We’ve all heard that line. “Did you see the way he looked at you?”
This perhaps over-romantic line in films is a common starting point for a story about love. But while it might be a cheesy question posed by a teenage girl, if we are honest, we notice that this line catches our attention. Most of us seek to gaze and be gazed upon. The Psalmist reveals this innate human desire for an intimate gaze when he says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!” and “Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord!” I recall that as a kid I couldn’t wait to get home to see the look on my parents’ faces after they saw how well I did on an assignment.
Much can be conveyed in a look. Many times we notice only the slightest changes in the facial structure of a loved one and recognize that something has changed within them. This body language is a large part of our communication with others, and through it we show others what they mean to us. The exchange of looks between friends and lovers is inextricably tied to their relationship and intimacy: we grow accustomed to certain gazes and begin to cherish them. These relationships deepen as a result of the repeated encounters we have with these people. Each time we see them, we give and receive certain looks that portray our contentment and joy in the other.
When we consider God and his love for us, we look up to him with the eyes of the soul. Gazing upon such good and beautiful things brings delight to the mind, an even greater delight than what we find in created things. Catholic art is made to lead us to this “seeing” of the invisible aspects of our faith, which culminates in the vision of God. For example, when we meditate on our crucified Lord, he becomes present to us in our thoughts. We retreat into our souls, where he promised to be present with those living in grace (John 14:23). St. Teresa of Avila remarks on this very simply, saying, “He is always looking at you; can you not turn the eyes of your soul to look at him?”
Many times, it is someone’s simple glance at us that assures us of their love. God’s gazing on us has always been a look of love. “The Father watches over us, and his gaze of love inspires us to purify our past and to journey towards unity,” says Pope Francis. God dwells in the souls of those living a life of grace (CCC 260), waiting there to receive the soul’s gaze and enjoy the communion of love for which we were made.
Go there and speak with him, and when speech fails, don’t be discouraged. You are not wasting time by simply exchanging looks of delight. In your prayer, seek to be fully satisfied with God’s gaze on you and seek to be worthy of that gaze. As a lover seeks to draw the beloved to himself, so God also seeks to draw you to himself with his everlasting gaze of love.
Image: Guercino, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well