“Why do you hide your face?” (Psalm 44)
Signs — they are used to indicate something important, unusual, guide us or warn us of danger. So, too, it is with signs from God. There is one sign in the world today that encompasses all those definitions, and it is as plain as the nose on our face.
By now nearly everyone has experienced wearing a mask. A medical mask seriously hinders normal communication; if we can’t “read” one another’s facial expressions we lose a crucial means of communication. A mask covering a person’s entire face would naturally cause anxiety and fear. Criminals hide their faces, like the rioters, looting and destroying, wreaking violence in the night — indicating a complete severing of the relationship between human beings. A mask may also be a “sign,” or symbol, of mankind’s broken relationship with God.
Being able to communicate with a person face to face helps us grow in relationship and love. “Already the face of man is like a light for the beholder. From it we get to know a stranger, or recognize a known person. Whoever shows the face is identified by it. If then the face of man is like a light, how much more will the Face of God not be for the beholder?” –St. Ambrose
“Because for your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face.” (Psalm 44:15)
Covering or uncovering the face has deep Biblical significance: In 1 Kings 19 Elijah covered his face in reverence and humility when he recognized by “a tiny, whispering sound” that he was in the divine presence of God. “So it was Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle.” Union with God is “to see God face to face” one day, as the saints do in heaven. The faces of the enemies of God are also covered — “covered with shame.” “Cover their faces with shame, LORD, so that they will seek Your name.” (Psalm 83:16) Christ’s Face was “covered with shame” in His Passion, when He bore mankind’s sins, in order to restore the broken relationship between God and man — so that God’s enemies would “seek His name” — that is, to turn back to God’s Face in repentance. God looks upon the Face of His Son Jesus, covered with shame, blood, sweat, dust and spittle. Yet, in His darkness, Jesus shines the light of His Face upon those who will look on Him, reconciling them with God the Father.
“And God who said: ‘Let the light shine from the darkness,’ has shone in our hearts, to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the Face of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Cor. 4:6) We know, then the place where Christ is shining within in us. Indeed, He is the eternal splendor of souls, sent by the Father on earth to illuminate as with the light of His Face, so that we could observe the eternal heavenly things, we who previously were immersed in the darkness of the earth.” –St. Ambrose
It makes no difference if one is healthy or sick, innocent or guilty, all must now wear masks. All must endure the stifling, suffocating, infernal nuisance of a mask that is now part of everyone’s lives. Setting aside the political and medical controversies that have swirled around the subject of masks since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, there is something of greater importance here that has been ignored — it is a sign — for humanity to turn back to the Face of God.
“Why do you turn away Your Face? May we say it another way. Even if, Lord, you turn Your Face away from us, yet we are sealed with the glory of your Face. Your glory is in our hearts and shines in the deep places of our spirit. Indeed, no one can live if you should turn away Your Face.” –St. Ambrose
Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus