Author’s note: I wrote this post on Thursday and scheduled it to be published today. Since that time my family has suffered the loss of one of my cousins to a severe car accident. I was going to delay publishing this post in light of Dan’s death, but frankly, I feel even more moved to pray and write about gazing into the face of God, the face of love, the face of life. Blessed are your eyes, Dan, rest in the peace of Christ. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Prayer hadn’t been coming easily of late. My slow journey through the Gospel of Matthew was feeling a little stale, and I’d been feeling generally uninspired. The rhythm of get up, read, write, work, repeat of grad school was starting to wear me down. Morning prayer time suffered the invasions of opting for an hour more of sleep or an hour more of reading depending on which was more urgent. Prayer was starting to feel like a duty, a commitment to keep. I was starting to forget why I’d even made the commitment, other than a vague but deep sense that prayer made me a better person.
Is that all it comes down to? Prayer makes me a better person? I’m a little less likely to snap at my husband or get anxious about a paper. I mean, that’s great, cool. But is it worth losing a precious hour of sleep or study time?
Then, one evening last night, tired by the day and feeling an aversion to TV or any other sort of sensory input, I pulled Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection off the shelf, sequestered myself in the bedroom and opened it to a random page.
Just look at the Lord. I felt at once the rush of forgotten feelings of love and devotion…and also, the queasy feeling of wanting to run away. Look at the Lord. So easy, and yet…not so easy. I also felt the lure of lending only my intellectual eyes to the study of scripture, willing to be enlightened by some neat insight or inspiring new way of thinking of things, but to gaze lovingly upon the face of my Lord? It felt like too much.
I’m not asking you now that you think about Him or that you draw out a lot of concepts or make long and subtle reflections with your intellect. I’m not asking you to do anything more than to look at Him. For who can keep you from turning the eyes of your soul toward this Lord, even if you do so just for a moment if you can’t do more? You can look at very ugly things; won’t you be able to look at the most beautiful thing imaginable? …Behold, He is not waiting for anything else than that we look at him.
– Teresa of Avila, Way of Perfection, 26.3
Oh Teresa. Your love for the Lord is so inspiring. He is not waiting for anything else than that we look at Him? It takes so much trust, so much joy, so much love to believe. But there’s no denying that this little passage with its specific nudging away from my graduate student habits, useful elsewhere but not here, is meant for me. Open your eyes, Andrea. Look. See.
St. Teresa urged those having a hard time (i.e. me) to find a picture of Jesus that would help the pray-er gaze lovingly at her Lord. I spent the weekend scouring Google images to find the one that spoke to me, so I’ll share it here with you, but it might be that you would need to find your own image, or paint your own. Or perhaps you have a more vivid imagination than I and can adequately represent some image of this good Lord in your heart.
But the important thing is to look with love. To furnish love in our hearts for Jesus. For in the end, that’s what prayer is about. It might make me a better person, but it’s not because I had some time to recollect my thoughts or put my priorities in order, it’s because I took time to remember in whom it is that I live and move and have being. It’s because I took time to look into the eyes of the one whose love bestows on me all my identity, character, goodness and potential. It’s because I took time to lovingly gaze at Love itself. I must be changed by such an encounter because as I look into his eyes, my eyes are given true sight.