The Vision of God is still powerful
Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), The Vision of God.
This title is somewhat misleading. The bulk of this difficult but useful meditation is not so much about our seeing Jesus as it is about our understanding that Jesus always sees us. The prompt for this book was an icon Nicholas sent to some brothers, an image of Jesus Whose eyes looked upon viewers no matter where they were in the room. This icon is Nicholas’ constant touchstone as he unfolds the glory and joy of knowing that we are always in the vision of God, and that we may always “see” Him with ever increasing glory.
Nicholas shows us that “God, who is the very summit of all perfection, and greater than can be conceived, is called theos from this very fact that He beholders all things.” He wants us to see God, not with the eyes only, but with “each and every mode of seeing, as being the most adequate measure of all sights, and their truest pattern.”
God is present with all His creatures, and His glance communicates His love: “I am because Thou dost look at me, and if Thou didst turn Thy glance from me I should cease to be.”
Knowing that God sees us always, we may expect to see Him: “What else, Lord, is Thy seeing, when Thou beholdest me with pitying eye, than that Thou art seen of me? In beholding me Thou givest Thyself to be seen of me, Thou who art a hidden God. None can see Thee save in so far as Thou grantest a sight of Thyself, nor is that sight aught else than Thy seeing him that seeth Thee.” God is our constant companion and therefore our only hope: “Thou art the Lord, powerful and pitiful, who givest all; Thou art the Minister who administcrest all; Thou art the Provider, and He that taketh thought for us, and our Preserver. And all these things Thou workest with one simplest glance of Thine, Thou who art blessed for evermore.”
We see God not with physical eyes, but with the eye of the mind and understanding. Thus, the more we know of Him, especially from Scrip-ture, the more clearly we will see Him in His beauty and majesty. The more we grow to love Jesus, the more He reveals to us of the beauty of His face: “For all concept of a face falleth short, Lord, of Thy face, and all beauty which can be conceived is less than the beauty of Thy face; every face hath beauty yet none is beauty's self, but Thy face, Lord, bath beauty and this having is being.”
All creation and all knowledge can lead us to a clearer vision of the face of Jesus: “God, whither hast Thou led me that I may perceive Thine Absolute Face to be the natural face of all nature, to be the face which is the Absolute Being of all being, to be art, and the knowledge of all that may be known? He, then, who meriteth to behold Thy Face seeth all things openly, and naught remaineth hidden from him: he who hath Thee, Lord, knoweth all things and hath all things: he hath all things who seeth Thee.”
God upholds all things and is revealed in all things, especially in men and the soul: “ hus my God, Thou art at once invisible and visible. Thou art invisible in regard to Thine own Being, but visible in regard to that of the creature, which only existeth in the measure wherein it beholdeth Thee.”
To see God and know Him in this way, we must humbly confess our ignorance, allowing God to instruct us in seeing Him as He sees us.
We can know God insofar as we can know Jesus, but we cannot fathom Him completely: “Thou dost come down, Lord, that Thou mayest be comprehended, and yet Thou abidest beyond reckoning, and infinite; and unless Thou didst abide infinite, Thou wouldest not be the end of desire. Wherefore, Thou art infinite that Thou mayest be the end of all desire.” Yet we must press on to know Jesus, got only in knowing Him can we see God: “ Thus, my God, I perceive how Thy Son mediateth the union of all things, that all may find rest in Thee by the mediation of Thy Son.”
Nicholas concludes: “What is easier than to believe in God? What is sweeter than to love Him? How pleasant is Thy yoke, how light is Thy burden, Thou one and only Teacher! To them that obey this teaching Thou dost promise all their desires, for Thou requirest naught difficult to a believer, and naught that a lover can refuse. Such are the promises that Thou makest unto Thy disciples, and they are entirely true, for Thou art the truth, who canst promise naught but truth. Nay more, 'tis naught other than Thyself that Thou dost promise, who art the perfection of all that may be made perfect.”
Here is some very sweet and deeply spiritual counsel, although the scholasticism of Nicholas’ argument can be confusing, if not tedious. I liked this book, and will probably return to it in the future, just to remember that we are made to know God and to see Him by seeing Jesus.