There is a film titled “Behind the Mask.” In the film, different actors play Bob Dylan. It leaves one with the impression that the real Dylan is hard to pin down as the actors take on different roles in his life. In this way, the movie mimics Dylan’s life, music and interviews. He is always behind a mask, and changing them. You might call him the troubadour of change. The film received mixed reviews. Critics either liked it or despised it.
Elaine Pagels recently published a book called “Why Religion.” At the outset of the book she traces the dawning era of Christianity, emphasizing the search for the real Jesus, a search that has continued through the centuries. It is a history of various reforms, styles of being a believer, modes of seeing Jesus, thinking about Jesus, knowing Jesus.
That Jesus once walked this earth is a truth that most, if not all, historians and theologians, church-goers and non-church people take for granted as a fact. However, coming to terms with who he really was and what his teaching meant is hidden forever beyond the dense fog of ways of seeing him, ways of interpreting and following him. It seems that God came and lived as one of us. And he, too, chose to be hidden behind a mask. And since we were created in his likeness, we too go through life mysteries, wearing masks that hide us from each other and that prevent us from knowing the deepest essence of our lives. Pagels was mystified as to why a religion that seethed with problems as to the identity of its source managed nevertheless to set the world on fire. She asserts that the love and devotion of the earliest followers of Jesus were the driving force behind the emergence of Christianity and its expansion.
Therefore, we arrive at this place and time in history, wearing our masks as we seek the hidden face of God. And like a divinely inspired masquerade, we move through life following a call to love each other, forgive each other, support each other. Life reveals its truth and beauty by living this way. Living this way affords us a peek of the divine face beyond his mask. Because his life is within us, we as well get a clearer view of who we are when we lay down our lives, and our masks, for each other. It is the way to keep the fire burning.