The Way We Look And See

Gospel of St. Matthew Chapter 6, Verses 22-33

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

1040329131We meet the world, we take cognisance of the world through our senses; and through all our senses we are not only aware of the world, but we are also involved in it, all our senses put us into contact with the world of objects, with all things around us, but also immediately introduce into us sensations and impressions which change us at times very deeply.

Our sight, of which the Lord speaks today in His Gospel, is the only way in which we can take cognisance of the world with serenity, in complete repose of all the powers of our human being, but also on condition, as the Lord puts it, that our eye be single, that it should be light, that is should allow only light to enter into our awareness through it.

One of the modern English writers gives us two images which I believe will allow us to understand something of this passage of the Gospel; in a novel ‘All Hallows Eve’, Charles Williams presents us with a young woman who had died in an accident and whose soul is gradually finding her way in the new world in which she has entered.

She finds herself standing on the banks of the Thames; she looks at the waters, and of a sudden she sees these waters of the Thames as she had never seen them in the past, when her soul was endowed with a body; (then) she had a revulsion against these dark, greasy, dirty waters because her imagination immediately connected them with touch and direct impressions of the body.

But now, this soul is free from the body and she sees these waters of the Thames freely, as they are, as a fact; she sees that these waters are exactly what they should be, being the waters of a river that runs through a great city, collecting all the dirt of it and carrying it away. And because she has no longer the usual revulsion of the body and of the imagination, this soul, through the opacity of these waters, begins to see in them new and new depth; deeper that this superficial opacity she discovers a layer of purer water, a greater translucence, and beyond and deeper again — a layer of transparency; and at the core of these waters that run across the great city — and this city is also called one day to become t h e city of God, — she sees a stream of incredibly shining water, the water of eternal life, the primordial water created by God, the water of which Christ speaks to the Samaritan woman; because she was free from personal reaction and revulsion, the dead woman could see across the superficial darkness, the (increasing?) layers of light.

Because we are continuously entangled in our own self-centred reactions, we manage to see through layers of light somewhere a darkness which at times, we create or imagine; because our eye is dark we see darkness and we are incapable of seeing the depth, the translucence and the shining.

Another image that we find in the same book is perhaps even more tragic. This young woman finds herself standing on one of the great bridges; she knows that this bridge cannot be empty, that people are walking, buses are running, there is life around, and yet, she sees and perceives nothing of it, because disengaged from the body she can see now only those things and those people with which, with whom she is connected through love, and as she loves no one except her husband, she is blind to all things around her, there is only emptiness, nothing.

And it is only when she becomes increasingly aware, through the small love she had in her life, of love altogether and through connection — with this unique love, however small, with other people and other things that were dear that she begins to see.

Is it not the way in which we live? We are surrounded with light and we see nothing but passing shadows or emptiness; how often a human being passes through our life without leaving any trace, passes unnoticed, in spite of the fact that there was a need, or there was a shining beauty; but it was irrelevant to us, our heart had nothing with which it could respond, and we are in a wilderness even when we are surrounded with richness.

This again comes from the way in which we look, we look without love and we see nothing because only love can reveal things to us; and again, we are capable of seeing in a dark and evil way: how often we put evil interpretations on things which we see? Instead of seeing them as facts we see them as we understand them from within our darkened soul and our distorted experience. How often we misinterpret the actions and words of people because we see with an eye which is already darkened!

So, that Christ’s words today call us to an extremely careful attitude; to the way in which we look and see; we must remember that if we see nothing, it comes very often from our blindness; if we see evil — it comes from the darkness within; if we have a revulsion against things, it is so often from the way in which we are centred on ourselves and cannot look with serenity, with a purity of heart. Because ultimately, we see not only with our physical eyes which convey to us impressions, we see also with a heart that can see God only when it is pure and not only God in His mysterious being, but God in His presence through grace and beauty, and (blessing). Saint Isaac the Syrian says that a man who has got a clear eye and a pure heart does no longer see the darkness in the world because this darkness is superseeded by the shining of the divine grace at work and resting on all things, however dark they may appear.

Let us learn this lesson at least from the Gospel. Let us be so careful to see with purity, to interpret with purity of heart and to act from within love, and then we shall be able to see with freedom the transparenc(ies) and the shining of the world and in the world, and love it, and serve it, and be in this world in the place which Christ assigned us, blessing in His own name, believing things, hoping all things and never ceasing to love even if love means laying down our life, either the life of the old Adam who must die so that the new Adam should live, or else the life of the New Adam who gives his life that the world and others may live. Amen.

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