The visage: essence, transcendence and presence

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The visage: essence, transcendence and presence

Romans 12: 2 (NIV) 

© 2007 Liviu Anastase



  1. The essential nature of the visage


    1. Guarding the essence of the visage – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…


The true essence of the human being is in its visage. The visage is ambiguous profile of a supreme presence: the human is pervaded by the divine presence. Surely, the visage is a bivalent reality: it is a mark of humanity and sign of human identity; moreover it is also sign of its divine origin. The coordinates of the spirit are seen if observing the status of the visage. The visage is the external sign of the inner and intimate reality of the person: his divine essence. The essence expressed in the visage is the simultaneous expression of the absolute subordination and its absolute freedom, its origin and its essence. It is something that God donates but that also the man possesses; it is the union of the divine with the human; it is the incarnation of the Creator into His Creation, the archetype of the man whom the Creation promotes. The visage of the other is the genuine affirmation of the very own essence.

The human relations are the human resemblance of the divine essence. The divine essence, that all mankind owns, guarantees in the visage the encounter space with the other. The essence of God materialized in the visage of the man is according to the image of God, the visage that God has destined the man to live with. The man is not the absolute; he is only a reflection of it. Every man is depositary of the absolute original splendor of the image of God. This visage can be protected only in the contemplation of the divine visage made flesh. The reduction of Christ to the human state in order to realize the redemption, gives the opportunity of restoration and development of the visage towards the state of pure divine essence. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world means therefore to safeguard the essence of the visage given at the Creation and to promote its nobilitation.



    1. Transformation (essentialisation) of the visage – But be transformed by the renewing of your mind…


The essence expressed in the visage is not static: it is a value to conserve but also to develop. The dynamism of the visage needs to be increased, needs a constant renewal, it is not an ossification process. The transformation of the visage according to the image of Christ evidences the possibility of getting for himself the image of God that become effective by the work of Christ, that works in you to will and to act (Philippians 2: 13 NIV). He is the image of the Father; He is the Son of God and the Son of man. Who saw the Son has seen also the Father. Christ is the essence of the humanity and is also the essence of the divinity revealed to the humanity. Christ is the visage of the transcendence made manifest in the immanence of the human visage. Christ is the infinite person who becomes finite in order to discover the appearance of the visage of His Father. Christ is the mystery of the divinity that first has been disguised by the snake and then rendered evident to the cross. Christ takes on Him the image of the sin making Himself sin for us in order to grant redemption from the mortality of the sin. He destroys with the cross the visage of the sin in order to reconquer His true image before the whole Universe. Christ gives to all humanity the possibility to resume the visage had before the sin in order to return to the original essentialisation. Christ represents with His humanity the universal man who is image of God; Christ represents the humanity all at the same time and every individual; that is reflected in every visage with its characteristic beauty. Every visage does not exist in virtue of another but has its own teleology; however it is related to the universal man, to the image of God incarnated in Christ. Adam is the prototype of the fallen human race; Christ – of the winning one. We are we called to the victory in Christ. To Christ the vision does not lack and is able to recognize the virtues in the believers. Christ, the second Adam, sees in us the heroes who can obtain victory with the transformation of our image according to the divine likeness.



B. Relational nature of the visage


1.              Transcendence of the visage – Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…


There are various kinds of relationship that come along when exposing himself to a relation with the world. The relationship with an object is different from one with another person. God does not let us to confine Him within our mind or categories. The man cannot see God, but he can perceive Him. The sense of mystery appears when the man is in front of God: this is a relationship with the transcendence. The limit of our perception make of God the great absent (if He should be truly absent we would not be able to perceive even this absence) because He is too much for us. Perhaps this absence drifts from an excessive presence: we perceive the absence because He is too present. There is another way of understanding this absence: if God did not manifest Himself through the absence, and if He were present to our perception He would be in our hands. God does not permit being perceived like an object.

What we have said about God has to do with the mystery, with the enigma. The phenomenon is the event that evidences by the sensible impressions. The phenomenon is another type of description of the reality. The visage has a sensible form; it is the essence of the sensibility. This sensibility of the visage allows the subsistence of the relation. The man is between the phenomenal reality (sensible) and the transcendental one (spiritual). The man can perceive the presence of the visage of another, like a phenomenon and manifestation of the transcendence. This visage is not measurable neither graspable since the essence of men is transcendental. The visage refuses to be content, possessed, explained. To represent something means to assimilate or include it for himself, therefore to deny the alterity. The visage is the vehicle for knowing God; it is through it that we perceive the fact of being perceived. Observing the visage of the other, which is in the image of God, we can know God for experience. The visage joins God and man. Carrying out a relation with the human visage, we have relation with God Himself. The visage is a metaphysical experience when the man finds himself beyond his own limits, as a result of meeting the other people’s visage. The human existence is not authentic if it is not seen in terms of auto transcendence. The transcendence is defined not singly from the presence of I but also from the presence of the other. The transcendence is discovered through the signs: the other is a sign of the transcendence. The alterity is material, but I meets the absolutely other, the place of encounter with the metaphysics. God operates concretely through the instruments of the historical reality, using the persons who live on the earth. He does not suspend the laws of nature in order to become part or coerce the human reality. God manifests His presence through the other’s visage. Meeting the visage of the other is a transcendental experience. To perceive the expression of the visage means to exceed our perception. The visage unravels the form and always exceeds beyond the idea that we make of.

The visage does not indicate simply the presence of the other, but it expresses the modality in accordance to which such presence is arranged. The visage represents in a certain way to be in attendance of other and as other. Other is introduced to me like infinity of veiled possible ways. The infinity manifests in the visage and the visage reveals the infinity. This relation with the infinity is not a theoretical recuperation, neither a presupposed hypothesis that renders the description possible. The human limitation explains the world beginning with that fact that is already clear. Therefore the humanization, used to explain the world, is not evil, after all. Consequently, in order to be acquainted with God it is necessary to begin to comprise our similar one. In the material visage we meet and recognize something that constitutes the door towards the transcendence. The visage is not a limited place without a sense, but the exceptionally place of the announcement of the transcendence.

God manifests Himself in the symmetry: on one side the Revelator, on the other side the human, which is able of being caught up by this revelation. Evenly, the visage manifests in the symmetry. The relation between the visages is the correlation between two transcendences, which forms the Kingdom, a spiritual reality of a dialectic love. Such symmetrical correlation is a relation of twofold movement of liberty that is donated. The truth of the Kingdom is possible only in the association with the other members of the body of Christ. The visage is evidenced just in the approach; not synthesis, symbiosis, but association. The Kingdom lives in the human hearts that take part of. Every visage that is correspondent of the divine one has its place in the Kingdom. The presence of the divine image in the man, the divine essence in the man, induces longing for the Kingdom. The Kingdom calls forth the essentiality that converts the man from the dispersiveness of the existential casualism to the trusting hope in the advent of the Kingdom, which is faithful witnessed in the people’s visage – passage towards the transcendence. Therefore, discovering the necessity of the visage in order to comprehend oneself, the other and also God, is essential for understanding the transcendental nature of the visage.



2.              The presence (manifestation) of the visage – His good, pleasing and perfect will.


The metaphysics is the relationship with God; ethics – the relationship with the related one, the respect of the other people’s visage. The idea of the Kingdom admits an ethical width, talking about the presence of the visage. Entering in relationship with God through the visage of the other, that’s ethics. Therefore ethics becomes the place of the metaphysics and the metaphysics comes true at the level of ethics. Ethics is correlated to the productive activity (not passive); therefore it is dynamic and involves the human being. In such a way the visage is an active presence that evidences itself in ethics. The man is not always present to himself in his completeness because he lives with and in others. In the elaboration of the person, I is totally in himself when, in the constitution of himself, knows to recognize the visage of the other, participating therefore intimately to the well-being and the life of another. This is not annihilation of the being but promptness without limits, that is an action of authentic moral. In the structure of the ethical relation, I does not get lost but, rather, discovers being faithfully to himself. This norm of existence does not dissolve the possibilities of the being. In this direction, the transcendence of the visage is not corroded and never gets exausted to introduce itself as an infinite entity. I is found inserted in the relation and it is destined to the participation. The immediate unity of the being in the world of the friends – phenomena (the visages of the others) bring along with itself the beatitude of rejoining with the harmonious world of the Kingdom. The man is complete as he is in relation with his similar ones. With the refusal of the hospitality, the man rinegate his own original election for the other (with whom collaboration he would give life to the image of God). Crushed the creational bond, he becomes alienated from the other, leaving apart the privilege of being for others. To be for the others is exact the opposite of the possession to which the visage escapes. The relation with the visage excludes the possession that would imply to dishonor the mystery of the visage. The ethics of the visage involves first of all the reciprocal interrogation and second, puts into effect a common plan; thus is made possible both the communication and the action, the two condition for the communion.

In conclusion, the essence of the human being is the image of God; the “visage” is the way of its manifestation. Visage means the place of junction between divine and the human: it is the modality of God to become alike a phenomenon. The visage that is dynamic, represents the transcendence of the man since the transfigured visage of Jesus belongs to the entire humanity inasmuch revelation of the divine in the flesh. The Kingdom is the common plan that realizes reliability one to the other and it is situated in the hearts of the persons. The visage is also the place of the ethic choice: place of manifestation of good or evil. Even if there is an ambiguity of the visage, the human visage is representing the divine image, in virtue of the filiation and the redemption. The Kingdom is close to those who consent being questioned by its expression that is the renewal through which every man, according to the visage of God, allows the own divine essence and eschatological destination be represented in himself.



Il Sabato

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 Sabato, dimensione temporale della compartecipazione al divino


 Libro di riferimento:  “Il Sabato” di Abraham J. Heschel



Tutto quello che occorre per santificare il tempo è Dio, un’anima, e un momento.


L’osservanza del comandamento di riposare nel settimo giorno vuol dire lavorare sei giorni con le cose dello spazio ma essere innamorati dell’eternità (Sabato). Nei giorni lavorativi lottiamo con il mondo (presenza nello spazio); nel settimo giorno cerchiamo di dominare il nostro io, stando in umiltà davanti a Dio (presenza nel tempo). La gioia del possesso è forse un antidoto al terrore del tempo, però non possiamo conquistare il tempo attraverso lo spazio. Questo è la realtà che noi affrontiamo, ma non possediamo in quanto inafferrabile. Possiamo dominare il tempo soltanto nel tempo. L’atto con cui possiamo farlo è la presenza spirituale nel tempo. Il Sabato è lo spirito sotto forma di tempo, è la presenza di Dio nel mondo, aperta all’anima dell’uomo. Il momento presente esiste perché Dio è presente. Il Sabato esiste perchè Dio esiste.

Il problema è come non essere assenti quando il tempo è presente. E ogni momento è una presenza che reca con sé una grande distinzione, ed è peccato credere nella identicità, poiché nessun istante ha dei precedenti. Ogni momento è un nuovo  arrivo della presenza di Dio nel mondo. Questo arrivo chiede di essere salutato, chiede che l’umano abbracci il divino. Non dobbiamo lasciarci sfuggire il momento, anzi dobbiamo riempirlo di un significato. Ciò che resta nell’anima è quel momento di intuizione più che un luogo dove l’atto si è svolto. Un momento d’intuizione è una fortuna che ci trasporta oltre i confini del tempo misurato. La vita spirituale comincia a decadere quando non riusciamo più a sentire la grandiosità di ciò che è eterno nel tempo. Sabato non è un interludio, ma un culmine del vivere. Il riposo perfetto è un’arte, il risultato di un’armonia tra il corpo, la mente e l’immaginazione. La ragione è che il settimo giorno è una miniera nella quale si può trovare il prezioso metallo dello spirito con cui costruire il palazzo nel tempo, una dimensione in cui l’umano si sente come se fosse in presenza con il divino; una dimensione in cui l’uomo aspira a raggiungere la somiglianza con il divino.

Il rituale ebraico può essere caratterizzato come l’arte delle forme significative nel tempo, come architettura del tempo. Non c’è santità nello spazio. Dio è dappertutto, non può essere in un luogo preciso. A nessun oggetto dello spazio viene attribuito il carattere della santità come per il tempo (Sabato). La santità del tempo sabatico stabilitasi alla creazione, sarebbe stata sufficiente per il mondo; ma la santità dello spazio (Santuario) era un compromesso necessario per corrispondere a una richiesta che il popolo rivolgeva a Dio. L’essenza del Sabato è completamente al di fuori dello spazio. Sabato ed eternità sono una cosa sola – o della medesima essenza. Il Sabato ci mette in sintonia con la santità del tempo. Il Sabato è un esempio del mondo futuro. In questo giorno siamo chiamati a partecipare a ciò che è eterno nel tempo, a volgerci dai risultati della creazione al mistero della creazione; dal mondo della creazione alla creazione del mondo. Infatti, il Sabato è un ricordo dei due mondi: questo mondo e il mondo futuro; esso è un esempio di entrambi i mondi. Il Sabato è gioia, santità e riposo; la gioia è parte di questo mondo, la santità e il riposo sono del mondo futuro.

Sperimentare il sapore dell’eternità è la vita eterna nell’ambito del tempo. Un requisito importante per essere capaci di affrontare e accogliere il presente è il senso di anticipazione, il cui opposto è, invece, l’evasione e il timore dei momenti futuri. L’uomo agisce e reagisce nei confronti di quel che incontra o conosce, cioè degli esseri che gli sono concomitanti, che gli stanno di fronte. Ma stabilisce un rapporto anche con ciò che non è ancora entrato nell’esistenza. L’uomo si rapporta tanto a ciò che esiste quanto a ciò che potrà o non potrà esistere. Pertanto i due modi fondamentali con cui egli si pone in rapporto con le cose sono il confronto e l’anticipazione. La benedizione dell’esistenza si rivela nella facoltà di anticipare il futuro. L’esistenza comporta la visione, la speranza, la capacità di attendere.

Il tempo è il prodotto dell’eternità in azione, ossia l’eternità in movimento. I giorni dello spirito non svaniscono mai. La materia si disolve ma un atto non muore mai. La materia è ricordo di momenti, è tempo accumulato, congelato. Così la fede è il concretizzarsi di tanti momenti di meraviglia. Vivere in modo spirituale, creativo è convertire le cose dello spazio in momenti di tempo. Il sacro non è presente nella materia stessa; è una preziosità che viene conferita alle cose da un atto di consacrazione e persiste in forza del rapporto con Dio. Come eternità, l’essenza del tempo è attaccamento, la comunione. Il settimo giorno è come un palazzo nel tempo come un regno per tutti. Il tempo non è perso quando sai esaltare la coincidenza del tuo essere con tutti gli esseri: lo spazio divide (Babele) invece il tempo (Sabato) unisce. Non è una data ma un’atmosfera; non un diverso livello di coscienza ma un clima diverso; è come se in qualche modo fosse cambiato l’aspetto di tutte le cose.

L’immagine, una cosa dello spazio, divenne portatrice delle verità, involucro di una presenza, di una grazia, dotata non soltanto di santità ma anche di vita. Siamo chiamati a essere un’immagine nel tempo, a vivire come immagine ed esempio di Dio. La Sua presenza non è una cosa dello spazio, ma la continuità stessa per cui io sono. Egli non è soltanto di fronte a me, ma è il mio stesso essere come continuo essere creato. La creazione è il linguaggio di Dio, e il Tempio è il Suo canto, mentre le cose dello spazio ne costituiscono le consonanti. Santificare il tempo significa cantare le vocali all’unisono con Lui.


Image of God – essence, existence, vocation

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Image of God – essence, existence, vocationby Liviu Anastase © 2007The two pillars of Adventist faith, evidenced by the name itself (Seventh Day Adventist Church) are the Sabbath and the Advent of Christ. The first is the essence of the Adventism, the sense, the sign of belonging to the remnant people of God and is a gift of partnership (existence) with God in the temporal dimension; the second, the destination (vocation) represent what this communion leads to. The Sabbath imparts the existence arch of time and projects us on the eternity, which begins with the return of Christ. “The world without the Sabbath”, said A. J. Heschel, “should be a world without a window that opens out from eternity to time”. The ‘present’ is category of being, and is experienced as immediate existence (as an alternative, we are aware of the past as memory and the future as expectation). Our eagerness to God is measured with the time conceded to God in our lives, and our availability to Him is evaluated according to the investment in this ‘present’ called Sabbath as a part of our being and a special time devoted to the search of God and others. The Sabbath rest, which is what we already have in our interiority, is the anticipation of the eternal eschatological Sabbath, which the Advent gives start to. The Sabbath that is beginning and the present (gift of Creation) together with the Advent – representing the future (eschatological gift) – are esclusive actions of God. Both this two events interest man directly: the Sabbath constitutes already, from the Creation onward, a part of man; the Advent instead is an event of which we can get just an anticipation as it is about a future participation. The return of Christ is not only interruption of time, but conversion, radical and unexpected exchange. Through it, God comes towards the human and surprises him giving the eternity, joining the essence and the potentiality towards the likeness to God.Dealing with the topic of the image and likeness of God, to such categories closed to us Adventists (Sabbath and Advent), might be find a more generic corresponding terminology: essence (present) and vocation (future).In this sense the image of God is not monolithic but articulated in two moments located at the beginning (Creation) and in the future (Advent). Between the primordial and the eschatological event there is the existence of the believer, a period tensioned by the presence of evil that partially distorts the image of God.The essence, the origin – the creatural aspect of the human being is affirmed by the premodern thought and by Christianity. The fact is that the image is not the original, but above all, it is nothing without the original because the image is not something empty, but has its origin in God. Therefore, it is about the conditioning to God, his rootedness in God, his structure that is of similar nature with God’s and his predisposition to the likeness of the Creator. The modern perspective describes man reduced to pure dimension of existence, uprooted from the divinity. Man is, in this version, open to the future (healing, progress), but without origins. This modern trend makes only a task out of the essence of man; that is why this is a deeply ‘anti-essentialist’ vision.The existentialism is the current describing the alienated condition of man. Theology (which reverses the dominance that existentialism gives to the existence in comparison to the essence) finds its place in the discourse inserting itself in the tension that exists between the essence of human and his existential alienated situation. Sin is something of universal extent describing the alienation from the divine essence. The essence remembers the beginning, when, in his essential structure man was created in a perfect correspondence to the image of God. Since the man was created “in his own image”, the Creation “was very good” (Gen. 1: 31 NIV).The vocation (destiny) is the second aspect of the image. Man does not bears within him the image given at the time of Creation but opens himself to the future, acknowledging its incompleteness, because he is not only ‘content’ but ‘task’ as well. The participation to the divine is not carrying out, as the result of our action, rather is an availability to be filled by the divine. The way to become an image of God is a historical process with eschatological outcome, rather then a ‘state’ because the human is/has not a fixed nature but is an open story. Therefore, “human-being” means “human-becaming” according to the image of God.Man was created with this great potential: to be image of God and to be more and more alike his Creator. The potentiality is not the perfection: it leaves room for continuous growth. This process is not the sum of many moments of imperfection that culminates with the fullness and completeness. Each moment of time holds its perfection that is not yet complete compared “to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NIV).In these particular moments the spiritual presence of Christ, despite of the current human condition, inspires man with interest in the ‘essentialisation’. With the return to the essence, takes place a return to the primordial human. In this way, there is an anticipation of the sense of harmony that belongs to the human being as its own structure. Consequently, the imbalance and disharmony of alienated existence appear in their true light, emerging from their historical and individual disguises. Therefore, the fulfilment of the image of God in man does not exclude the essence – the source that animates his existence – nor the vocation that will come about in the future. The two sides are complementary one to another, are interwoven towards eschatological perfection of image.There is also a contrast between the essence and the vocation. In order to ‘become’ we must give up something. The human is required to surrender something of him in order to leave room for the divine intervention in his life. Meeting the divine, man exceeds himself, though, is Jesus that achieving a spiritual extension, has created the transition to the divinity. Christ covers both our intimity with divine power, and our exterior with a coat of grace; what He placed within us encounters what He brings to us, enhancing the space of our nature. In communion with Him, men become what they were intended to: the image of God.Jesus is the portrait of God, the true image of God on earth. Christ is the “firstborn among many brothers”, and the belivers are “predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29 NIV). In Jesus Christ, the true image of man appears clear and enlightened, without those deformations and obscure points inherent in any image of himself or others. In Jesus, God places before our eyes the image and likeness, the clearest that can be, so that we recognize what dignity we are called to. The humanization of Jesus Christ does not alter the beauty of divine image, but exalts it in a cosmic revelation because with his sacrifice Jesus claims the involving of human to the communion with God and with His own image.The category of image carries in itself the dimension of alterity, otherness, diversity, difference, because his essence is to be an image of Another and his job is to give testimony of Other. It carries in itself also the dimension of plurality and communion, because God who is the reason for his iconicity is the One God in three Persons, is the Source of communion and reciprocity.The idea of ‘image of God’ is used to describe the state of the incompleteness of the humankind. On the other hand, the vocation towards the likeness of God means also what man is already in the characteristics of his natural existence, because only in this condition that future can be stated as realization of the vocation itself. However, the return to the ‘essentialisation’ will be complete only with the new Creation, when the Creator will place no longer Himself in front of the creation, but will dwell in it. Everything is now sharing in the inexhaustible fullness of the divine life because of the dwelling of God among us. Now similarity to God is completely restored. The man will become, like in the early times of Creation, the perfect image of the Creator.