March 16, 2016

To Gaze upon Christ

This Lent the Lord has put on my heart the awareness of gazing upon Christ.  In our Franciscan congregation, our spirituality flows from John 19:37 “they will look on the one whom they have pierced.”  With this spirituality, we gaze upon the pierced side of Christ and receive from His pierced heart His love and mercy. Then we may go forth to give what we have received.  Throughout this Lent, this action of gazing has been foremost in both my spiritual reading and in prayer.  It also brought to mind a graced trip to Assisi in 2014, by which this “gazing” became so real to me.

           While in Assisi, there are many things to see and let soak into one’s soul. The first place where I was moved to gaze was in the side chapel in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi, where the Crucifix from which Our Lord spoke to St. Francis is now housed.  What an awe-filled moment it was to kneel before this Crucifix and to gaze into the eyes of Christ. It was a joyful and prayerful time there. All who entered gazed and prayed, gazing up at the Crucifix suspended above us, into the open eyes of Christ.  There was silence and profound prayer; as each one spoke and sought to hear what words the Lord would speak to the heart. What would the Lord say? He spoke to St. Francis. He speaks today. 
A second place where I was captivated was in San Damiano, and again, by a second crucifix of Christ. There, in a small side chapel is the deeply moving crucifix by Frate Innocenzo da Palermo.  When I walked into this room and gazed upon Christ there on the Cross, I was filled with peace, and a complete desire to simply be before Him, to sit in His presence, to gaze upon Him, and love. As I did this, I experienced our charism anew, of making Christ’s merciful love visible and I saw Mercy before my eyes.
 This Lent I encountered a book, Franciscan Prayer by Ilia Delio, OSF, which has brought this all to mind.  She quotes from St. Clare’s Letter to St. Agnes of Prague, “O most noble Queen, gaze upon [Him], consider [Him], contemplate [Him], as you desire to imitate [Him].”  St. Clare gazes upon the “book” of the crucified Christ”, she writes, and continues, “‘in this ‘book of life’ we are to come to know God and ourselves in God. To gaze upon the Crucified Christ is to see ourselves, others and the world with a deep, penetrating vision—to see the truth of things in their relation to God. Gazing on this book each day should lead us to ask, what do we see? How do we see? “
Taking those questions to heart, when I see Christ on the crucifix, what do I see? How do I see Him? Can He show me myself? How does He see me? Am I afraid? Do I need to ask forgiveness? Do I find rest?  Love?  May the Lord give you His peace and the gift of His merciful love.

Reflections on The Cross of San Damiano 
By Patrick McNamara, OFM,Cap
I look to the Cross, I gaze upon its figure,
I wait, I listen, I hope.
Will you speak, will you move, will I be moved.
Will you once again touch the heart of one who seeks.
Of one who questions, of one who seems so lost.
Will you embrace the soul, as you did that of Francis.
Will you take it to Yourself.
Will you give it peace, give it comfort, give it love
This soul waits, listens, prays for such grace. 
This soul seeks the Love from the Lover.
It wavers. It stumbles. It falls.
Your gaze looks down, embraces all. 
Takes all, Loves All. Your Grace heals, accepts.
Again you respond, Again you Love. 
Again you speak to a searching and troubled heart.
I turn. I continue the journey. I continue in Hope. 
I too have heard you Speak.

 - Sister M. Seraphica, FSGM

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