Friday, January 2, 2009

The Obliterated Face of God

Diodorus Siculus relates the story of a broken and scattered god; who of us has never felt, while walking through teh twilight or writing a date from his past, that something infinite had been lost?

Men have lost a face, an irrecoverable face, and all long to be that pilgrim (envisioned in the Empyrean, beneath the Rose) who in Rome sees the Veronica and faithfully murmurs: "My Lord, Jesus Christ, true God, and was this, then, the fashion of thy semblance?"

Thre is a stone face beside a road with an inscription saying "The True Portrait of the Holy Face of the God of Jaen"; if we really knew what it was like, the key to all parables would be ours and we would know if the carpenter's son was also the Son of God.

Paul saw it as a light which hurled him to the ground; John saw it as the sun when it blazes in all its force: Theresa of Leon saw it many times, bathed in a tranquil light, and could never determine the color of its eyes.

We have lost these features, just as one may lose a magic number made up of customary digits, just as one loses forever an image in a kaleidoscope. We may see them and be unaware of it. A Jew's profile in the subway is perhaps that of Christ; the hands giving us our change at the ticket window perhaps repeat those that one day were nailed to the cross by some soldiers.

Perhaps some feature of that crucified countenance lurks in every mirror; perhaps the face died, was obliterated, so that God could be all of us.

Who knows whether tonight we shall not see it in the labyrinths of our dreams and not even know it tomorrow.

(Borges, "Paradiso, XXXI, 108"; trans. James E. Irby)

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