I have been taught that in iconography you should write the face first. (I must admit that I do not always follow this rule.) But with this icon I did.
I once heard an interview with an artist who said that we are not born with a face; rather we craft our faces over the course of a lifetime of choices, smiles, tears, expressions and struggles. He went on to say that it is really not until our forties that our face begins to be our own – what we have made of it. I like this thought. We grow into and mold our face and therefore our face becomes a true expression of who we are as a person rather than just a mask we wear.
In her reflection on the “Second Dwelling Places” in The Interior Castle Teresa warns about the danger of seeking spiritual consolation too early in the journey of prayer.
Even though I’ve said this at other times, it’s so important that I repeat it here: it is that souls shouldn’t be thinking about consolations at this beginning stage. It would be a very poor way to start building so precious and great an edifice. If the foundation is on sand, the whole building will fall to the ground … It is an amusing thing that even though we still have a thousand impediments and imperfections and our virtues have hardly begun to grow – and please God they may have begun – we are yet not ashamed to seek spiritual delights in prayer and to complain about dryness. May this never happen to you, Sisters. Embrace the cross your Spouse has carried and understand that this must be your task. Let the one who can do so, suffer more for Him; and she will be rewarded that much more. As for other favors, if the Lord should grant you one, thank Him for it as you would for something freely added on.
We like consolation and we like it now! In fact, I know whole ministries that our based on this premise (and they are quite popular). But Teresa’s words of caution are very appropriate here. Just as a human body does not grow and become healthy if its whole diet consists of sweets and desserts so the spiritual person does not mature in his or her faith by seeking consolation after consolation. The cross must be embraced because the truth is that there are a thousand impediments and imperfections within each of us. Lets be honest is this regard.
To return to the thought of the artist – it is in embracing our crosses in hope and in love (and also enjoying the consolations that do come along in God’s time) that we do the work of crafting our faces in order that our face rather than being just a mask might truly come to reveal who we are as a mature human person.