Tamquam faciem angeli

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Third Monday of Pascha

Acts 6:8–15
John 6:22–29

Like the Face of an Angel

Saint Luke describes Saint Stephen as having a face like that of an angel. “And all those who sat there in the Council fastened their eyes on him, and saw his face looking like the face of an angel” (Ac 6:25). Those who have glimpsed the faces of angels tell us that they shine with an unearthly radiance and that they are beautiful beyond any mortal beauty.

They Behold the Face of my Father

The brightness of the angels is, like that of the moon, a reflected brightness. They are living spiritual mirrors of the uncreated beauty of God. Our Lord says in Matthew 18:10: “See to it that you do not treat one of these little ones with contempt; I tell you, they have angels of their own in heaven, that behold the face of my heavenly Father continually.” The angels participate in the brightness and beauty that they contemplate in the face of the Father, and in the glory of the Father that, Saint Paul tells us, “shines in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

Whoever Has Seen Me

The face of Saint Stephen was like that of an angel because Stephen, being “full of the Holy Spirit” (Ac 7:55) had the eyes of his soul fixed at all times on the adorable Face of Christ. When the Apostle Philip said to Our Lord, “Let us see the Father; that is all we ask,” Jesus answered him, saying, “What, Philip, here am I, who have been all this while in your company; hast thou not learned to recognize me yet? Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father” (Jn 14:8-9).

The Loveliness of Grace

We become what we contemplate. One who contemplates the ugliness of sin — be it in oneself or in one’s neighbour — becomes down in the mouth or, to use the evocative popular expression, “ugly as sin.” One who contemplates the beauty of grace, in its source, Our Lord Jesus Christ, or in Our Blessed Lady, the tota pulchra, the all-lovely, or in the saints, begins to participate in a loveliness that no suffering can affect and that time cannot ravage.

Seek the Face of Christ

One who gazes upon the Face of Christ shining through the Sacred Scriptures as through a trellis, and veiled but radiant nonetheless in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, will come to resemble Christ. This will happen almost imperceptibly, first of all by entering into the secret of the Beatitudes, and then by giving evidence of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

Borrowing Glory from that Glory

Saint Paul says, “It is given to us, all alike, to catch the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, with faces unveiled; and so we become transfigured into the same likeness, borrowing glory from that glory, as the Spirit of the Lord enables us” (2 Cor 3:18). This explains, I think, why even to the eyes of those who sat in the Council, gazing at Saint Stephen, his face appeared like that of an angel.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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