Abstract

When was the last time you recognised the Word of God in the face of another person? Or perhaps when was the last time you clearly saw the face of the other beyond those plastic masks -unconsciously moulded upon our faces during the process of enculturation, diffusion and the development of our self-consciousness? Recently, a disabled person travelling on her motorised wheelchair approached me at the station, and began talking to me about her cat that bites her. She told me how fond she is of this cat, and yet how hurt she feels about its strange behaviour. This cat is at once a sacred (albeit vulgar) blessing and a bizarre curse for her. Something she loves so much gives her pain. It is a cruel paradox. In being attentive to her face, her fears, it appeared that she was demanding intimacy – even to the extent of holding me hostage in order to listen and keep her from being alone. Could it be that the face of this woman is indicative of our human condition? It is this neighbour, stranger and poor one who seeks help and sustenance from me (an other) and who ordains the grace of responsibility and the hope for justice. Is it in this neighbour’s face that the Word of God is revealed and if so, at what moment is the Word of God heard (Lévinas 1998, 108)?

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