Sometimes I just want to bury my face in my hands as a kneel before Jesus. Quiet. Rest. Serenity. Wisdom. Love. I need it all to bring a shattered heart back into one. Particularly in times of civil unrest, periodically shielding my heart from the opinions and actions of others gives me a chance to breathe. To breathe in the Spirit. To gaze at the world with the eyes of Christ.
They say it is a “quiet eye” that enables athletes to make breath-taking comebacks when they are under extreme pressure. A quiet eye enables the golf or tennis champion to sharpen their concentration. It is described as a kind of enhanced visual perception that allows the athlete to eliminate any distractions as they plan their next move.
Jesus once taught me about the single-hearted gaze, or the quiet eye, that is the natural way that the heart sees. He told me in a time of particular distress, “Just keep your gaze on me, and allow me to look deeply into your eyes, as long as keep our eyes locked in this trusting gaze, all these other things that worry you will be as they are meant to be. Just keep your eyes, Kathryn, on me.”
Burying my face in my hands is one way to eliminate the sight of anything else that would distract me from his Gaze, the Gaze that saves. It returns me to the natural heart-sight that sees more truly than the fixation of fear, anger, and revenge. When the children of Israel were bit by serpents in the desert because they had rebelled against the Lord, God told Moses to mount a seraph serpent on a pole and to raise it up above the people. Anyone who looks at it, the Lord said, would be saved. He drew their eyes toward what would heal them, and away from the chaos of what they must have been experiencing in a camp that had become infested with snakes. It would have been an act of sheer grit and absolute faith that would bring them to leave the position of self-protection to relationship with the One only who would could protect and heal them. God understands that we need something to draw our vision to him precisely when we are in the midst of times of personal or civil struggle.
- Notifications of the latest post and tweet…. lift your eyes to Christ’s gaze.
- Conversations that unsettle…. turn inward to receive Christ’s gaze.
- Pictures of burning buildings, sounds of angry voices…. turn to search the face of Christ that offers that quiet place where your heart’s eye can begin to refocus.
In these days I have felt helplessness, disbelief, horror that one human being could do to another what we all witnessed in the last 9 minutes of Mr George Floyd’s life. Dismay that one person could do this to his brother, yes to his brother and mine, for we all, as sons and daughters of one Creator are brothers and sisters to each other, members of one another. How can we allow this to happen to our brothers and our sisters who have struggled for centuries under the intolerable burden of racism. I go back to that Gaze, the Gaze of Jesus that moment when he said to keep the quiet eye of my heart focused on him.
What is that Gaze?
It is the Gaze by which Jesus makes me his sister, his friend, his beloved. We communicate our hearts and our heart’s love or hate through our eyes. In the Gaze of Jesus I see the eyes of every single person in this country who at this time is trying to grapple with this. When I raise my eyes of Jesus in the Eucharist, I see their faces incorporated in his risen Body.
Somewhere deep inside me there is that flowing river of love that can hold in itself every brother and sister no matter how broken…
That can hold in my arms like the Pieta the body of Christ in my brothers and sisters who have been killed…
That can hold as children the lives of all my brothers and sisters who have clamored for others’ death, as Mary did when she beneath the cross became the Mother of John, and the Mother of everyone present that day clamoring for her Son’s death…
- Breathe deeply.
- Inhale and exhale. Notice any grasping. Any distraction. Any running from the quiet Gaze of the Lord.
- Quietly bless them with Psalm 46: “Be still.”
- Imagine God placing his hand on your head and blessing you. “Be still.”
- Spend a few moments looking into the eyes of Christ, at a crucifix or statue, or the Blessed Sacrament if you are in a chapel.
From St. Ephrem the Syrian, a deacon and a prolific Syriac writer of hymns and theologian of the 4th century:
It is you, Lord, that they saw
when they cast their glance at one another.
It is you that your mother saw in your disciple
and it is you that the disciple saw in your mother.
It is you, Lord, that the Seers saw always, in a mirror.
They proclaim that we, too, can see you, O you, our Savior,
when we look at one another. (The Bridal Chamber of the Heart, La chambre nuptiale du coeur, pp 39-40)
And from John of Dalyatha:
Look into yourself and see God within you.
Fasten your eyes on your heart and God, rising out of your heart, will shine on your soul.
If you look there continually, that is where you will find the Kingdom:
that is to say, you will find, in yourself, God, who is your kingdom.
Because their diligence, he reveals himself to the small number of those who keep their eyes fixed in their interior, making a mirror of themselves where the Invisible One can be seen. (p. 48)
The quiet eye…
The gaze of a brother and sister…
The gaze of mother and child…
That gaze of a shattered and broken heart that still believes, still hopes, still knows that it is love that is holding us all together…
- Invite your heart to be still. Offer a word of gratitude to God.