During the transition summer of going from seventh into eighth grade, I discovered a particular song. I loved this song so much that I listened to it nonstop; there was no limit to the amount of times I used the repeat option on my little iPod nano. While walking to school I would play it, as well as on my way home. I still remember looking up at the trees as its’ tune played in my twelve-year old heart; I just couldn’t get enough of it. At that age, I only listened to 80’s music; I think probably because most of the lyrics were usually about love. Looking back I realize now that that era definitely didn’t play the most “pure” music. However, in this one song was proof that God uses everything by meeting us where we are right at that moment.
The song was from the ABC’s band, The Look of Love. In fact, at the beginning of eighth grade the elective course I took that year was drama class. The very first week our teacher had each student choose a song and lip-sync it on stage in front of the entire class. Of course, you know what song I chose (- if it isn’t already obvious). I lip- synced that song to my heart’s content. Where am I going with all of this? I want to dig deeper into the words of that very title: The Look of Love. Saint Augustine says “the eyes are the window of the soul”. Before realizing that Christ was calling me to be His bride, whenever I liked someone I would just stare at them; of course, I would try to be non-nonchalant about it so I wouldn’t look creepy! But just like playing that song over and over again, when I like something (or someone), I give it my full attention – my all! What I always remembered the most was when the person I liked, liked me also; it was that “look of love” they gave me when I caught them returning my adoring gaze.
Can you imagine just sitting at a table with someone and staring at each other and not talking. That just sounds awkward and uncomfortable, right? It really doesn’t happen. So many times I used to have staring contests with my cat to see who would finally give in and look away; even my cat was not going to stare at me forever. If we don’t trust someone, we tend not to let them look into our eyes too long because as Augustine said, “it is the entrance to the secrets of the soul, within”. As Our Holy Father John of the Cross so frequently said – its secret. Yet, how many situations or events occur where words are not allowed or even needed; you can lock eyes with someone and the look says it all? Let us consider the fourth sorrow of Mary and the fourth station of the cross where Jesus meets His mother on the way to Golgotha:
At the crossing of two streets, suddenly She stood face to face with Him. What a heart rendering scene. Floods of tears streamed from the eyes of the Sorrowful Mother, floods of tears from the eyes of the Divine suffering Son. As burning fire, the sufferings of the Son tortured the Heart of the Mother, as burning fire, the sufferings of the Mother tortured the Heart of the Son. To address each other consoling words was not allowed Them. But, Their pitiful looks were more eloquent than words.
Today, that is main theme of this post. I want to prove how the look of the love is the most significant and intense means of love that can be manifested, especially by the One Who knows more about it than we do: Christ, Himself. Mel Gibson, before the making of the Passion of the Christ said he began looking at the work of great Italian artists because their paintings were as true as their inspiration, as he wanted the film to be as well. Gibson later said
It is one thing to paint a moment of the Passion and be true to it, it is quite another to dramatize the entire mysterious event.
But, we do in fact have one item that sums up the whole Passion. This item is the “picture” of Christ’s face on the veil of Saint Veronica. This scene is not in scripture, but it is a confirmed private revelation; hence the reason why Gibson used it in the film. We are actually not familiar with the true name of the woman; the Church gave her the name Veronica simply because it means icon or image referring to the very imprint that Christ’s face left on her veil. It is a custom in Carmel that every year during Lent, each sister draws from a stack of cards; she must give a mini-presentation or talk about the subject-matter of whatever or whoever is on that drawn card. Last year during Lent, I drew the Veronica’s Veil card. At first, I honestly didn’t know what to talk about even after looking through many books. Suddenly, I was drawn to remembrances of my childhood summer when I had listened to my favorite song; it became the basis of my whole presentation. Our Lord really has a purpose for everything; who knew that song would help me fourteen years later?
I knew exactly how I would present my talk beginning with the scene in the Passion of the Christ where Veronica removes her veil and Christ first looks at her and then gratefully accepts her kind gesture by leaving that same expression forever imprinted on her head covering. Everything came together for me all at once; Christ says all things pass away, but Himself. Heaven is a beatific vision, a seeing. This beatific vision is certainly something we humans are not accustomed to. We assume the best way we can show love is through hugging, physical touch or even words, but heaven is looking, gazing and staring at Our Divine Savior for all eternity…as He stares back.
Ah, no wonder I always had a staring problem! Everyone yearns for the wonderment of seeing the person you adore gaze back at you with that same love. But,think about it, most of us have never looked at someone for hours at time without looking away. We would get uncomfortable because who does that? We don’t want them to see too much of who we are. Christ doesn’t share that dilemma. He has no problem staring at those He loves day and night. He once told Saint Faustina that He was so pleased with her spiritual director that My gaze is on him day and night. He later expressed to her:
Every movement of your heart is known to Me. Know, My daughter, that one glance of yours directed at someone else would wound Me more than many sins committed by another person.
Nothing compares to this mysterious look of love and we will not fully be able to grasp this sacred mystery until we ourselves experience it in Heaven with the angels and saints, just gazing at the Divine King and Queen. Some might say “how boring”, right? But staring at Christ is not like staring at a cat or someone we are fond of. We can be assured that Our Lord is Someone Whom we will never tire of looking at as the constant mystery of His Heart unfolds and He shares with us the window of His soul. He is full of surprises (this, I am learning everyday).
Who knew His soul more than anyone? We can rest assured it was Mary, followed by the good Saint Joseph. How does this relate to Veronica’s veil? I think her veil is a foretaste of that look of love. Simply imagine that look of love He gave to Veronica as He engraved that look, that Beautiful Holy Face – the most amiable the world would ever see, on her veil. The look that remained even after His death. It’s as though He had said “all things pass, even after being stripped of My garments, and when I am hanging from the cross – My look never passes away”. Veronica’s veil is proof of that – a miraculous preservation of a “look”!
This veil revealed a man with a blood-stained face, covered in bruises and crowned with thorns. Yet, in the midst of all this we are rewarded with the gift of the look of love to Saint Veronica and all of mankind. Veronica consoled Christ with a sympathetic look and all she had, a simple veil, but the consolation she experienced the rest of her life even after the Passion and Resurrection was the Face of God on her very own garment. An extraordinary fact about the meaning of the word veil: the word in it’s Greek root actually means authority. In a very real and profound sense, Veronica was wearing authority on her head and gave that authority over to Christ and He in turn, gave this power of the veil back to her- gave her the authority to venerate His Divine Face for the rest of her earthly life until she would enjoy the beatific vision in heaven.
Now I know why Our Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus (Avila) told her daughters in Carmel,
I am only asking you to look at Him.
Because, you cannot look at Christ’s Face and remain the same.