On Pilgrimage Within a Gaze
By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
A countenance equal to this one I do not know. I have it well placed in front of me, and, moved by an inveterate habit of observing everything and then making it explicit for my own use, I fix my eyes on it attentively. Suddenly, I realize that I am entering it.
Yes, this unique physiognomy flows, in a manner of speaking, from the face and especially from the eyes. It envelops me in the ambience it creates and invites me to enter deep into her gaze.
What a gaze! No other is so limpid, so frank, so pure, so welcoming. In no other does one penetrate with such ease. Nevertheless, neither does any other contain depths which lose themselves in such a faraway horizon. The more one penetrates this gaze, the more one is attracted to an indescribable, interior, and sublime summit.
What summit? A state of soul that I would be tempted to describe as being full of paradoxes if the word paradox, so abused in current speech, did not die on my lips as disrespectful.
Every perfection, the Scholastics say, results from a balance of harmonious opposites. By no means is it a precarious balance between flagrant contradictions (and in saying this I think of the poor, callous, and vacillating peace the modern world strives to preserve at the cost of so many concessions and so much shame), but a supreme harmony of all forms of good.
It is precisely this peak, where all perfections meet, that I see rising in the depths of this gaze, a peak incomparably higher than the columns that support the firmament, a peak from which a crystalline, categorical, and irresistible rule excludes every form of evil, however slight or small it may be.
One could spend a lifetime within this gaze without ever reaching that peak. A useless journey? Not at all. Within this gaze one does not walk, one flies. One is not strolling along, but rather, making a pilgrimage. The pilgrim, without every reaching that sacred mountain, the sum of all created perfections, sees it with increasing clarity the more he flies toward her.
Throughout this pilgrimage of the soul, the gaze within which he flies does not merely envelop him; it penetrates him. When the pilgrim closes his eyes, he sees the light in the depths of his being. I have the impression that if he is faithful in this flight for his whole life, when he closes his eyes definitively this light will shine in the depths of his soul for all eternity.
The gaze is the soul of the countenance. And what a countenance I have before me! To a fool, it would seem inexpressive. To an apt observer, it manifests a plenitude of soul greater than history, because it touches on eternity; greater than the universe, because it reflects the infinite.
The forehead seems to contain thoughts that begin with
a manger and end with a cross, taking in all human events. The entire face, the
nose, whose line has a charm "more beautiful than beauty" as a poet
said. The silent lips, which nevertheless say everything at every moment,
appear to praise God in every creature according to the characteristics of each
one; to beseech God on behalf of every misery as if sympathizing with the
peculiarities of each of them. These lips have an eloquence
alongside which that of Demosthenes or
Yes, I am on a pilgrimage within this gaze, so full of surprises. Unexpectedly, I perceive that the pilgrim gaze is also inside me. A poor and merciful pilgrimage, not from splendor to splendor, but from need to need, from misery to misery. If only I open myself to this gaze, it offers me a remedy for every defect, help for every obstacle, hope for every affliction.
What, after all, do I have before me? A wooden statue like so many others, without any special artistic value.
Yet one need only fix one's eyes on it, and this statue, without moving, without the least transformation, begins to make all these splendors shine.
How? I do not know either. But if the reader wishes, let him look and see...
This is the statue of Our Lady of Fatima that shed
I insist. If you accept the description I have made, I invite you in turn to make this magnificent pilgrimage within the gaze of the Virgin. If you do not believe it, look and see. I could not offer you a better invitation.
Pray then, for yourself. And pray for the
(TFP Magazine, Jan-Feb 1995)
Translated from “Folha de S. Paulo”, 12th Novembre 1976