Lent with Julian of Norwich #36 – Blessed Countenance


“I understand three kinds of expression in our Lord. The first is that of his Passion which he showed while he was here in this life, dying. Although to contemplate this is mournful and sorrowful, it is still glad and joyful, for he is God. The second kind of expression is mercy and pity and compassion; and this he reveals to all who love him, with assurance of safekeeping for those that need his mercy. The third is his blessed countenance, as it shall be without end, and this was oftenest revealed and longest continued.

Julian of Norwich. Revelations of Divine Joy; Long Text, Chapter 71.

In the book of Numbers, the Lord instructs Moses how he wants the priests to bless the people: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: this is how you shall bless the Israelites.  Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” Numbers 6:23-26.

Our faces often give away our souls. Anyone that has been around children long enough will know that often their facial expression is a pre-cursor to their action; even if it is that ‘potty’ face! There is that expression, ‘I didn’t want to show my face’, that is often used in the context of shame or embarrassment. Our faces are doorways, they send invitations or signpost restrictions.

Understanding the expressions that seemingly drift across the face of God is pretty paramount to revealing his character. Jesus wept, and still weeps for the brokenness of humanity. How could a compassionate God not do so? His brow will still contain the scars of the crown, woven with thorns that are the mockery of the world; for when we are mocked, it is he that is mocked. His face beams with pleasure over the tiniest ways that we both love each other, ourselves and him. He delights in us, and yet grieves over the effects of our shortcomings, always offering us a welcome home.

There are no restrictions in the face of God, nor rejection or any signals that may make us falter in our gaze. For is is the kindness in the face of God that leads us to repentance.

Categories: Devotional, Lent 2019

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