The saintly Moses, his faithful servant, showed the flame of this desire of his when he said to God, with whom he spoke face to face as to a friend: “If I have found favor before you, show me yourself.” What, then? Was it not himself? If it were not himself, he would not have said “Show me yourself” but “Show me God”; yet, if he really beheld his very nature and substance, he would have been far from saying “Show me yourself.” It was himself, therefore, under that aspect in which he willed to appear (but he did not appear in his own very nature) which Moses longed to see, inasmuch as that is promised to the saints in another life. Hence the answer made to Moses is true that no one can see the face of God and live; that is, no one living in this life can see him as fully as he is. Many have seen, but they saw what his will chose, not what his nature formed … when he willed … not in his nature under which he lies hidden within himself even when he is seen.
Glory, or face, ver. 13, 20. The angel was robed in darkness, which Moses begs may be removed. Tertullian supposes, he wished to behold the Messias. Many think he desired to contemplate the divine essence. (St. Augustine, q. 161.; Philo;) But, could he be ignorant that such a request could not be granted? (Calmet)
God promised to show him all good, or the beatific vision after death. (Haydock)
This is why love which longs to see God, even if it lacks judgment, does have the spirit of devotion. This is why Moses dares to say, “If I have found favor in your sight, show me your face.” This is why another man says, “Show us your face.” Finally, this is why the Gentiles fashioned idols. In their errors they wanted to see with their eyes what they were worshiping.