The Face of God

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by Christine Sunderland

Yesterday the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels was celebrated, when we recall how angels transfigure Earth with Heaven. They live among us, inspiring and protecting. They are guardians, guides, and messengers. In my recently published novel, Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock Publishers) the Archangel Michael appears to hermit Abram with a message. Michael is a figure of light, bright and shining, all movement, shimmering within our space and time. His power is authored and commanded by a greater power, one emanating from the face of God, the face of Love. It is a face that transfigures within and with that love.

The call of the Christian writer is to transfigure Earth with Heaven through stories, so that we see the face of God in one another, through words and ideas and thoughts incarnated on paper and screen. Through our words, our visions roam the face of the Earth with the face of God, the face of Love.

Today, in a masked world of fear and contagion, smiles are erased, and we no longer see face to face. We no longer can express love through facial expressions, through a smile. The enormity of this loss is slowly being realized in our culture, for seeing one another face to face is to recognize our human dignity, to recognize God the Creator in each one of us. The miracle of the smile is seen in babies responding to love for the first time, when they smile in response to their mother’s smile, learning to love in return. In this first vision of God, this first lesson in love, the child is baptized with love incarnate, for one day, mother and child will see the Lord face to face.

Faces are the revelation of a person within. Just so, we see the face of God in the face of Christ. Just so,

we as Christian novelists are called to reveal the face of God in our writing. We create stories that reflect this vision, a face that connects Heaven and Earth until the time of the new Earth and Heaven, when we will see God face to face. Our writing is like an icon, creating a passage into greater sight, a doorway to eternity.

In Angel Mountain, the hermit Abram meditates and sings to and with his icons. He is communing with the Communion of Saints, with the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this way his cave on the mountainside becomes an icon, a window to Heaven.

Churches and other sacred spaces also serve as iconic pathways. Individual Christians reflecting the face of God are passages to Heaven, their bodies becoming living icons. They become His face in that moment; they smile His smile; they speak His love. We call these holy ones saints for they reflect the glory of God.

Our stories are icons, pulling the reader into another world – a world of wonder, holiness, righteousness, and joy. They portray a vision of God on Earth, a momentary glimpse of Heaven.

One of the icons in Abram’s cave is the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor when Christ’s face is altered, his clothing “white and glistering,” as he speaks with Moses and Elias, witnessed by Peter and John (Luke 9:29). In Matthew’s account, Jesus’ face “did shine as the sun” (17:2).

As Christian novelists we are called to transfigure our readers, to reveal, reflect, the face of God through stories and characters, in effect, to reveal, reflect the face of Love. For when this happens, our faces are unmasked, and reflecting the face of God, we are transfigured, so that we make the material world truly matter by transfiguring it with light. We ask the Holy Spirit to live and breathe through us, through our own matter, our own flesh, through our own time – our minutes, hours, and days – so that truly, God is with us, in us.

How Christian novelists are called to transfigure Earth with Heaven by reflecting the face of God. @Chrisunderland #ACFWBlogs #writetips #ChristianFiction #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Christine Sunderland has authored seven novels: Pilgrimage, set in Italy, Offerings, set in France, Inheritance, set in England, Hana-lani, set in Hawaii, The Magdalene Mystery, set in Rome and Provence (all Oaktara), The Fire Trail (eLectio), set at UC Berkeley and Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock), set on Mount Diablo, east of Berkeley. She serves as Managing Editor for the American Church Union ( Visit Christine at (website and blog).



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