Gazing upon God’s Face: Celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi

“The humility of Jesus: in Bethlehem, in Nazareth, on Calvary. But more humiliation and more self-abasement still in the Sacred Host: more than in the stable, more than in Nazareth, more than on the Cross.

That is why I must love the Mass so much (‘Our’ Mass, Jesus…)”

St. Josemaría Escrivá
The Way, no. 533

Let us set the scene. I picture Jesus sitting by the shore of the Sea of Galilee, with Capernaum in the backdrop on a somewhat bitter evening. He has just finished one of his most potent discourses, leaving no one indifferent. I approach Him and sit beside Him, my feet in the water. I have stayed because where else shall I go? No one else has words of eternal life and a gaze that sees me from within.

Jesus has experienced something that has struck Him deeply in His human nature and divine heart. But He is serene, having sown the good seed, and now each person’s freedom comes into play. I, for one, am not going anywhere, and since I don’t know what to say, I sit silently by His side.

Yesterday, Jesus displayed His all-powerful divinity before everyone in the multiplication of the loaves: a simple symbolic gesture, yes, but one that relieved real hunger. This very afternoon, He had decided to share a confidence of utmost importance with us, His disciples. His powerful voice echoed the guarantee of an eternal gift: it is not bread for today and hunger for tomorrow.

Today, in the synagogue of Capernaum, the Master told us that He is the Bread of Life. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood are necessary actions to attain the Salvation He promises. These words are difficult for us to understand, and many have been startled. This morning we were many around Him, but now only a few of us remain with Simon, John, Judas, and the other apostles. Just yesterday, not hundreds but thousands followed us to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, but now almost everyone has left. And, I look into His face and He looks at me as if there were not millions of people in the world.

Seen through the eyes of our generation, it is clear that Jesus is referring to the Eucharist. Jesus asks us to receive Him in the Sacramental, unbloody form. But even today, in the 21st century, it is an enormous mystery that God would prefer to chain Himself to the form of bread to be within our reach. How can we understand this reality?

St. Josemaría suggests that the path to understanding is charity, God’s Love:

“Man’s love — which, great as it may be, is limited — seeks a symbolic gesture. People who make their farewells exchange gifts or perhaps a photograph with a dedication so ardent that it seems almost enough to burn that piece of paper. They can do no more, because a creature’s power is not so great as its desire.

What we cannot do, our Lord is able to do. Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, leaves us, not a symbol, but a reality. He himself stays with us.” (Christ is Passing By, no. 83)

But how did the disciples and the early Christians understand it? It was very clear to St. Paul when he urged us to seek the best gifts: Aemulamini autem charismata meliora. The context of that invitation is interesting: it is the First Epistle to the Corinthians. In chapter 12, the Apostle has set out the question of the diversity of spiritual gifts and, towards the end, invites us to aspire in our lives to what truly matters: seeking the most extraordinary graces. And what do we read next? In chapter 13, his Hymn of Charity begins: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

And that I can understand better. In my imagination, I return to the seashore, sitting next to Jesus, and remember the psalm: “Your face, Lord, do I seek,” Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram (Ps 27:8). What more can I ask for? The greatest of the Beatitudes: to see God. And according to St. Paul, that is the consequence of the Hymn of Charity: to see God face to face and not as in a mirror (1 Cor 13). That is an ideal capable of satisfying all human hopes.

Where is the Lord? Where can we find His face? We find Jesus, of course, in our souls when we are in grace. And with closed eyes, in the tranquility of our own conscience, we can accompany and contemplate Him. We also find God in His Word, in the Sacred Scriptures. We reread those scenes from Jesus’ life that mean so much to us, for they are not merely events that happened centuries ago in a distant land. The Scriptures lift the veil of space and time; through that veil, we see God in our present.

And, of course, we can find Christ in our day-to-day life. This reality moved St. Josemaría’s prayer:

“Lord, give us your grace. Open the door to the workshop in Nazareth so that we may learn to contemplate you, together with your holy Mother Mary and the holy Patriarch St Joseph, whom I love and revere so dearly, the three of you dedicated to a life of work made holy. Then, Lord, our poor hearts will be enkindled, we shall seek you and find you in our daily work, which you want us to convert into a work of God, a labour of Love.” (Friends of God, no. 72)

Where is the Lord? We asked. The Feast of Corpus Christi gives us the definitive indication. We find Jesus truly and substantially present, truly hidden, under the appearances of bread and wine. It is the Latens Deitas, the hidden divinity, as the hymn Adoro te devote, composed explicitly for this celebration, says. And in the Eucharist, we encounter Jesus. The same Jesus who spoke in Capernaum multiplied the loaves, walked on water, died on the Cross, and rose again. And seeing Him in the Holy Host, we repeat the hymn: Jesus, whom now I see hidden, I ask You to fulfill what I so desire: That the sight of Your Face being unveiled I may have the happiness of seeing Your glory.

Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ gloriæ.

Joseángel Domínguez Joseángel Domínguez

Joseángel Domínguez is a Biblical Theologian and educational leader with a diverse academic and professional background. He is the co-founder and Executive Director of the CRETIO Foundation, a network fostering the Holy Land's knowledge and experience through trips, visits, academic materials, and economic development initiatives. Author and co-author of books on learning and innovation, including "Bible Portico"(Scepter Publishers 2022), Joseángel combines his theological expertise with a passion for innovative learning to cultivate a profound understanding of faith and its cultural context.

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