Sunday, July 29, 2007

What can we perceive in the face of Jesus?

If the face is the most expressive manifestation of the person, and Christians are supposed "to become one with Christ", alter Christus, ipse Christus, another Christ, Christ himself, then what can we learn from Christ's face?

To tell the truth, my answer proceeds from a reading of one of those rare books of Cardinal Ratzinger on spirituality, The Pierced One. There he said that the core of Jesus' person, the very center of Jesus, is prayer. Jesus is communication with the Father. Jesus is prayer.

And that is what I now see in Jesus' face in the Shroud. It is face of a man at peace. Wounded yes, but clearly at rest. It is the typical face of someone whose eyes are closed, deeply in prayer.

You will ask, isn't he supposed to be dead? The Catholic faith teaches that God never left his body. He was there in person continually. And remember: the image was imprinted by some kind of radioactive force, supposedly the force of the resurrection. So, aren't we seeing the face of the Rising Christ? A Rising Christ whose face is consistent with the face he had before being baptized, before choosing his twelve apostles, while he was in the desert battling with the devil, before he broke the bread, while he was agonizing in the Garden right before undergoing the torturous trial, while he was dying on the Cross? A face of prayer. Jesus was --and is!-- indeed a person of prayer.

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