God’s Back

by Therese Fajardo

But, He said, you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live. …. While my glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back.

The Lord to Moses, Exodus 33:20-23


In these months of quarantine and more quiet time, I found this passage one morning in the readings for the liturgy of the day.

God’s back? I had surely never seen this passage before. What does God’s back look like? I was beginning a weeks-long return to this question, and I never grew tired of it.

But despite my best efforts (or, more likely, because of them) I couldn’t quite see.

Oh, I was familiar with the Lord in the still, quiet breeze (and not the earthquake), the pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the desert; the cloud that descended on the mountain when he met with Moses. But what exactly does God’s back look like?

After we had had four months of live streaming the Sunday Liturgy, my parish had started offering live liturgies, limiting the number of people in the church and requiring the wearing of masks and reservations to allow safe distancing.

I went and I was impressed with the great effort made to provide a safe place for those who came to Mass. I felt very at home there.

As I knelt there at the Consecration and watched the priest elevate the Host, the Body of Christ for all to see, it came to me: this was God’s front!

The clarity of God revealing his face to us every day in the Mass shot through me, and I began to get an idea of God’s back.

If his face is in the Eucharist, his back is seen in every act of charity we receive throughout the day. The fellow at the grocery who takes your purchases out to the car, or the pharmacist who helps you find a less costly medicine; the mail person who comes in good and treacherous weather, and the driver who lets you into a traffic lane.

The volunteers who disinfect the church pews between each Mass so others will be safe. All of these are graces in disguise, laid before us daily. But now I see these little favors differently.

As obvious as the Eucharist is showing the Lord’s face, I think we have to be more aware to see God’s back in the ordinary comings and goings.

Now I recognize God’s back when I see it—sometimes.