I have a large icon of Christ in my room. 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 that mediates His presence. When I look upon Him, I experience that He knows me. It is a knowing look, 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). His look in the icon is not fearsome; it is serene and confident. 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 appearing in that Gospel is “And looking at them He said …” This phrase, or something like it, occurs more than 25 times in Mark’s Gospel. 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). 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).
Keep looking to the Lord in this Easter season, in the art that most moves and especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Look at Him and let Him look at you.
This video is a wonderful collection of many of the looks of Jesus and the reaction of the people to them. Pay special attention to it. 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 do so. Look for the “looks” in this video. The final looks are especially moving.
8 Replies to “A Short Meditation on the "Look" of Jesus”
Hmmm frCharles I have an icon, the Pantocrater, and was grousing to the Lord that I can’t out the expression. Thank you for the tip, and thank You, Jesus 🙂
Looks of His perfect love! The Divine Mercy Image is another that sees at all angles.
Thank you. This is beautiful and very moving. I have a special devotion to icons as well, one that I’m surprised many Catholics don’t share.
I have a Good Shepherd in my entryway. He helps me when I’m frustrated that it doesn’t seem prayers aren’t answered. I tried to paste but it didn’t work.
I recently posted a blog reflecting on ‘The Look’. I to was taken by the lords look.
By Luciano Corbo
Another angle on the ‘look’ – “In the night watch just before dawn the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud upon the Egyptian force a GLANCE that threw it into a panic…” (from Exodus 14)
I, too, have an icon of Jesus on my wall that shows a look of hope in His eyes and a slight smile on His lips, and it tells me that no matter how down, or discouraged I get with the state of our world there is one place that peace will always reign, if we want it badly enough.
My favorite “look” in the movies was always the one we don’t see in “Ben Hur.” It was the look that disarmed the Roman centurion who was trying to prevent Jesus from giving water to Ben Hur (Charleton Heston). The soldier’s inability to maintain his cruel and authoritative manner when confronted by the human face of Christ made a deep impression on me even when I first saw the film as a child.
This reminds me of the source of the Holy Father’s motto in the homily of the Venerable Bede on Chapter 9 of St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Vidit ergo Iesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, ‘Sequere me’ ” (“Jesus, therefore, saw the publican, and because he saw by having mercy and by choosing, He said to him, ‘Follow me’ “).
I am impressed by the way Franco Zefirelli depicts Our Lord’s eye-to-eye encounters with people in his film Jesus of Nazareth.
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