The Gaze From The Cross, Part 1
Day 16 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast
‘I want to live beneath Your divine gaze, for You alone are enough for me. When I am with You, Jesus, I fear nothing, for nothing can do me harm.’ (306)
Christ Crucified is God’s greatest expression of Mercy for us. His death is the Source of our life. During these 40 days, we are asking God to show us His Mercy so that Mercy might alter our perspective on everything. We are thus wise to fix our gaze on the Merciful Cross!
Some of us struggle here. We see the cross and we see only death—God ambushed and vanquished by evil. In that we might feel His solidarity with our defeats and losses but not His sustenance.
To help us, God gave St. Faustina a powerful vision of Himself upon the Cross. She writes: ‘I saw the Lord clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in a gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at His breast. From beneath the garment was emanating two large rays, one red [His life-giving blood], the other pale [His waters that cleanse].’ (47)
A key aspect of this vision is Jesus’ strong and steady gaze looking down slightly at the viewer. His eyes hold ours; they convey tenderness and strength in a way that nourishes the soul. Truly this is the gaze of the salient parent, Heaven’s embodiment of Mercy to hungry children everywhere.
And yet one cannot dismiss the intensity of His gaze—the all-seeing Love that exposes in order to extend Mercy. As the beloved says to her lover: ‘Turn Your eyes from me; they overwhelm me,’ (S of S 6: 5) so I struggle to stay present to the gaze of the Crucified. And that is what Jesus told St. Faustina about this vision: ‘My gaze from this image is like My gaze from the Cross.’ (326)
Oh for the grace to gaze unflinchingly in Love’s Merciful face! Surely He delights in our practicing with an imperfect image as we prepare for face-to-face Perfection!
St. Faustina did us a remarkable service in tending to the ‘capture’ of this vision on canvas: what we now have is a pretty good glimpse of the Mercy that flows from the Crucified Christ.
Many believers might struggle with such representation, fearing the idolatry which worships an image and not the Real. Like any good symbol, the Divine Mercy is powerful only to the degree that it points us to the Unseen Reality of Mercy. So we worship Jesus, not its imperfect representation. As St. Faustina herself said: ‘Not in the beauty of the color nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in Jesus’ grace…’ (313)
Christ Crucified is the ultimate conduit of Christ’s Mercy; it distills the essence of what God gave us in Christ to make us His own. The Divine Mercy is but a humble representation of that Mercy. Jesus uses it to help us fix our gaze upon Himself.
In a day when our eyes are distracted, dulled, even defiled by everyday idols, let us fix our gaze on the One who looks upon us with Mercy.
‘O Blood and Water that gushes forth from the heart of the Savior as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You!’ (309) ‘If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.’ (Matt. 6:22) ‘My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.’ (Ps. 25:15)
‘Jesus, help us to keep our eyes fixed on Mercy. May Your gaze hold ours. May we look Mercy in the eyes each morning; may Mercy be our last glance at night. Thank You that Your eyes of Mercy ever watch over us. Grant us the grace to return and sustain Your gaze from the Cross. Change us with Your Mercy.’
Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com