Towards what or whom do I direct my eyes? On whom do I look? Our eyes are busy all day long both when we work and when we relax. It occurred to me as I was praying Psalm 27 that I long to fix my eyes on the Lord:
“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”. Your face, Lord, do I seek! (Psalm 27:8)
I was meditating how I could trust God more, and I realized: by looking more at Jesus. If I trust somebody I look into his or her eyes. Looking at each other fosters trust. Could I spend more time looking at Jesus’ life and face instead of spending so much time browsing the Internet? Could I watch more His healing and loving attitude than to be scared by things that happen around me and in today’s world? The eyes have a tendency to control, more than the ears for example. I can close my eyes but not my ears. Letting go control and letting my eyes sink into His eyes would strengthen my trust in Him.
There are many ways to look at Christ. I can place my eyes on the crucifix or an icon in my room. I can have an image of Jesus ready on my phone. Reading the Bible helps me to know Him better. I can spend time in Adoration gazing at the Blessed Sacrament. I look at Christ and Christ looks me. Every day innumerable people around the globe follow this practice. What a gift to the world and to themselves.
Lord, I want to seek your face. If I can’t see your face, let me at least try to seek you, in any way. Your eyes are seeking mine. This I know. You watch over me. You look at me because you love me. You offer me constantly to trust you more. Thank you, Jesus.
Another monastic moment, unspectacular but meaningful. A Psalm popping into my mind explains to me what I have just experienced. Opening the shampoo bottle, about to wash my hair, I smelled the fragrance. It seemed I had never smelled it before. Not only was my nose opened all of a sudden, but my whole being felt differently. I felt more life within me. It was Psalm 115 that I remembered:
They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell. Psalm 115:6
The psalmist speaks about the idols of the peoples, but I applied it to myself. God gives me more gifts than I use. Smelling is one of these underappreciated gifts. We humans are very much vision oriented. Listening is more difficult; tasting and smelling are usually not at the forefront of our awareness. However, those senses go really deep. We “have a nose for somebody or something”; we have our intuition.
My novice master used to say: If you lose the meaning of your life and nothing makes sense, use your senses! The senses bring back the sense. Evagrius Ponticus, one of the most relevant monastic authors of the 4th century wrote: “If you want to know God, know yourself first” (Migne, PG 40,1267). Whatever we perceive is precious, because it can lead us into a greater knowledge of God. So why be afraid? Why do we close our noses? Because we don’t want to be bothered by bad smells. But how can we know that the smell is really bad and not just in our imagination? Like an idol that exists just in our imagination? At our baptism our senses were opened by the priest or deacon in the Effata-Rite. Christ has given us new life. He invites us to have life to its fullest. (John 10:10) We often don’t live to our fullest potential.
Dear Lord, let me pause for a moment and use my senses. Let me take a deep breath. What do I smell? Open my attention to what is around me. Let me take a moment when I pass by a flower, and smell. Let me smell the fragrance of the forest. Let me take in the air of the morning. Let me smell while I eat. Let me taste how good you are. Every day. Every moment.
It was during Sunday Vespers. I must have been in a fearful mood. I can’t remember why. But as sometimes, I was not even aware of my emotions. Suddenly a verse of Psalm 114 caught my eyes:
“Tremble, o earth, before the Lord.” Psalm 114:7
I immediately felt consoled. The fear was gone. How could this happen? As I was reflecting later, it came to me: Trembling before God seems to be much better than trembling before human beings, or situations, or anything else on earth. HE is the one and only before whom everyone trembles. Before whom everyone must tremble.
This knowledge did not increase my fear, but erased it. Fear of God is just natural because we know God is mightier than we are. However, what is better? Fearing God or fearing human beings? Being afraid of human beings, including ourselves, may be more justified because our goodness is limited and we can act evil. Not so can God. So, fearing God is the better choice. He is the loving and merciful God as Jesus has shown us. In other words, I felt consoled because I realized: Fear has a place. It has its place “before Him”, in the presence of God. It is taken care of in the presence of the loving and merciful God. I must not be afraid, because any fear is in good hands with Him. He is stronger and He is better.
Dear Lord, take all fear from me. Let me grow in the fear of you, who is my loving maker and caretaker. Prevent me from thinking and acting out of fear. Let the earth tremble and be shaken so that it may become a better and more peaceful place. I am not afraid of trembling before you.