Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes -
Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - January 2004
|Last Modified January 9th, 2004|
On the Appearance of Jesus Christ
Introduction by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes :
As a parish priest many people have asked me the question "What do you think Jesus Christ our Savior looked like in appearance?". Followed by such further questions as "How tall was He, what was the color of His hair, or His eyes?"
To these questions about our Savior Jesus Christ, the Son and Logos of God, the best answer I can give is that the really important thing is not so much what He looked like, but what He said and did for us all. It is by the grace of God, and the devoted work of the Evangelists and Apostles, that we have the life-giving words of Jesus written down for in the Holy Scriptures. In those same precious books we also read what Jesus did - His works of mercy and gave revealing exactly who He was - and is - in the midst of the people. In addition to the Holy Scriptures we can also turn to the Holy Fathers of the Church to get a further description of our Lord Jesus Christ.
From our reading, many of us are familiar with certain events in the life of our Savior, His Holy Nativity, His Holy Baptism, His Holy Transfiguration, His Holy Crucifixion, and His Glorious Holy Resurrection, as well as His Holy Ascension up to heaven. Many of us remember, too, some of the miracles our Lord performed, and the instructions He gave when He was asked the question "How should we pray?" His response was to teach us 'Our Father'. Another group of sayings, which are greatly loved by Christians throughout the world, are the 'Beatitudes'. So in Holy Scriptures we have a wonderful collection of the loving words and actions of our Savior, and to memorize many of them is a great blessing to our souls.
In the Holy Scriptures we also see the effect our Lord Jesus Christ had on the people He met as He traveled around the Holy Land and in Jerusalem. Many of the ordinary people who met Him, or saw the miracles He performed, went on to preach and witness to our Lord in many parts of the world.
There are also other documents dating from the early years of the Christian era, in which private individuals, who were not followers of Christ, wrote detailed accounts concerning His life. One who wrote about the character, appearances, form and figure of Christ, who is worthy of mention, is the Roman Publius Lentulus (Greek: Poulious Lantoulos), lived during the days of our Lord as a resident of Jerusalem. Then again we also have two well-known Holy Fathers of our Church who also described the appearance of our Lord: St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, and St. John Chrysostom.
This, then, is a humble attempt to reveal a little more about what our Lord Jesus Christ looked like, the works He performed which is clearly expresses His love for us all, and the offer He gives us of eternal life with Him. We must always remember the fact that our Savior was both human and divine, Who humbled Himself, becoming one with us. He knew so well what it is like to be human, with all our needs and frailties, that He constantly poured out His compassion on those whom He met.
Now let me humbly present to you the description of the Roman Publius Lentulus, who wrote the following in a letter to the Roman Senate:
Now let me humbly share with you what St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite (1749-1809), in "A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel of Western Spirituality Proper Delights of the Mind", addresses the great delight of envisioning the physical appearance of Christ.
Think of those most pure eyes of Jesus, so calm, so sweet; the straightness of His nose; the somewhat chestnut-colored and at the same time golden hair and beard of His; His great and joyous forehead; the blended color of His calm and royal face; His fine long fingers and his perfectly shaped hands; His moderate stature, and simply all of the other symmetry and grace, which shone in all His members. Jesus was so beautiful that, as Lentulus (Lantoulos), that officer who had seen the Lord with his own eyes in Jerusalem, wrote to the senate in Rome, there has never appeared on earth another person more beautiful than Jesus. Foreseeing this beauty, prophet David wrote: "You are the most beautiful of the sons of men" (Psalm 45:2). Aquila rendered this line, "You are adorned with beauty by the sons of men." Symnmachus rendered it, "Among the sons of men You are good in beauty." The bride in the Song speaks lovingly to Him: "Behold, You are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely (Song 1:16). This is why the people could not be satisfied when looking upon Him, nor did they want to take their attention away from Him.
St. John Chrysostom explaining this passage "When Jesus saw great crowds around Him" (St. Matthew 8:18) wrote: "The people were really attracted to Him and they loved Him and marveled at Him, desiring always to be looking upon Him. Who would want to leave while He was doing these marvelous deeds? Who would not want to simply get a glance at the face and the mouth only when He was doing wonders, but even when He was just looked upon, simply He was just full of grace." This is what the prophet David meant when he said that He was the most beautiful among the sons of man.
Now if the physical body of sweetest Jesus was so beautiful then when He was bearing a corruptible body, how much more beautiful is it now that it has become incorruptible and glorified and His divine face is shining in heaven infinitely more brightly than the sun? This is why St. John Chrysostom has sought with his eloquent homilies to move us to do everything we can so that we may achieve and enjoy the sweetest vision of the glorified and most beautiful and most desired divine face of Jesus. For if one is to be deprived of the vision of the most beautiful and most desired face of Jesus, this is truly a worse calamity than a thousand hells". For as St. John Chrysostom also wrote:
"Even if we experience a thousand hells, none of these will be anything like the experience of seeing the calm face of Jesus and His serene eyes turn away from us being unable to endure looking upon us." Source: Excerpts from: Orthodox Heritage, Greek Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Poimen, Phoenix, AZ., Vol. 01, Issue 1, January 2003, p. 9.
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+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Glory Be To God For All Things!
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