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God’s Rose-Coloured Specs

May 23, AD 2017 0 Comments

Conrad von Soest, ‘Brillenapostel,’ (1403), Wikimedia Commons.

To say that someone sees through rose-coloured or rose-tinted glasses is a common idiomatic expression by which we describe someone as seeing something as being more pleasant than it is.[1] The idiom implies that someone’s perspective on a particular reality, or on reality itself, is overly optimistic—rose-coloured, tinted, and glossed, softening the cold hard truth.

The Saying

The origins of this idiom are unclear.[2] It was clearly in common usage in the English language by the mid-19th century, and even then, it was used with various nuances of meaning.[3]

For example, in Mary Boddington’s Slight Reminiscences of the Rhine, Switzerland, and a Corner of Italy (1834), the phrase is used positively in regards to a sunny youthful outlook:

O the joy of blossoming life! What a delicious thing it is to be young, and to see everything through rose-coloured glasses; but with a wish to be pleased, and a certain sunniness of mind, more in our power than we imagine (p.185)

Although, perhaps more commonly, the phrase would be used negatively to describe an outlook that has fallen prey to a rosy deception because of stubborn superficiality and an avoidance of the truth in its darker shades. See Fewell: A Series of Essays of Opinion for Churchmen (1846).

The phrase might also be used to speak of a blatantly false kind of optimism stemming from alleged naivety. Concerning the latter, the author of “The Ideal and the Real,” Mary Davenant, writes in Godey’s Lady’s Book (1843):

A man in love is easily deceived. I have seen more of life than you have, my dear, simply because I look at people with my own eyes, instead of through rose-coloured glasses as you do, and I never see a woman who appears so very soft and gentle that she cannot raise her voice much above a whisper, and whose every word and look betrays a studied forethought of the effect they are to produce, that I do not mistrust her sadly. Half of them are shrews, and the other half obstinate intriguers‚ I am much mistaken if Mrs. St. Clair is not a little of both. (p.160)

Reading that last excerpt, one almost wants to encourage the author to find herself a pair of rose-coloured glasses, and quickly at that! or at least to stop looking with her own eyes and to pull the shutter on those cynical lids.

Yet aren’t we all a little bit like this? For, at least from time to time, we judge others harshly—perhaps even ourselves; and as Catholics we may even look at the state of the world and of the faith in the world, and slip on the sunglasses of the cynic. To be sure, distinct from cynicism, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy critical outlook, in the sense of a rational and realistic perspective; but whatever the case, the rosiness of charity should always win-out.

The Rosy Blood of Christ

After all, through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, everything has been painted with the rosy, redeeming love of the Precious Blood (Col 1:19-20)—and for this reason nothing in the created order can fail to be used for the glory of God and the sanctification of the human person (CCC 1670). In sacramental theology, this is called ‘The Principle of Sacramentality’.

Thus, in all truth the Christian is both a realist and an optimist. For even if the perceived reality is dark and terrible, reality itself originates and culminates in Christ who is Light and Life itself, who shines in the darkness of each valley of death, offering the unshakable hope of joy in communion and beatitude, in the trudge of the workshop, the silence of prayer, the noisiness of the family home, and from the solitude of nature to the oppressiveness of the gulag.

We know that whilst God can see our sinfulness, in sending His Son to die for us, He has chosen to see us through the rosy blood of His Son in whom as new creations He beholds us as being “very good” (Gen 1:31).

To See as God Sees

To see as God sees, as Love Itself sees, is something to long for. The way St. Francis was able to see all people and creation like this is an encouragement to us; that by God’s grace we too can begin to see things through the rose-coloured glasses of God—through the Blood of Christ which has redeemed reality.

Putting the shades of meaning (pun intended) the world associates with the idiom rose-coloured glasses aside, we might define the rose-coloured glasses of the Christian, as looking with the eyes of faith, through the frames of hope, and the rose-tinted lenses of charity, by which we see as God sees, seeing things not so much as they appear to be, but as they were made to be, are called to be, and already are in some mysterious way in the Person of Christ.

Mary: God’s Rose-Coloured Glass

No one did this better than Mary—the supreme typus of the Church, whose faith, hope and love are the nourishment of the Church. In fact, the theological virtues were so perfect in Mary to such a point that she participated in the Paschal Mystery as completely and perfectly as it is possible for a creature. This brought Her into complete communion with the sufferings of Christ and thus in the work of Redemption as a helper par excellence, just as Eve was the helper of Adam in the work of creation. Hence the title, Co-Redemptrix; the prefix co- from the Latin com- meaning “together, mutually, in common”.[4]

If we think of God’s rose-coloured glasses as being the veil of the Precious Blood which covers all created reality, it is inescapable that we recognise how Mary too is the rose-coloured glasses of God; for Jesus’ Blood came wholly and entirely from the virginal body of Mary, who alone was the proximate source of Christ’s human nature.

Therefore, when God looks at us in His Mercy through the Blood of His Son, He looks simultaneously through the Blessed Virgin Mary who from the moment of Her conception was preveniently redeemed by the Precious Blood, being fired in the charity of the Holy Spirit, and infused with His Sacred Breath, imparted through space and time, from the exhalation of Christ’s burning breath on the Cross and at the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost—just as a glassmith or glassblower fires glass and breathes into the molten mass during production.

Additionally, in the crafting of glass only those pieces that are free from defect, without any fractures, make it through the production line. Mary was indeed without defect—being free of the fracture of original sin and personal sin, thanks to the excellent craftsmanship of God.

Of course, we’re stretching the analogy here, as glassblowing isn’t a technique used in the fashioning of the glass used in eye-wear (in fact high-tech plastic is commonly used today), but nevertheless, on the created side of things, Jesus in His human nature together with Mary, form the two lenses which make up the rose-coloured glasses through which God sees the world in His Mercy.

God’s Rosy Bias

In another text from the 19th-century, rose-coloured glasses were used in reference to the bias stemming from affectionate ties in “personal kindness”.[5] Perhaps this is the best reason we can give as to why God wears His rose-coloured glasses—crafted as Mary Immaculate and as the Word Incarnate: simply because of God’s freely chosen, outrageous and wonderful bias of personal kindness, by which He sees us through Mary, in the image of His Son, and in the likeness of His Triune Self.

Thank God He sees us through rose-coloured specs.

Putting on the Specs

May we too, especially in this month of May, through our Marian devotion, see through this Blessed Rose-Coloured Glass who is Our Lady, tinted by the Blood of Christ, so that with a hopeful gaze we might see the rosy presence of God flourishing in our lives and in our world. A world which is sorely in need of the glasses on offer from the Optometrist on high.

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[1] The Free Dictionary, http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/rose-coloured+glasses

[2] The Baroch, Chzeck classic, Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart (1623) by John Amos Comenius is often posited as an early example (or even as the source) of the phrase—minus the rose-colour: “Just then Delusion on the other side remarked: ‘For my part, I present you with these glasses through which you must examine the world.’ After he fixed the glasses on my nose, everything immediately assumed a changed aspect… As I learned later, the lenses were ground from the glass of Assumption, and were set in horn-rims called Habit.” (Chp 4).

However, this saying may have older origins, since it is known that using transparent stones as reading aids was practiced at least since the 10th century, and magenta glasses were at least used in the 15th century.

[3] Thanks to Sven Yargs for the following gathered references, Origin of Rose-Tinted Glasses, https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/257566/origin-of-rose-tinted-glasses

[4] Dictionary.com, “co-,” http://www.dictionary.com/browse/co-

[5] “Elliotson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine,” in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (December 13, 1843), p.19, accessed from Google Books, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=oLo1AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA 369&dq=%22rose+colored+glasses%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5OacVY3LLoauyQTq94fQBg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=%22rose%20colored%20glasses%22&f=false

About the Author:

Br. John-Joseph of the Immaculate Womb is a consecrated brother based in Australia. His main interests are in spirituality and theology, followed by a keen interest in the liberal arts. He holds a BA majoring in Theology and is undertaking further studies. He is sold-out on the importance of Eucharistic Adoration, and on how true devotion to Mary and St. Joseph is the ideal means of loving Christ. He blogs at http://tenstringedlyreofthenewisrael.blogspot.com.au/ and wouldn’t mind your prayers!