Eight hundred years ago, Clare of Assisi advised a correspondent to gaze into the mirror of the crucified Christ and study her own face within it. One hundred years ago, sociologist Charles Horton Cooley said we can know our self only as it is reflected to us by others. Contemplation is the choice to find our reflection in the divine Mirror. In The Sacred Gaze, Susan Pitchford explores how a false self is created by distortions in the mirrors around us. Drawing from the mystical and sociological traditions, and with practical suggestions for how to begin, Pitchford shows how gazing into the face of Christ can reveal to us who we really are. When the true self is known, and known as God's beloved, the way is opened to radical freedom and joy.
Susan R. Pitchford is a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Washington and a professed member of the Third Order, Society of St. Francis. She is the author of God in the Dark: Suffering and Desire in the Spiritual Life (Liturgical Press) and Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everyone. Susan lives in Seattle with her husband, Bob Crutchfield.
The Sacred Gaze invites the reader to consider devoting the time and energy to cultivating the contemplative life, not only for its own sake, but also for the way deep experiences of God's unconditional love have the potential to bring a deeper level of healing to a wounded or spoiled identity. To experience oneself as beloved of God, expressed either through a mutual gazing in love upon one another in imaginative contemplation or as held in God's embrace in imageless prayer for long periods of time over a lifetime, leads to the discovery of one's true self that relieves one of the burden of all ego projects. To look into the mirror who is Christ is to discover one's own Christic identity.
Dr. Janet Ruffing, RSM, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut
In this brief but rich and deeply impressive text, Pitchford writes about the recovery of the inner radiance that is the fruit of a contemplative lifestyle. . . . She articulates a very readable and convincing integration of both the mystical and sociological traditions. . . . Pitchford's Sacred Gaze is a very powerful, brief, and well-written text. I highly recommend it for any courses dealing with Spirituality, Mystical Theology or Spiritual Anthropology. It may also serve as a very solid supplemental text for grounding students in a spiritual orientation toward contemporary activism in Social Justice Issues.
Eric W. Hendry, Catholic Books Review
"This is much in this book that can be of great help to anyone engaged on the spiritual way, that seeking of God of which Saint Benedict spoke. The author's popular style and informal, almost chatty way of speaking may appeal more to those at the outset of this marvelous journey."
M. Zita Wenker, Cistercian Studies Quarterly
"It is an honest, at times amusing, deeply theological and yet practical little book for all who seek God, who long to `come home to our true [selves], the glory of God, a human being fully alive.' It is a book which would appeal to pastors, theologians, and lay people seeking to understand the sacred art of prayer through the psychology of the Self."
Philippa Cole, Grace & Truth
How do we live in a world "addicted to velocity"? How do we resist the seductions of a culture that invites us to define ourselves by what we consume? Susan Pitchford has written a fiercely honest and probing "guide for the perplexed" that brings together sharp psychological insights with the ancient wisdom of the Christian spiritual tradition. In doing so, she outlines for us a great anthropological adventure: This book is about the recovery of radiance-the sheer wonder and amazement of being alive and aware.
Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus of Grace Cathedral
The Sacred Gaze is more than just an insightful overview of the relationship between healing and spirituality: it is a splendid general introduction to contemplative prayer. Susan R. Pitchford understands that contemplation is, at heart, a revolutionary way of viewing life, love, and God. With humility and grace, she explains the beauty and power of contemplative seeing, and how praying in this way can help you to become the authentic person God has created you to be.
Carl McColman, Author of Answering the Contemplative Call and The Big Book of Christian Mysticism