Facing the Faceless: Eastern Syriac Mystics before the mystery of effacing self
Eastern Syriac mystical writers in describing the way of the solitude leading to the state of Union with God used different Syriac words meaning ‘face’(appē, quḇlā and parṣōpā).The usage of the idea of ‘face’ in the mystical theology has been predefined by the medical and theological (trinitarian and especially Christological) usage. In theology face was an expression of the idea of person (qnōmā) and was used to denote God in relation to a Man. Syriac Gallenic medicine knew that the face was an external expression of the brain conveyed by nervous impulses. In the ascetical thought of the Eastern Syriac mystics face of the man expressed sorrow (contrition) or joy (sense of the Union) – main emotions of the ascetic. In the highest mystical sense the ‘Face’ as in theology is a metaphor for the Encounter with God. This is the last and the highest goal of the human. An ascetic is dealing with his physical face as with a part of the self, an object to transfigure or efface. The goal is to make of it a reflection of eternal light or joy, which accompanies the ascetic toward the last stage of the Union with God which is called ‘Seeing God’s Face’.