In the first lesson for today's Daily Office readings, God tells Moses what words the priests should use to bless the people:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
God is a darn good wordsmith. This blessing is often used in multiple faith traditions and cherished. As so often happens when words have a melodic beauty, it is easy to become mesmerized by the poetic impact and miss all the meaning. What exactly does it mean to lift up one's countenance? This is not an expression you hear every day!
Our countenance is our bearing and facial expression. When it is cast down, we are either averting our eyes from something distasteful, or we are discouraged/dejected, or both. This encouragement for God to lift up the divine countenance is saying, "Look squarely at us and please stay hopeful as you do! Don't avert your gaze, and please don't get discouraged. Instead, fill us with your peace."
The countenance of America is being lifted up now. The reality that preconceptions about people based on race are embedded in our culture has never been a secret. But many of us have averted our gaze from the depth and severity of the impact on daily living for Black people. There are powerful signs that this is changing. May the hope and peace of God's countenance guide us now.