Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Face of God

Two things we have begun to talk about in the Chaplaincy during this season of Epiphany are the ideas of revelation and vocation. On the one hand, we are asking what God has revealed to us and is continuing to reveal to us in Jesus Christ. On the other, we are asking the question, "To what is God calling us?"

In one sense, it's very clear why these things go together. Jesus often reveals himself to his disciples as a teacher, as in our Gospel reading last Sunday and the one coming this Sunday. But there's another way in which these things go together, as Cameron spoke of in his sermon this past week. Sometimes, the call to be a follower of Jesus means to proclaim the Good News. Our vocation is to continue the revelation, particularly in the shape of our lives.

I've always found this image of the Christian life compelling, and one of the passages which has most informed my thinking on this idea comes from 2 Corinthians 3. The passage contains a number of mysterious sayings, but one image which comes through is the idea of the individual Christian as "a letter of Christ...written by the Spirit of the Living God." Through the impact which the Good News announced in Jesus has on us, our own lives can be a message to those around us. The revelation of Jesus transforms us, and we are able to demonstrate that transformation and continue the revelation to others.

Paul also speaks of "seeing the glory of the Lord as if reflected in a mirror." This seeing is clearly a form of revelation. But how does one see? What is the mirror in this passage which we can look on? The idea I believe Paul is drawing on recurs in a variety of ancient writings, but had been made fairly well-known after the Platonic dialogue Phaedrus, in which Socrates speaks of seeing the glory and face of God reflected in the face of one you love and with whom you are pursuing the ultimate Good and ultimate Beauty, God. The mirror through which one sees God is found in the face of the beloved companion.

The twist here, of course, is that Paul is applying this image to the Christian community. Each one of us is (or is called to be) a letter of Christ, written by the Spirit. Each one of us is and can be the mirror through which another might see the glory of the Lord. As I said, this calling, or vocation, to become a revelation ourselves is one of the most compelling images of the Christian life which I have ever encountered. Our calling is quite high; we are able to image God to others and are to look at others also to see that image. By being transformed through the Gospel message, we may also reveal that message, for the transformation of those around us.

The key passage I'd like to close with from 2 Cor. 3 has this idea in mind, which might best be translated as:

"All of us, with faces revealed, looking to one another and seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image of God, passing from glory to glory, just as if it is from the Lord, the Spirit."

Zack Guiliano 
Kellogg Fellow

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful, Zack. That last passage is one of my absolute favorites. Thanks so much for this.