Last night I was an audience member at a high school vocal music concert. It was an easy and joyful occasion for me to be drawn into their music, with fond memories of music-making welling up from high school days.
I remember directors reminding us every so often to ‘Keep your eyes on me!’. I knew this was important for group dynamics and cut-offs. But it wasn’t until last night that a greater depth in this admonition was revealed.
I found myself delighted most by the students whose eyes were focused on their director; these students were imbued with confidence. These students were magnetic, and I felt permitted to watch them, since they weren't cognizant of me, but cared only for their director’s gaze. And I found my eyes darting anxiously away from students who (knowingly or unknowingly) were looking anywhere else but at their director.
One may posit that each student’s gaze is just ‘one among many’ and that the director’s gaze matters less since it is dispersed among a vast crowd. But the director’s gaze was needed by each student. And each student’s gaze was needed by the director. Both student and director delight in this connection. This gaze is needed; I could tell when it was there and I could tell when it was missing.
There is a sense of urgency, of grasping, and of dying to create individuality that manifests in a student whose gaze is elsewhere. It was apparent last night, and it is apparent in my life when I try to define myself by everything else other than being supremely loved by Christ.
Refusing the gaze of the director carries with it a bit of defiance and forgetfulness of my part in a larger group. “I know my part” and it’s tempting to think that’s all that matters, that I must sing loud so as not to be forgotten. Paradoxically, through submitting to the director and becoming a part of the group, my part does not ‘get lost’. Rather, it’s channeled into something more beautiful. The song, and my part in it, is surely most beautiful when I remain in the gaze of the director.
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The following from Pope Benedict XVI expands on the particular beauty found in this gaze, this steady rock of friendship with Christ.
Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.