...but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…. All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.
In today’s first reading Saint Paul refers to the veil that Moses wore when, after speaking with God, he addressed his Hebrew people. He was the only man who could look on the face of God and live, but when he did so his face would begin to glow with unbearable brilliance. Aaron and the others insisted that Moses should wear a veil to dim the light.
That glow is the original aura that artists use to describe the holiness of the saints. It appears in many fashions. On Michelangelo’s Moses, it’s represented by two horns on his head. More often it’s a halo; sometimes, a plate floating above or behind the head, or a ring of light. The halo around Jesus usually has a cross within it, which helps to identify him among his disciples. On the San Damiano cross the veil appears as a darkened circle. You might not notice it’s in front of Jesus’ face (where it should be) except for the darkened arc under his chin.
The halo, like other sacred symbols, has been exploited by the entertainment industry. During the closing credits of the television show, “The Saint,” it would appear over “Simon Templar”, played by the late Roger Moore. Templar was a loveable thief who helped the police catch criminals while making off with the criminal’s loot. Because the law could never convict him he was “a saint.” Sometimes, Christians remark about the halos we wear, but usually in a teasing or kidding fashion.
But there really is an aura of holiness around the disciples of Jesus and, if it’s not exactly visible it’s nonetheless palpable.
Saint Basil the Great, in his praises of the Holy Spirit, writes:
As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit shines become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.
The Holy Spirit gives us a wisdom that we might describe as common sense; which, unfortunately, is not as common as it should be. When others are paralyzed with fear by some act of terrorism the Christian volunteers to help the wounded, to bury the dead, and to console the sorrowing. When others hold back to see what happens the Good Samaritan assists the fallen.
This wisdom may be as common as: Don't drink and drive; Share and share alike; and, If you want a friend, be a friend. The wisdom of God is usually very reasonable.
Some people will say we shouldn’t act that way. They might mock the halos we wear, especially as we practice our faith, remembering not only Christmas but Easter, Pentecost and All Saints Day.
Saint Paul says of these scoffers: And even though our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled for those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
They should never hear the further assurances of Saint Basil, “Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations – we become God.”