Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Yesterday’s meditation in Magnificat (the regular monthly edition, for March) was taken from the writings of Msgr. Romano Guardini. In it, he wrote:

There is nothing brighter than the eyes of God, nor is there anything more comforting. They are unyielding, but they are the source of hope.
To be seen by him does not mean to be exposed to a merciless gaze, but to be enfolded in the deepest care. Human seeing often destroys the mystery of the other. God’s seeing creates it.

When we were children (or at least, when I was a child) we were taught about the omnipotence of God who “sees all things and knows all things.” We were, the sisters assured us, always being watched by God. Buying into this idea, how could we help but feel fear that all our sins were being observed by the One who is so totally holy and powerful that all we could do would be to offend? This is the genesis of the unhealthy “fear of the Lord” on which many of us were raised.

We knew of this especially at Christmastime, when the confusion between God and Santa Claus (which still afflicts some adults to this day) was so real for children: “He knows when you’ve been sleeping/He knows when you’re awake/He knows if you’ve been bad or good… He’s making a list/He's checking it twice/He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice…”

This image presents a God who at all costs must be avoided—we cannot look on Him, we dare not come into His presence sinful (and we cannot come anywhere except as sinful); we are unworthy, we deserve only hell-fire…

But Fr. Guardini wanted to change that sense of God’s gaze. It is not the gaze of the prison guard but the gaze of the Lover that marks God’s regard for us. If I am in love, the last thing I want is for my beloved to look away, either through distraction, or boredom, or hurt, or anger. I want to meet my beloved’s gaze and never break away from it. Can anyone imagine Rick ever saying anything to Ilsa other than “Here’s looking at you, kid”??

A famous vignette has an old illiterate man coming to church and staying a long time in prayer. The priest asks him what he is doing, and his reply is, “I look at God, and God looks at me.”

God, Father—look at me and love me! Please, never take your eyes from me!

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