"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Threefold Dimension of Sacred Mirroring

Narcissuss by Caravaggio c. 1600

he first: In my own experience of spiritual direction, I do a lot of mirroring. I tell my retreatants that my role is like a mirror that unveils. A mirror’s job is very important in the spiritual direction session because there are things that could be seen only through a mirror. I tell them that when they come to me it is like looking at themselves in the mirror. This is the Greek word katopritzomai—“to look at one’s self in a mirror” (Thayer). Throughout human civilization, mirrors have been used in various forms. The earliest manufactured mirrors, in 6000 BCE, were pieces of polished stone such as obsidian aka volcanic glass. By the Bronze Age, most cultures were using mirrors made not yet of glass, but of highly polished metal: bronze, brass, silver, gold, or other metals. Common metal mirrors got tarnished which necessitated frequent polishing. Bronze mirrors had low reflectivity and poor color rendering, worse, are the stone mirrors. These defects explain the New Testament reference in 1 Corinthians 13 to seeing "as in a mirror, darkly." When the person saw himself or herself his face would naturally be illuminated by the reflections from the mirror. The person’s face would thus radiate either white or yellow (depending on the metal used). The person would not see this reflection himself or herself, but others would see it. For example “when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of Moses’s face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them” (Ex 34:29-35). Moses’ face shone because he had been beholding the glory of the Lord on the mountain.

The second point: Sometimes it is difficult to mirror someone when there is nothing to mirror. I tell this to my directees, I can only do the mirroring if the exercitant prayed over the matter that has been given. That is the most basic thing. As a spiritual guide, I would often remind myself that hearing the Word is the first mirroring. Isn’t it true, that the Bible exposes to ourselves, our flaws and shortcomings, “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to adjudge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). It is not just limited to Spiritual Direction that we experience looking into a mirror. When I was a parish priest, I could not do spiritual direction to all my parishioners. So what did I do to bring people to the Living Word aside from the Sacraments? I formed them into BECs or Basic Ecclesial Communities where they could do faith-sharing. Faith-sharing is akin to faith-mirroring which is the same basic consolation that we would normally get out of the spiritual direction. In place of one-on-one spiritual guidance, there are other mirrors like the mirror of human experiences which are very much shared experiences. A regular faith-sharing that flows from the written Word and from everyday human experience is very vital in growing the divine life within us. There is an emphasis on contemplating the Word first through prayerful recollection, retreats, and other forms of solitude. The constant and proper method of Lectio Divina is the best if not the only way to get to know God and deepen our relationship with him. When we behold the Glory of the Lord, something happens—we become what we contemplate, we become what we behold. In a beautiful fashion, St Paul says “we all are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).

The third point: There is a little parable of the mirror in the letter of James that I would like to use. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (Jas 1:22-25). There are two types of persons—hearers and doers—both look at the mirror of God’s Living Word but with different intensities. There are people, even among ourselves who are steep already in the spiritual life, who “look” at ourselves in the mirror, meaning, we fully hear the word. But afterward, we fail because we look away from the mirror. The doers of the word, on the other hand, not only “look” but “look intently” (v. 25), which means to “lean over” and “peer within.” This is precisely the reason why the Word of God should not just be glossed over because there are word differences, and they are different for a reason for those who can “lean over” and “peer within.” Hearers and doers are set up in contrast to each other. Hearers may observe fully, but they remain as spectators. Unlike spectators, doers change their position in order to look more closely into the mirror moment-to-moment. This I think is the meaning of the inner eye of faith, which looks and gazes at God closely enough, to know God more, to love God more, and to follow God more in God’s Kingdom. There is a very close relationship between the hearers and doers of the Word of God and outside spectators and doers in the Kingdom of God. When the Pharisees asked when the Kingdom of God would come, they were asking as outside spectators. For this reason, Jesus replied to them, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” Biblical scholars are divided as to the meaning of the phrase ‘within you’. Does it mean ‘already among you’? Does it mean it is ‘within your grasp’? Some would even interpret it as a spiritual reality in human hearts that all it needs is the person's appreciation. Whichever of these meanings is intended by St Luke, the final sentence of the section of the Gospel serves like the mirror par excellence, namely, that before the ultimate coming of the Kingdom of God, Jesus "must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation." Jesus is the mirror of mirrors. To end, I would like to quote the Book of Wisdom:
For she is an aura of the might of God
and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.
For she is the refulgence of eternal light,
the spotless mirror of the power of God,
the image of his goodness. (Wis 7:22b–8:1)
Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ


  1. Thanks po, Fr. JM for your reflection and sharing... While I was reading, I remembered the song Mirrors by Justin Timberlake.. :')

    Yes, there are many things we can discover if we gaze intently at the mirror... Sometimes we are simply unaware or unconscious but the mirror will see through what is hidden, within and beneath... Thanks for being a "mirror" to others...

    Little sharing, my experience is that I felt a deep of kind of mirroring whenever I face Jesus in the Host during Adoration... I see such a deep sense of nothingness in front of Him yet His endless love and mercy towards a sinful being like me... As in the song "Mirrors", those moments are but feeling of finding your ultimate love (a soulmate maybe) and not wanting to be separated from Him anymore...

    Thank you very much... Take care.. GBU! I do keep you in my prayers always... :')

    1. Thanks for sharing. I like JT's song too! In your sharing you touch upon experiences that often we do not like to see inside the mirror... we want to forget... You remind me of people like St Augustine who confessed that "our heart is restless until it rests in You" (The Great Thou). True and inner peace reins as a beloved peers within the gentle and silent mirror of the Beloved and the effect is eternal bliss! That is our goal while we live on earth! GBU!

    2. Wow... It's nice to know that you like JT's song too...
      This is my favourite part...

      Cause I don't wanna lose you now
      I'm lookin' right at the other half of me
      The vacancy that sat in my heart
      Is a space that now you hold
      Show me how to fight for now
      And I'll tell you, baby, it was easy
      Comin' back here to you once I figured it out
      You were right here all along

      Thanks for mirroringg the words of St. Augustine in my reflection and most especially about that true and inner peace from that gentle and silent gaze [mirror] of the Beloved... That's how it is really during adoration... It is all bare.. As he is exposed on that simple bread I too exposed everything that I am... Nothing is hidden... Then, comes "...abounding joy in His presence, the delights at His right hand forever..."

      Thank you so much po again, Fr. JM... May God bless and keep you always... TC

  2. Looking in the mirror .. I in You and You in me... Jn 14:20... Blessed are you seeing the image of the Beloved smiling brightly and gazing with all His love as you look in the clear plane mirror...God bless FR. JM and TC!


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