The True Mirror of Ourselves
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”
- The Evil Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
see in a mirror dimly.”
-1 Cor 13
God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.”
as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image
of the man of heaven.”
-1 Cor 15:49
When I was young, my father would sometimes read bedtime stories to his children. And one of the first stories I could remember him reading to us was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He would read from a book that had colorful pictures of the characters. Frankly, I was not so much interested in Snow White and her seven little friends. What can I say, I was a weird child, never a conformist. Even then people said I was “queer.” The character that attracted me the most was that of the Evil Queen who had a magic mirror. The Evil Queen was so obsessed or rather so insecure about her looks; she wanted to be the most beautiful person in the world. And she obsessively looked at the mirror and asked “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” And the magic mirror usually would say that the Evil Queen was the most beautiful of all…until, of course, Snow White grew up and surpassed the beauty of the Evil Queen. She became a runner up. When I saw the picture of the Evil Queen, I thought that she was indeed beautiful (Okay, she probably needed a little makeover); she did not look ugly to me. But the irony was the Evil Queen could not see her own beauty, and she always had to rely on her magic mirror to tell her that she was beautiful.
Have you ever been in a Fun House Mirror Hall in a carnival? A Fun House is filled with mirrors; some would make you look very fat, some mirror would make you look very thin, and some mirrors would exaggerate a physical quality, often distorting your own image. Mirrors could tell the truth or mirrors could lie about us. Well, there are many “mirrors” in society that tell lies about us, and when I say this, I am not talking about mirrors made of glass. Some of these mirrors could be people around us who we consult to measure our own self-worth, or some of these mirrors could simply be the social values and mores we buy into in order to define who we are. The difficulty is when these mirrors tell lies about us. Some tell us that we are nobody unless we make enough money, or have the right job or education. Some tell us that we are nothing unless we have reached the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Some tell us that we are not worth the time unless we have some political clout or prestige. Some tell us that we are not beautiful unless we look a certain way, unless we have a right skin or hair color or a certain body build, or unless we wear the right clothes and the right brands. Certainly this is true in the gay community. Just look at the various images, pictures and photographs in any gay-related publications. Now don’t get me wrong. I like looking at men with great physiques, six-packs abs, muscled bodies, with sexy appeal, wearing tight fitting clothes. But we have heard of body fascism, where a definite ideal is held over the rest of us who just can’t make it. At least when I first came out twenty years ago, that “ideal” was usually a young man, with good looks, white, blonde, blue-eyed, chiseled bodied, preferably butch (not necessarily a top). If that is still the ideal, I know I can’t fit that ideal. I can never seem to get muscles. I have a tummy that won’t go away. As my voluptuous and curvy friend said, “I have six pack abs…they are just hidden under the keg.” I am not white. I am Asian. I do not exude appeal or raw sexuality, but I am more like a geek. Truth be told, not conforming to the ideal sometimes affected my self-esteem and self-worth.
mirrors do you consult? What do they say about you? Do they say that you are
a beautiful person, or do you come away with a feeling of low self-worth?
The ancient Church Father, Basil of Caesarea, once said, “The human being is an animal who has received the vocation to become God.” This is the truth we hold. We have been created to become “like” God. We believe that when God created us, we were created in the image of his Son who is both human AND God. Created to be the image of the Son, God willed it that we would become like the Son in that you and I, each one of us, all of us will all share in the divine life of God. Our ultimate destiny, our ultimate calling is, through grace, to be like God. There is no higher or lofty or glorious view of humanity than this. What we say is that to reach our true humanity, to be truly human is to be truly like God. But the problem is that because of sin, this beautiful image of Jesus that is in us has been distorted. Because of sin, we have forgotten the beautiful truth, our holy calling, our sacred vocation and our supreme worth. Because of sin, we have become blind to the beauty of the image of God in us, and we have failed to see the beauty of the image of God in others. And what we do is rely on other false mirrors that lie about us- telling us that our beauty and worth is tied in with something less than God, like money, prestige, power, or looks. We have then exchanged our true beauty, we have exchanged our infinite worth for something less. By sin, we have come to measure our true worth and our beauty, we have come to judge the worth and beauty of others not by the image of God and Christ that is in us, but by other lesser and baser things of life.
To remember our own beauty, we must look at our true Mirror, Jesus the Christ. Fully God and fully Human, we see in him our own beauty. Just as God became human, so the human must become like God. Jesus mirrors to us what we shall become. We are destined to a new beauty, sharing in the glorious life of the Father, what we see in Jesus is a pure and clear mirror of our selves- we will be raised to a new beauty for we shall be clothed with the glory and immortality of the Son.
When my partner and I went to Rome, we saw several Churches with murals and paintings depicting heaven and the Kingdom of God. There was one mural- of saints with Christ. Some of the saints depicted were martyrs bearing with them the instruments of their martyrdom. They were depicted as triumphant over their martyrdom, joyfully and blessed, yet their bodies in heaven bore the ugly marks of their martyrdoms, but these wounds have not conquered them; in fact, they conquered the wounds and blows of life. These wounds were no longer ugly marks, in fact. In heaven, these marks on their bodies were rendered beautiful and glorious. While we may not love our bodies now in this world because we can not conform to an earthly ideal, God loves us just as we are. Almost two thousand years ago, that theologian, Augustine, often considered by many of our contemporaries as a misogynist, once decried the oppression of women whose worth in the world seemed to be reduced to physical beauty. He said that in heaven, they will be raised sed decori novo, that is, to a new beauty in which blindness to their true beauty would be corrected. "Lookism" and its accompanying lust would be no more. Likewise, we all shall be raised to a “new beauty” in which the ultimate truth and beauty about each one of us would be revealed.
Remember this when you are confronted by people who seek to diminish your worth. Remember this truth when others treat you with disrespect. Remember this when people judge you to be of little worth or to be a nobody. Jesus our true Mirror reminds you that you are beautiful, you are of infinite worth to God…you are infinitely loved by God. Likewise, do not forget to treat your neighbor- even those you find difficult to love, those you find unattractive, those who are easy for us to ignore- do not forget to treat them with respect and love for they, too, are God’s beloved, and they too have the same infinite worth that God accords you, they too are beautiful, containing in themselves the seeds of divinity sown in them by the Father, through Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
2006 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a gay Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
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