Paradiso, XXXI, 108 :: J. L. Borges

Diodorus Siculus tells the story of a god, broken and scattered abroad. What man of us has never felt, walking through the twilight or writing down a date from his past, that he has lost something infinite?

Mankind has lost a face, an irretrievable face, and all have longed to be that pilgrim — imagined in the Empyrean, beneath the Rose — who in Rome sees the Veronica and murmurs in faith, “Lord Jesus, my God, true God, is this then what Thy face was like?”

Beside a road there is a stone face and an inscription that says, “The True Portrait of the Holy Face of the God of Jaen.” If we truly knew what it was like, the key to the parables would be ours and we would know whether the son of the carpenter was also the Son of God.

Paul saw it as a light that struck him to the ground; John, as the sun when it shines in all its strength; Teresa de Jesus saw it many times, bathed in tranquil light, yet she was never sure of the color of His eyes.

We lost those features, as one may lose a magic number made up of the usual ciphers, as one loses an image in a kaleidoscope, forever. We may see them and know them not. The profile of a Jew in the subway is perhaps the profile of Christ; perhaps the hands that give us our change at a ticket window duplicate the ones some soldier nailed one day to the cross.

Perhaps a feature of the crucified face lurks in every mirror; perhaps the face died, was erased, so that God may be all of us.

Who knows but that tonight we may see it in the labyrinth of dreams, and tomorrow not know we saw it.

[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Mildred Boyer]

2 thoughts on “Paradiso, XXXI, 108 :: J. L. Borges

  1. Pingback: The East « Hidden Connections

  2. Pingback: Smoking Out the Window: A Palimpsest with Jorge Luis Borges “Paradiso, XXXI” | Librocubicularist

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