Modern secular man has become materialized in his understanding. To a great degree, he no longer views the world and the events that transpire in it through the Spirit. Everything is mundane. Everything has a “scientific” answer. Experts rule and dictate base materialism. For the secular mind, there is nothing more than the material. And even matter itself is drained of its spiritual reality and symbolism.
Thus, there is not much meaning left to the world around the modern man of the “masses.” He has reverted back to the nothingness from which the Creator called him forth. Thus, in his blindness he denigrates the world around him and strives to strip it of all underlying meaning and many times refuses to believe that much of which transpires around him is full of symbol and deeper meaning. Fr. Seraphim Rose, of blessed memory, states that in “a frenzy of Satanic energy that impels him to strike out at the whole of creation and bring it, if he can, plummeting into the abyss with him.”
It may well be that the enemy is very pleased that the “mass man” lives in such a material plane. Yet, it is my opinion from research, that many who have great worldly power do not subscribe to such a materialistic view but are more than happy to promote it, for it keeps the “mass man” blinded. Such ones understand, to some degree, the energy of the spiritual plane, although they are all avowedly against Christianity.
For a Christian, It should not be so. Indeed, a true Christian is one who is striving to discern the meaning behind the seeming “material” events that transpire around him through the Truth of Jesus Christ. He is one who desires to, by the grace of God, rightly discern the “times and seasons” (cf. Lk 12:56).
Much of what is taking place must be first and foremost evaluated through the wisdom of Christ in His Church. That is, as Christians we should be asking what the spiritual implications are of the many physical events and things taking place quite rapidly around us.
I desire to offer a reflection that to some may seem silly, but, I believe it worth contemplating. Is there a deeper meaning to the somewhat global phenomenon of covering the face of persons? Is there a “symbolism” underlying the covering of the human face, most of all as it pertains to Christian things? This is the specific focus of this article. (My point at current is not to touch upon the given “material” reasons, which I’m also not attempting to discount in total.)
I wonder because I have stumbled upon strange wording in some writings with regard to masking the face. To take but one of a few possible examples, a renowned medical journal uses the word “talisman” to describe the effect of covering a face. It is hard for me to think that they simply used such a word with no deeper thought or meaning. A talisman is an object that persons believe hold magical powers and particular energies that bring a specific effect/change to the wearer/user. It clearly has pagan and religious connotations.
Other “experts” in modern scientism have also called covering the face “symbolic.” This coupled with the reality that many continually speak of an emerging “new normal” and a “great reset” gives me great pause. They all say that “life will be dramatically different.” So we have a new consciousness into which powers that be wish to “initiate” the people of the world. It somehow has a very religious feeling to it.
I find it of interest to note, from a spiritual and religious perspective, that covering the face has deep roots in pagan and occult initiation rites. Masks symbolize the suppression of “ego” and an interrogation into a new consciousness, or “normal.” Why? Because the face is arguably the most identifying feature of a person, by suppressing it the most prominent personal identifier is suppressed. In such initiations, it symbolizes to a great degree the loss of personhood and integration into a controlled collective. Now, I don’t want to spend too much time on the potential reality of the talisman of covering a person’s face. I’m highlighting it for consideration, most of all since certain “experts” have themselves used “symbol” and “talisman” to describe masking the face. So, I do not find the possibility to be stretched. You are free to reject the possibility. I believe it worth pondering, given many factors at hand.
As a stark contrast, in the Christian tradition, a person is never required to cover his face, to mask his most prominent expression of personhood, in any of its rites. Face holds deep theological meaning. For Orthodox, it is good to contemplate upon the theology of Icons and the place of “face” in iconography. A potent example would be the icon “Made Without Hands,” which is a depiction of only the Face of Christ our Lord.
On the face are located four of the five major physical senses. Christ the Lord is called the “head” of the Church which is His body (cf. Eph. 1:22). The head entails and implies the face.
Moses, it is said, “spoke with God face to face” (cf. Ex. 33:11). And this reality holds profound meaning.
And St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Now the Lord is Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as the Lord is Spirit” (2 Cor. 2:17-18). Thus, the “face to face” encounter with the Lord is a manifestation of the freedom which has been given to Christians in Christ the Lord. It seems clear, it is the face that in a potent manner reflects the glory of the Lord. As our Lord said, “If the Son therefore shall set you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). And St. Paul again exhorts, “Keep on standing fast therefore in the freedom with which Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). An unveiled face represents the freeing of a person, whereas, in religious rites, the masking of a person’s face represents the repression of their personal freedom, the adsorption of his person into a new aggregate; so, a veil also represents the repression of true freedom.
Further, it is written, “Therefore having this ministry, even as we received mercy, we are not faint-hearted, but we renounce the hidden things of shame … but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every conscience of men before the face of God” (2 Cor. 3:1-2) So we see the face as an image of doing things in the open and forthrightly. It is an icon of the manifestation of truth. Christians, ideally, have nothing to hide and may stand “face to face” with God. Whereas veiling, in this sense, is a desire to hide.
In this passage St. Paul does also note that the Gospel is “veiled” to those who are perishing. This is because of their being “blinded in the mind” (cf. 2 Cor. 4:3-5) That is, a veil, in this instance, becomes a symbol of lack of revelation, a hindrance in approaching God. Yet this is not a characteristic of the Gospel rather it is that of the individual’s heart and mind. Earlier St. Paul uses the image of a veil to represent the hardness of heart, a lack of true understanding, a rejecting of revelation, in a willful manner on the part of persons (Cf. 2 Cor. 3:13-15). In this imagery, a veil represents a lack of personal encounter and inability to truly comprehend spiritual realities.
St. Paul continues, “Because it is God who said, ‘Let there be light’ to shine out of the darkness, Who shines in our hearts, for the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Our illumination is represented in our freedom to approach our God with unveiled faces and encounter in return “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Spiritually speaking a veil represents a darkened and uncomprehending mind, while a fully revealed face represents an illumined and knowing mind. Thus in Christian worship participants have always approached God with faces unveiled, even physically speaking. This represents the spiritual reality that Christians are “free children” of God the Father and that we have been given the grace and freedom to approach Him with faces unveiled. It seems there is a profound theological purpose in standing before God with unveiled faces.
For, in worship, we are coming, as Moses did, to a “face to face” encounter with the Living God. This uniquely Christian understanding stands in evident contrast to the occult and pagan practices of masking the face in order to approach and be initiated into their “deities.”
And so I wonder, what is the spiritual and theological message of veiling the face in true Christian worship? It seems most probable that the social mandates of veiling the face are latent with spiritual symbolism. I ask out of a desire for true dialogue in these times. Are we doing only physical things, or do our physical actions have meaningful spiritual implications? If we falter in our vocation to spiritually evaluate all things, could we also be in danger of existing only on the material plane and thereby sacrificing important spiritual realities? I believe it worth reflecting upon. I’ll leave you to ponder.
15 thoughts on “With Faces Unveiled”
Thank you for this! It’s good to know that someone else is thinking of these things. I’ve been wondering exactly what the purpose is of the masks, spiritually speaking, because I have been convinced that there is one.
Our parish priest referred me to the story of St. Macarius and the skull; it’s very interesting in light of this current event.
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Great blog! Keep on Fighting Father we will pray for you!
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Well said. A mistake that modernists make is ontological…vapidity. If they aren’t starting from a haunted universe model (Christian, where all manner of angels, demons, fae, ghosts co-exist and are subject to the Word/Logos/Christ) than inaccuracies can occur with ‘big table discussions’ like this.
What I mean. Just because you don’t believe in Conspiracy A or that at some level some people are not perpetrating conspiracy A, doesn’t mean the effects aren’t still rippling into culture. For arguments sake; there is no ruling elite of child molesting elites. It doesn’t exit. The corona virus is naturally occurring. We are told to wear masks as best medical advice. Nothing more. That doesn’t mean that whole cities of people in masks (veiled in shame, anonymous) and not allowed to gather, play, love and laugh are unaffected on a spiritual/Haunted Universe Level.
The soul still feels the effects of a mask. The lack of human contact and friendship. It could be the most innocuous, mundane, well meaning policy created by ‘honest’ Drs and politicians and it will **still be of this world** . We will still suffer in our souls. It will still force us into daily battles for our ongoing campaigns of salvation.
So I do not feel masks are ‘the mark of the beast’. Nor are possible chips/vaccines/etc. the ‘Mark’ is at war every day in every human soul with the Dove. These are cosmic dramas at play until the Eschaton. It’s the reality of what we War with, as St Paul says. A seemingly erroneous decision as ‘should I go to church today or watch football’ all the way up to abortion, murder and the like. Beast or Dove. It’s all always happening. These past few months are the latest theatre for this war. This version is particularly outfitted with the demons of rights/hysteria/distraction/fear/despair and a very misplaced ‘faith’ in a scientific community who can’t even describe consciousness as real
The ‘conspiracy’ is *this very world*. But it is this same world Christ made sacred by incarnating upon, revealing for what it really is…a wonderful gift worth being here for. That should be what Christians unite behind. Christ came and pointed out the conspiracy of Cesare and empire. The Pharisees and their plots. The knowledge that believing in this world and it’s systems are death.
Well. The Empire never died but simply changed its face over the years. Believing in Christ is Life. And it will highlight you to the vision of those who choose the Beast. ‘Men will revile and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely…for My sake’. We have no choice but to bear that cross.
May God and all the Saints preserve us.
Note: I’m a fireman with no formal education so apologies for any theological errors. I’m very new to Orthodoxy.
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Thank you for this thoughtful reflection on the theological meaning of personhood and face. Interestingly, monastics veil everything but the face, because they represent iconically the ideal of person over nature, which is an Orthodox principle. The Evil One always promotes nature over person.
A person possess nature and must grapple with its limitations and frailties but in Orthodoxy we never make these limitations of nature the standard by which we measure life. We always prioritize the spirit. The desert ascetics are a great example of this (among many others).
The other problem I believe is we have divorced logic from Logos, and the end result is not logic at all because if logic has no origin, no foundation and no goal then how can it be logic?
God give us wisdom from the Logos XC!
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Thank you for the insights to monastics. I was unaware of that distinction with their dress. It makes sense to me because Orthodoxy always seems to focus on Transfiguration of our Saints where the West focuses on stigmata. There is something very deep in that I’m not quite clever enough to pull apart.
And I agree with your sentiments regarding the Logos sans logic. That is the post-modernist nightmare happening around today’s ‘thinkers’ (whatever that means). Or as Fr. Seraphim Rose describes in ‘Nihilism’ that ascribed truth is entirely relative. This is heard often today when people say ‘I’m living my truth/best life’. This statement alone entirely objectifies everything outside the person saying it. Entirely anathema to ‘my brother is my life’.
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‘Til We Have Faces’
Fr. Lynch, thank you for a most insightful commentary. As the zeitgeist continues to de-face and thus de-humanize us as icons and image-bearers of God, you pose a most provocative query.
My son’s favorite Lewis novel ‘Til We Have Faces’ poses a most apropos comparison.
Just over sixty years ago C. S. Lewis published his last work of fiction—one that he considered “far and away the best that I have written.” For those unfamiliar with this story, Till We Have Faces is Lewis’s retelling of the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche, though with his own spin.
Lewis uses Orual as a picture of the struggling unbeliever, who cannot, or who refuses to, believe in that which is invisible. Near the end of the story Orual comes to see that she cannot see the gods until she believes. For, as she says, “How can [the gods] meet us face to face till we have faces?” By the end of Lewis’s novel, Orual, having wrestled with her struggle of faith in the unseen, comes to a telling conclusion. She says, “I now know, Lord, why you utter no answer. You yourself are the answer.”
Belief, trust, and even hope in the unseen dwell at the core of the Christian life, as Hebrews 11:1 reminds us: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” First Corinthians 13:12 adds, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” First John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
Through the incarnation of Christ, we can see God; through the Church and Her icons we can see Him, despite ourselves, for He has given us a fountain of living hope through his Word and His Saints. Within us, He is our “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Just like Orual, we now see in part; we won’t see fully till we have faces.Therefore, for Christians living in this nihilistic age of of de-humanizing-face/mask covering-fear mongers, de–facing us I beleive, is its goal. If we have no faces, we have no identity, we are strangers,unknown; we are just cattle to be herded…it matters greatly where we set our gaze and faces-uncovered – and on what we look to in order to gain the proper perspective. Only through the Orthodox Church is this possible through her Divine Liturgy and Mysteries. With faces masked/covered, we are inhibited and separated; and thus will we be unable to truly “see” others; will we be unable to look each-other in the eye and connect and be known. We must re-examine ourselves and our faith: do we have the courage [spiritual as well as physical] to ‘Stand Fast in the faith’ as Archbishop Averky [of thrice blessed memory would say]…or not?
As blessed Farther John Krestiankin would say “May God give you [and us] wisdom!”
Doxa to Theo, John D.
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We wrestle against Organized Naturalism and few see it or the spiritual aspect of the fight. Indeed the very term downplays anything spiritual. This entire Virus episode has many dark spiritual aspects to it and it is frightening to see that very few “Religious” understand it. As a Chaplain to the Elderly I encourage the people to not “Lose their humanity”, to not become and “individual” and no longer a “person”. Our person hood is being separated and we are isolating. We no longer see each other as created in the Image of God but as my potential death! We see each other as a Virus ready to strike us down. Instead of loving our neighbor we fear them. This is a satanic inversion of Gods created order and most don’t recognize it. Scientism is the new religion today and the Scientist the new high priest for most. Church is no longer Church but a mockery of the power of Christ in our midst. Instead we should yell “The Virus is in our midst!” because that is what most are worried about. Everything in the Church is now unsanitary, infected, off limits. It has become the CDC Church.
Thank you for your insights. You are spot-on!
Rev. Dr. Timothy Gahles
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Yes, I have also been contemplating the fact that this virus is making one’s neighbor the enemy. It is anti-human. Jay, from jay’s analysis, observed that humanity is being made the virus, that is we are being taught, as you rightly observe, to fear other persons as possible sources of infection. Humanity is the problem, we are the contaminators, this is a culmination of sorts of the “environmental” gospel. It is demonic. They are saying fear of neighbor is care for neighbor, it is an inversion of the true Gospel.
Father, I was hoping that you knew about Jay Dyer! You two should do a segment together!
What a great thread!
I feel compassion for the mask-wearers. It’s a badge of identification. They trust the prince of this world who seems to need a sign of their consent to him and his plans right now.
There’s a further point:
Psychologically, this badge of consent provides a certain comfort to these terrified, panicking people as an external, “transitional object” (sorry for the psychobabble) that functions as a manageable latch upon which they can hang their inchoate, internal distress.
Hence their virulent opposition to seeing our fearless, free faces, as free people, because the sight of our free faces undermines their attempt to comfort and self-soothe themselves, their attempt to contain their fear invested in this external mask-badge object which is their sign of allegiance, commitment and belonging to the machinations of the prince of this world.
So now my challenge is how to deal compassionately with these terrified people who are trying to force me into compliance with the evil machinations to which they subscribe.
How can I de-escalate their fear?
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Ubiquitous mask-wearing is superstitious, as masks are necessary only in a few very specific circumstances, if superstition can be defined as actions taken to promote the illusion of control over one’s universe.
Thank you, Father, for articulating some of my instincts so well. I have been deeply disturbed by masking in general, but especially by being asked to mask in church. It seems to me to be another form of iconoclasm and it saddens me deeply.
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