The error of Zacchaeus


A snippet from Fr. Maximos’ The Art of Seeing, our speaker for this year’s Sts. Sebastian and Mardarije Institute in San Diego which began last night.

“…Freedom from the tyranny of the senses, however, does not mean that our aim is a kind of detached, distance looking, for this would be to commit the error of Zacchaeus, who wanted to see Jesus without being seen by him (Lk 19:1-11). Yet it is mostly from such safe distances that we too wish to see him, without opening ourselves up to his gaze, without making ourselves vulnerable to him. Seeing, of course, is a metaphor for knowing, and there is no knowledge apart from love. Thus the desire to see without being seen, to know without being known, to take without giving, stands in the same relation as love does to an act of violence. God, however, cannot be so violated, and those who will not strip and empty themselves before him go away cold and empty. But if we heed the call to “make haste and come down” (Lk 19:5), we shall find that, on the ground, in the embrace of Jesus (Lk 19:6) the world looks very different. It is no longer simply I who see, but also I who am seen. The “object” of my vision has now become a subject, it approaches me from outside myself, and draws out its implications in me. Welcomed into the presence of another, I discover that he himself is the living center of my being, and I become, in the words of St. Maximos, “like a crystal clear mirror capturing completely the whole shape of God the Word who is looking at himself in me” (PG 91:1137B). “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold; and all of us, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are transfigured into his likeness from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:12,18)…..”

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