What the prophets of the Old Testament longed for, and what even atheists today long for, is made possible by Jesus Christ, says Benedict XVI: We can see God’s face.
This was the reflection the Pope offered Wednesday in the general audience, as he considered the revelation of God made with the Incarnation.
The Holy Father explained that Jesus’ answer to the Apostle Philip, who requested to see the Father, is a synthesis of the Christmas event.
The Pope reflected: “Philip is very practical and concrete: he says what we, too, want to say: ‘we want to see, show us the Father.’
“He asks to ‘see’ the Father, to see his face. Jesus’ answer is an answer not only for Philip, but also for us and leads us into the heart of the Christological faith of the Church; the Lord affirms: ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.'”
This is a synthesis of the “novelty of the New Testament,” according to the Pontiff. “God can be seen, he has shown his face, he is visible in Jesus Christ.”
A God capable of love
The theme of seeking God’s face runs throughout the Old Testament, Benedict XVI added, with 400 uses of the Hebrew term for face, 100 of which refer to the face of God.
Still, Judaism, in forbidding the use of all images — and thus standing in opposition to the worship of idols — seems to totally exclude from worship and piety any possibility of “seeing,” the Pope observed.
“What does it mean then, for the pious Israelite, to seek the face of God, while recognizing that there can be no image of Him?” the Pope asked. “The question is important: on the one hand, it is said that God cannot be reduced to an object, to a simple image, nor can anything be put in the place of God; on the other, however, it is affirmed that He has a face, that is, He is a ‘You’ that can enter into a relationship, who isn’t closed in his Heavens looking down upon humanity.
“God is certainly above all things, but he turns to us, hears us, sees and speaks, makes covenants, is capable of love. The history of salvation is history of God with humanity, it is the history of this relationship of God who progressively reveals himself to man, letting him see His face.”
In fact, the Pope continued, “The splendor of the divine face is the source of life, it is what allows us to see reality, and the light of His countenance is the guide to life.”
Learning to see
God’s progressive revelation culminates in Christ, the Pope illustrated. Referring to the special relationship Moses had with God, yet God’s affirmation to Moses that “you cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live,” the Holy Father affirmed that “something new happens” with the Incarnation.
“The search for the face of God undergoes an unthinkable change, because now this face can be seen: that of Jesus, the Son of God who became man. In Him the path of God’s revelation finds fulfillment, which began with the call of Abraham; He is the fullness of this revelation because he is the Son of God, he is both ‘the mediator and fullness of all revelation,’ and in Him the content of Revelation and the Revealer coincide.”
The Holy Father affirmed that a desire to know God truly, “to see the face of God” is in every man, “even atheists.”
This desire is fulfilled in following Christ, the Pontiff affirmed, so that we can “see God as a friend, his face in the face of Christ.”
The Bishop of Rome here noted that it’s important to follow Christ in the whole of our lives, not only when we are in need or find a spare moment.
“The whole of life should be directed towards encountering Him, towards loving Him; and, in it, a central place must also be given to the love of one’s neighbor, that love that, in the light of the Crucified One, enables us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering,” he said. “This is only possible if the true face of Jesus has become familiar to us in listening to His Word, in interior dialogue, in entering into this Word in such a way as to really encounter him, and naturally in the Mystery of the Eucharist.”
The Eucharist, the Pope said, “is the great school in which we learn to see the face of God, we enter into an intimate relationship with Him, and we learn at the same time to turn our gaze towards the final moment of history, when He will satisfy us with the light of his face.”
— — —
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text: www.zenit.org/article-36348?l=english