I suggested this past Sunday during my sermon that to gaze is an important means of practicing what St. Matthew encourages in his Gospel – stay awake, be alert, be aware, and remain open to the sacred now!
Now there’s a word for you…GAZING. When was the last time you gazed at something? Maybe a sunset or a sleeping child? What, in your life, makes you stop and gaze?
As I said on Sunday, to gaze is to savor. Gaze!
To gaze is to savor
to savor is to slow down
to slow down is to reflect
to reflect is to listen – to take in
to listen is to learn
to learn is to grow
A while back I became aware, through Gem Fielding of the ministry Unhurried Living, of the performance artist Marina Abramovic. For three months in 2010 she sat in a room at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She made herself available to be present and to gaze into people’s eyes. Some officials told her that she would be sitting there alone most of the time. But it turned out to be exactly the opposite.
The chair was never empty. The room always stayed full; people even slept on the street in order to wait their turn to sit in her presence and simply stare…to gaze.
In Abramovic’s words, there is “this enormous need of humans to actually have contact. …We are so alienated from each other. …Society makes us really distant. We are texting each other messages without seeing each other and we just live around the corner from each other. [There are] so many stories of loneliness.“
People would sit in the chair and cry. There were probably many different reasons for this. But my guess is that one of the reasons they cried was in response to the presence she provided. She prepared herself to be a peaceful, loving container for whatever needed to express itself in those minutes. That was at least one of the purposes of the art piece. To provide presence and a meaningful gaze.
Last week, I was introduced to this video:
Leonardo da Vinci’s, Salvator Mundi. This brief video showed another kind of gazing. A photographer captured people viewing this rare and precious work of art, an image of Jesus, Savior of the World.
The looks on their faces are expressive and moving. Clearly, they are taken in by the gaze of Jesus and they have no choice but to gaze back in wonder and awe. They are being seen. And they are seeing.
Presence. Gazing. It’s one thing to receive that gift from the artist, Marina. It is another to receive the gaze of the True Artist, Jesus himself, and to gaze upon him.
The Gaze of Jesus
What do you sense if you close your eyes and picture the gaze of Jesus? My hope is that, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, you will realize that you are seen in love. God is love. Which means Jesus is love. Which means this is his posture toward you. Always and first, there is love.
How might you experience Jesus’ love for you? How might you then become a loving presence for those around you? It might be good to take some time today to think about that.
It can be as simple as reminding yourself that you are looked upon always and first in love. And then returning the favor by doing the same for others.
I encourage you to watch both of these brief videos (links below). If you only watch one of them, be sure it’s the Salvator Mundi. Let the gaze draw you in.
Click here to watch Salvator Mundi:
Click here to watch Marina Abramovic:
I challenge you to gaze at the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci and let him gaze at you at least 15 minutes a day. If you feel comfortable, please let me know what you experience. Just google the painting, “Salvator Mundi” by Da Vinci.
Secondly, during Advent, gaze at the beauty around us. A Kansas sunset, a baby sleeping, a beautiful day without wind, etc. See what happens to your soul when you are alert, awake, and aware to the presence of the sacred now, among us!
–Rev. Jeff Gannon