The other night on my way home I glimpsed the full Moon behind buildings. At this time of year it's sometimes called the Snow Moon, and there were still a few patches of snow at the bottom of the garden as I stood gazing at the beautiful Moon, large and bright through the trees, until it was time to cook dinner (actually, if I'm honest I should say 'until it was time for a gin & tonic and The Simpsons before cooking dinner').
I love to follow the phases of the Moon and mark the times when we see her (the feminine pronoun feels appropriate somehow as I write today) new and full. Last night, as I say, she looked especially large and near in her fullness. Mysterious as she appears, she's our nearest neighbour in the heavens and her light can seem homely as well as magical. I marvelled at how because of her presence we can gaze at the light of the Sun and be bathed in it, whereas any more than a quick glance at the Sun's own face would blind us. I think this is a good image of the way we reflect God's empathic,loving gaze for one another. I want to pray with this image in my ministry as a spiritual director. One of the most important and amazing things we can do as spiritual directors is to model that loving gaze for the person sitting opposite us. We have to be humble enough, though, never to forget that we are not the source of the light we reflect and that we too are in need of the Light's transformation:
We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Etymologically I understand 'gaze' to encompass a sense of looking open-mouthed in wonder, and an attitude of reverence. Yesterday in his General Audience Pope Benedict spoke of the loving gaze of God in the darkness of the crucifixion. How extraordinary to think that this gaze between us and God is indeed mutual! Ignatius encourages us always to pause before a time of prayer to remember the loving gaze of God already upon us, or as Anthony de Mello paraphrases 'Behold God beholding you - and smiling.'