also features a lot of “looks” that come from us. Notice how people look upon Jesus, and how they, as human beings react, as they look on Jesus. Look for the “looks” in this video. The final looks are especially moving.