The Sacramentality of the Face
Every morning I wake up to a Thomas Kinkade painting that hangs above my dresser, the stunning work of art is titled A Prayer for Peace. In this masterpiece, Jesus stands on rocky heights above Jerusalem with his face drawn downwards to the right, taking the posture of one who is contemplating. In the mind and heart of Kinkade, Jesus (or “the Christ-like figure”) is praying with such fervor and faith that He is absorbing "the warm glow of the moonlight” and wrapping “the walled city in a spiritual blanket of serenity.”
In the “light” of this great painting, I often reflect on the life of Christ and what must have changed when he “set his face towards Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51). for Christ, Jerusalem was the earthly end that was necessary to reveal His heavenly divinity. As I look into the painting and see Christ’s face drawn downward to the right, I cannot help but wonder what was being communicated in the face of Christ as He set his face towards Jerusalem.
The face is more than the front of the human head, but the organ of revealing, the faculty that allows us to know something about another. The face is intimate, a way we come to know others. By its various movements and changes, the face becomes an outward sign of inward thoughts and feelings. We see with our eyes and are able to discern signs of what someone might be experiencing. In the context of the theology of the body, this is what we call the sacramentality of the body - the sacramentality that takes place when tears reveal sadness; laughter reveals joy; red cheeks reveal embarrassment, and the calm, relaxed face reveals interior peace. One could say, there is a sacramentality to the face.
When Jesus “set his face towards Jerusalem”, the Greek tells us his face revealed determination. In the face of Christ, holiness had a new look - resolution; and discipleship had a new path - Jerusalem. This single-mindedness that led Christ to Jerusalem was the natural outgrowth of His harmonious relationship with God the Father. In other words, Christ's determined resolve was constant with what lies at the heart of the inner life of God - peace! Thomas Kinkade captures this In his work A Prayer for Peace.
In this artwork, the face of Christ reveals tranquility in the pose of one who is meditative. In the words of Kinkade, the image "is a profound reminder that through fervent prayer each of us might find peace – for our soul first and perhaps for our world as well.”
My dear friends, let us be imbued with the gift of the Holy Spirit that our face might communicate the same calmness; the same spiritual poise that was always found on the face of Christ. Let the sacramentality of our face bring the warmth and presence of God to all those we meet in our daily encounters!