That face, Lord, haunts me

George Floyd / Wikimedia Commons

That face, Lord, has haunted me all evening.
It is a living reproach,
A prolonged cry that reaches me in my quietude.
 
That face is alive, Lord, yet men’s sins have struck it;
He was defenceless and exposed to their blows.
 
They came from all over;
Destitution came,
The shanty,
The dilapidated bed,
The foul air,
Smoke,
Alcohol, 
Hunger,
The hospital,
The sanatorium.
 
Work – crushing, humiliating,
Unemployment,
The depression, 
War.
 
Frenzied dances,
Revolting songs,
Demoralizing films,
Languorous music,
Unclean and deceitful kisses.
 
The struggle to live,
Rebellion,
Brawls,
Cries,
Blows,
Hate.
 
They came from everywhere,
Men with their horrid selfishness, their dreadful faces,
    their great dirty fingers,
    their broken nails,
    their fetid breath.
They hastened here from the ends of the earth,
    from the bounds of time.
And slowly, one after another,
Or suddenly, all together, like brutes,
They struck,
    whipped
    lashed,
    wrought,
    moulded,
    hammered,
    engraved,
    sculptured.
And here at last is this face, this poor face;
It took forty six years to fashion it,
It took hundreds of centuries to produce it.
Ecce homo : behold the man.
 
Here is this poor face of a man, like an open book,
The book of the miseries and sins on men;
    the book of
        selfishness,
        conceit,
        cowardice;
    the book of
        greed,
        lust,
        abdications,
        compromises.
 
Here it is like a mournful protest,
    like a cry of revolt,
    but also like a heart-rending call,
For behind this ridiculous, grimacing face,
Behind those uneasy eyes,
Is a light
A flame,
A tragic supplication,
The infinite desire of a soul to live above its mud.
 
Lord, that face haunts me, it frightens me, it condemns me;
For with everyone else, I have made it, or allowed it to be made!
And I realize, Lord, that this man is my brother, and yours.
 
What have we done with a member of your family?
 
I fear your judgement, Lord.
It seems to me that at the end of time all the faces of my brothers,
    and especially those of my town, my district, my work, 
    will be lined up before me,
And in your merciless light I shall recognize in these faces
    the lines that I have cut,
    the mouth that I have twisted,
    the eyes that I have darkened,
    the neck that I have crushed,
    and those whose light I have extinguished.
They will come, those that I have known
    and those that I have not known,
    those of my time and all those that have followed,
    fashioned by the workshop of the world.
And I shall stand still, terrified, silent.
It is then, O Lord, that you will say to me
     . . . it was I . . .

Lord, forgive me for that face which has condemned me,
Lord, thank you for that face which has awakened me.

Michel Quoist,1918 – 1997, French Catholic priest and writer
Prayers of Life slightly modified as appropriate

_________________________________

1 John 4:20

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

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