The author of the Book of Proverbs assures us that the fear of the Lord marks the beginning of Wisdom. It would seem that by the time he wrote these words, the Exodus from Egypt event, the desert sojourn, and the covenant sealed on Mount Sinai, were but a distant memory. For, it was their initially close encounter with God at Mount Sinai that awakened the Israelites great fear of the Lord and prompted the people to beg Moses saying: Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see this great fire anymore, lest we die. Instead, they asked that Moses be the intermediary between them and God. And yet, even the great Moses who bravely requested to see God’s glory was warned: No one can see me and live.
Given our present inability to gaze on the face of God, and yet desiring to do so, God assured Moses that he would raise up another prophet like Moses who would perfectly fulfill the same intermediary role between God and his people. However, according to our Christian tradition, this prophet was not to be just another human being, but his Incarnate Son who through the union of his human and divine nature, would act as that intermediary between our frail human condition and the infinite power and glory of God. But unlike Moses, he would be so much more than an intermediary speaking to God on our behalf and then speaking to us on God’s behalf.
Instead, by incorporating us into himself—through the great mystery of his Mystical Body—we are so transformed into Christ that we actually share in his divinity. And when our transformation into Christ is complete, we will truly gaze on the face of God through the eyes of Christ. This is something Stephen, the first martyr, experienced and that led him to proclaim: Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Similarly, Saint Paul can assure the Corinthians that our incorporation into Christ and the presence of the divinizing Spirit will enable us to gaze with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord. So too Saint John in describing our becoming God’s adopted children, explains that although we don’t exactly know what becoming God’s children involves, we know that when [this] is revealed we shall be like [God] for we shall see him as he is.
Nevertheless, even before all this is revealed, we are already granted a partial glimpse of the glory of God in and through Christ. For as he himself insisted, no one comes to the Father, except through me. He then goes on to explain, if you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him. It is this coming to truly know Christ—by which we also know the Father—that lies at the heart of our spiritual quest and our monastic life. And if fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom, we remember that Christ is Wisdom and thus our holy fear propels us into the compassionate and merciful embrace of Christ. And it is in him that our present human love is gradually perfected until it removes all slavish fear. And then, in becoming through Christ what God is—namely, love—we will no longer be limited to gazing, as was Moses, on the back of God, but may finally meet God’s gaze and not die, but Live.