Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Face of God

A couple weeks ago at confirmation class, I passed around note cards and had everyone write down a question that they would like to ask God. I then collected the cards and gave each table two questions to answer. One of the questions that came up was, "What do you look like?"

Ironically, yesterday, my nine-year old son, Max, asked the same question. "What does God look like?" I admit that I tried to give him the quick "lets move on to the next subject" answer by saying that he gets to see God in the Eucharist. He shut the door in my face, sort of, by replying "Dad, that's Jesus."

So what DOES God look like? Many people have the traditional image of God as the grey-haired bearded old man that in see in Michelangelo's "Creation." We also have the image of Jesus, being the second person of God. Then in the Holy Spirit we have images of either a dove or as fire. We also get images of God from movies. In "Oh God" we see God in George Burns as an old man that we would probably walk by in the grocery store. In "Bruce Almighty" and later "Evan Almighty" we see God in the image of Morgan Freeman.

Theologically, seeing God as an old man is incorrect. God is spirit and does not have a body. Probably the best picture we can get of God is by looking in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God is seen as a cloud that comes over the Tabernacle (tent) that the Jews has set up for him. In the New Testament, God is again seen--this time at the Transfiguration--as a voice from a cloud. I'm sure there are other images of God in the Bible and I'm sure that I probably messed those two images up somehow but lets face it---I'm no Bible scholar.

Let's face it. Probably no one knows what God looks like. I say probably because I'm not going to say that He hasn't appeared to someone. The fact of the matter is that we will have to wait until we die and then--hopefully--we will see the Beatific Vision and be in the presence of God.

Until then--imagine God however you want. Anything that helps you in your prayer life and helps you get closer to God. Heck-here is a great idea--ask God during your prayer time. If it helps you to pray to imagine God as a grandfatherly figure, as a bearded old man or a cloud then I say go for it. Just don't be shocked if later on you find out something else.
What do you think?


  1. I've heard that the image of God is so beautiful, so overwhelming that any human who looked on his face would die. In heaven He grants us the grace to see him face-to-face. I'm not sure where I heard that.

  2. It's in scripture; those who have seen the Son have seen the Father. Jesus is a reflection of the Father.

    Of course, we know that God is pure Glory, He is blinding, and we would burn up in His presence.

    Until Jesus came, we could not see God. Now we can: Jesus.

  3. I've tried explaining to people who complain that God seems so far away that He's not: he's right there in the tabernacle!