Give Testimony to the World

Baptism of Christ, Pietro Perugino

“Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.” (JN 1:34)

Christmas has passed, festivities done, the tree taken down and decorations put away. Ho hum. Back to everyday life?  After having seen the face of the Christ Child, would the Shepherds and Magi have returned to their homes and gone about as usual? No. Seeking the Face of Jesus would have transformed their lives. To “seek the Face of God” in this life would mean seeking His Face through prayer, by reading the Scriptures, seeking Him in our neighbor, and in His Eucharistic Presence. It should transform our lives, moving our hearts to testify, and bear witness to the all the earth that Jesus is the Son of God.

The Second Sunday after Epiphany is also known as “Omnis Terra” Sunday, meaning “All the Earth.” From the words of Psalm 65, “Omnis terra adore te, Deus, et psallat tipi.”

“All the earth adore you; they sing of you, sing of your name!”

Omnis Terra Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

 The “Omnis Terra” (All the Earth) procession in honor of the Holy Face  had its beginning in 1208 when Pope Innocent III processed with the Veil of the Holy Face which was known as the crown treasure of the popes. Pope Innocent III made the procession walking barefoot, from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to Spirito Santo church and hospital, giving alms to the poor and the sick along the way.

Archbishop Ganswain holding the replica of the Holy Veil of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome for the Year of Mercy.

The beautiful tradition was renewed in Rome for the Year of Mercy to honor Jesus Christ who is the “Face of Mercy” by a procession on “Omnis Terra.” A replica was carried of the “Vera Icon” known as the “true image” of the Face of Christ. The original image remained at the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy,  at that time. The Holy Face of Manoppello is believed to be the cloth which covered the Face of Christ at his burial, and left a miraculous image at the Resurrection.

“Blessed the people who know you, Lord, who walk in the radiance of your Face.”

(Psalm 89:16)

 

This Veil of the Face of Christ is the same relic visited by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006   when he made a pilgrimage to the the Veil of the Holy Face shortly after being made pope in 2005. He said at that time:

Pope Benedict XVI gazes at the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

As the Psalms say, we are all ‘seeking the Face of the Lord’. And this is also the meaning of my visit. Let us seek together to know the Face of the Lord ever better, and in the Face of the Lord let us find this impetus of love and peace which also reveals to us the path of our life. (Link)

 

 

 

Kurt Cardinal Koch contemplates the Holy Veil of Manoppello. The Veil is sheer and delicate, yet the Face is visible. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The celebration of Omnis Terra has been continued by a feast and procession each year at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.  This year’s main celebrant for the “Omnis Terra” Solemn Mass at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face will be Kurt Cardinal Koch of Switzerland. He has been a cardinal since November 2010 and President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity since 1 July 2010. He was the bishop of Basel from 1996 until 2010.

On January 19, 2020, after a pontifical ceremony, the cardinal will bless the entire earth (urbi et orbi) with the holy relic of the Face of Jesus while giving the Aaronic blessing:

“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His Countenance toward you and give you His Peace!”  (Num. 6:22-27)

detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia”

More details on the Omnis Terra event may be found in this article by Antonio Bini on the Holy Face of Manoppello Blogspot.

Let all the earth worship and praise You, O God; may it sing in praise of Your Name, O Most High. Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth; sing a psalm in honor of His Name, praise Him with magnificence!  

–Omnis Terra Introit

Holy Veil of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

 

 

 

May God’s Face Shine Upon Us in 2020

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may He let his Face shine upon us.  
So may Your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, Your salvation. (Ps. 67:1)

Mary shows us her Son — From the shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Photo: Paul Badde

The Feast of Mary, Mother of God

In God’s beautiful design, the Christmas liturgy continues at the beginning of the New Year by drawing us to the Face of Christ with three holy feast days. All three are tied together by a common, yet golden thread–A mother, sharing her precious Son with us, so we may see His Face.

We begin on January 1, with the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, who teaches us how to contemplate the Face of her Son by seeing the reflection of His beauty and goodness in her face. On the Solemnity of the Mother of God, Pope Francis said,  “Begin the year recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary.” We see Jesus more clearly through His Mother’s eyes, especially when we pray the Rosary

The first reading for this feast day is the priestly blessing on God’s chosen people from the book of Numbers:

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.” (Num 6:22-27)

May Our Lord grant us His blessing in the New Year through intercession the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. As the Incarnation of the Son of God came into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, at Mary’s “Fiat,” through her prayers, may we obtain the grace to contemplate His Holy Face, and receive God’s greatest gift of peace.

The next holy feast, on January 3 is…

The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

In sacred scripture the Angel Gabriel revealed the Holy Name of the Savior of mankind to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “You shall call His name Jesus.”

When Jesus was named,  Satan was disarmed!

Mary, Mother of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI teaches us, The expression “name of God” means God as He Who is present among men.  His name, is the concrete sign of His Existence. The Hebrew term, “panim”, which means “face” means to see The Face of God, or the presence of God.  “Panim” is a term that describes relationships. The Hebrew word “shem” meaning “name” is also a term of relationship.  “Panim” is also the Hebrew word for “Face of God” and the same word is used for “Bread of the Presence” or “Bread of the Face.” (Exodus 25:30) The “Bread of Presence” mentioned in Exodus was not the actual Face of God, but the earthly sign of His Face. The Eucharist, instituted by Christ, however, is the actual Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. When we are gazing at the Eucharist, the sign of God’s love for us, in Adoration, we see His Holy Face veiled in the appearance of bread, and in doing so, we give honor to His Holy Name.

Who had a more tender relationship of love with Jesus than his mother Mary? Who spoke His name more lovingly? God has a Face and a Name — It is Jesus Christ, our Redeemer!  The Blessed Mother invites us to rejoice in the splendor of His Face, and contemplate the mystery of His Holy Name by entering into a relationship with her Son Jesus, especially in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of  His name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of His interior life and of His will, so that we can live according to His plan for humanity.  Jesus lets us know the hidden Face of The Father through His human Face; by the gift of The Holy Spirit poured into our hearts. This, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing can take from us.” –Pope Benedict XVI

Blessed the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within thee bless His Holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all He hath done for thee. (Ps. ci. i,2)

And the third great holy day drawing us to adore the Holy Face is…

Adoration of the Magi, Giotto, 1302

The Feast of the Epiphany

 The Epiphany is closely linked to the Holy Face, as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen and mother, presents her Son, the King of Kings, to the Magi–because the Epiphany is the feast on which Jesus Christ first shows Himself to the world represented by the Magi–and He shows Himself through a human face, the face of an infant. On the feast of the Epiphany, we ask God to shine His Face upon us, to reveal His Face to us once more as we come before Him in adoration, so that, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may also reflect the light of His Face to the world.

“May the Lord grant that in the new millennium, the Church will grow ever more in holiness, that she may become in history a true epiphany of the merciful and glorious Face of Christ the Lord.”   — Pope St. John Paul II at the Closing of the Holy Door, January 6, 2001

Face of the Child Jesus by Fra Angelico

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A Little Litany by G. K. Chesterton

When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven – and saw the earth.

Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.

Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.

Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In the strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.

Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.

Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem
God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose,
Of your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose

.Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Our Lady, in whose face – more than any other creature – we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” –Pope Benedict XVI

 

Merry Christmas!!!

 

“In Thee God will manifest the splendor of His presence, for the whole world to see”~Baruch 4

“Visible before to God alone and not to the world, God made the Word visible so that the world could be saved by seeing Him.  This mind that entered our world was made known as the Son of God.”

–St. Hippolytus


Come, let us adore Him!

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Mt. 5:8)

Adoration of the Shepherds – Gerard van Honthorst 1622

O that birth forever blessèd,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

 

As those who see light are in the light sharing its brilliance, so those who see God are in God sharing his glory, and the glory gives them life.  To see God is to share in life.” ~St. Ireneaus

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Merry Christmas! May His Face shine upon you and your loved ones, today and always!

Advent: Longing to See His Face

During Advent the Church celebrates the longing to see God’s Face, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a Triduum (three days of prayer beginning on December 15) and a Feast (on December 18th)–It is called The Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Longing to See His Face.  (a bit of the history may be found here.) The prayer may also be continued  until Christmas.

The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Prayer for the Triduum and Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Longing to See His Face

“Mary, your life with Jesus was one of the purest, most fervent, most perfect emotions of longing and most eager expectation of the Birth of the Divine Child! How great must have been that longing!  You were longing to see the Face of God and to be happy in the vision.  You were soon really to see the Face of God, the created image of divine perfection, the sight of which rejoices heaven and earth, from which all being derive life and joy; the Face whose features enraptured God from all eternity, the Face for which all ages expectantly yearned.  You were to see this Face unveiled, in all the beauty and grace as the face of your own child. 

Most just indeed it is, O Holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire which you had to see Him, who had been concealed for nine months in your chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the heavenly Father, who is also your own; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will.  Yes, dear Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy your desires and ours.  Make us re-double our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by your powerful prayers for us, so that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts.  Amen.” (Prayer by Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D.)

Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

Take Us By the Hand, O Blessed Virgin Mary!

O Mary, conceived with0ut sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Madonna, Pompeo Battono, 1742

 

Shutterstock photo

“It is first of all necessary to let the Blessed Virgin Mary take one by the hand to contemplate the face of Jesus. Mary gives us eyes and a heart that can contemplate her Son in the Eucharist.”

~ Pope Benedict XVI

 

Mary was “Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing,” (cf. Eph 1:3) chosen by God from all eternity to be the Mother of the Redeemer. So, ask her to take you by the hand because it is she who leads us to Jesus. Then we may contemplate, together with her, His Holy Face–in His Word, in the Eucharist, and in our neighbor. As the Immaculate Conception, Mary bears in herself the most perfect reflection of the Face of God.  Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Blessed Virgin saw shining upon her, as no other creature, the face of the Father, rich in grace and mercy.”

This Advent, let us fix our gaze on Jesus and Mary rather than on the profane things of the world. We keep Mary before our eyes in order to contemplate in her everything that is good and true and beautiful — She is “God’s Mirror.” “She is the proclamation of a merciful God who does not surrender to the sin of his children,” Pope St. John Paul II tells us “in Mary shines forth God’s sublime and surprising tenderness for the entire human race.  In her, humanity regains its former beauty and the divine plan is revealed to be stronger than evil…” In Mary “the Creator has kept the original beauty of creation uncontaminated” so that in the Immaculate Conception, “the Father’s original, wondrous plan of love was reestablished in an even more wondrous way.”

Virgin and Child,1510

 

And in Her Morning

The Virgin Mary cannot enter
my soul for an indwelling. God alone
has sealed this land as secretly His own;
but being mother and implored, she comes
to stand along my eastern sky and be
a drift of sunrise over God and me.

God is a light and genitor of light.
Yet for our weakness and our punishment
He hides Himself in midnights that prevent
all save the least awarenesses of Him.
We strain with dimmed eyes inward and perceive
no stir of what we clamored to believe.
Yet I say: God (if one may jest with God),
Your hiding has not reckoned with Our Lady
who holds my east horizon and whose glow
lights up my inner landscape, high and low.
All my soul’s acres shine and shine with her!
You are discovered, God; awake, rise
out of the dark of Your Divine surprise!
Your own reflection has revealed Your place,
for she is utter light by Your own grace.
And in her light I find You hid within me,
And in her morning I can see Your Face.
~Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD
(Jessica Powers)

Photo: Patricia Enk

Jesus Our King

 

Jesus, our King crowned with thorns

There is but one time in all four Gospels when Our Lord is addressed by His Holy Name, “Jesus.” It is surprising, but true. He was called “Rabbi,” or “Master” by his disciples. He was mockingly called “the King of the Jews” by Pilate and the soldiers at His Crucifixion, and even, with contempt, “Messiah” by the bad thief. As Jesus was dying a shameful death on the Cross, crucified between two criminals, the crowds were shouting, “If he is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross, and we will believe him.” One of the thieves hanging there reviled, and mocked Jesus to His Holy Face. “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the one called “the Good Thief” or “St. Dismas,” is also known as a saint of the Holy Face, because although he too was suffering on a cross, St. Dismas acknowledged his own guilt and publicly defended Jesus, rebuking the thief who had blasphemed Him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” (Lk, 23:40-41)  What came next is a testament to heroic faith, because although the thief saw the suffering, humiliated, and disfigured Face of Jesus, he addressed Him, (the first time in the Gospels) by His Holy Name — Jesus — and he acknowledged Him as  King: 

“Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” 

St. Dismas, calls Jesus, “Jeshu” recalling the successor of Moses — Joshua — who led the people of Israel into the Promised Land.  St. Ambrose wrote that the Good Thief “prayed that the Lord would remember him when he reached His Kingdom, but the Lord responded, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ Life is being with Christ, because where Christ is, there is His Kingdom.”  It was the supreme moment of grace and mercy for the Good Thief. By turning to the Holy Face, pronouncing the Holy Name of Jesus, and accepting His kingship,  St. Dismas bears witness to the saving power of faith and devotion to the Face of  Christ. The Good Thief had stolen the Kingdom through sharing in the suffering of Christ and reparation to the Holy Face of Jesus, and so entered into His divine glory.  

Thy Kingdom come, O Lord!

Christ the King of the Universe

“Every time that anyone gazes at my Face, I will pour my love into hearts and by means of the Holy Face, the salvation of many souls will be obtained.” –Our Lord to Bl. Mother Pierina de Micheli, “Missionary of the Holy Face”

 

Eyes for Jesus Alone

“With the Virgin Mary embrace your beloved. He is yours.” ~St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

 

“My desire is to dwell in Your Hearth of love  

In the radiance of the brightness of Your Face

and to live on You alone.” ~St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

 

(Detail) painting by Hans Holbein the elder.

There can be no dispute that we live in evil times. The face of the Bride of Christ has been defiled and disfigured horribly by the Church’s own members, who by blasphemy, spit in the Face of Christ, and prefer their own wicked idols to the one, true, and living God. There is no need to enumerate the offenses against God, and it is useless to bemoan them. There is, however, a remedy for the offense which is in our own power: to restore what has been defiled, by turning back to His Face, and as a bride has eyes only for her husband, to have eyes only for Jesus.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

It has been said that God raises up saints for a particular time in history as a remedy the evils of that time. Recently canonized, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, is such a saint. She tells us what it means to be “a bride of Christ”:

“To be a bride means to have eyes only for Him… our heart wholly taken over, wholly possessed, as if it has passed out of itself and into Him, our soul filled with His soul, filled with His prayer, our whole being captivated and given.

To be “a bride of Christ” is to rest from everything in Him, and to allow Him to rest from everything in our soul!

To be “the bride of Christ”…is to have all rights over His Heart…It’s a heart-to-heart exchange for a whole lifetime…It’s living with…always with…”

O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You–even unto death.” 

Veronica’s Veil by Hans Memling

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote that God has created human beings in His image and likeness to be able to contemplate Himself in His creatures.  When we, in turn, are contemplating Christ, we become all His. His image and likeness is restored in us. Like the veil of St. Veronica, the imprint of His Face will remain upon our souls.

Then, the Most Holy Trinity must become our home, she says, that we must never leave. St. Elizabeth accomplished this by surrendering herself to God’s perfect will completely, keeping her soul in silence and peace, docile to the touch of the Holy Spirit in each moment, and keeping her gaze on God.

St. Elizabeth of The Trinity, Discalced Carmelite nun

“It is Your continual desire to associate Yourself with Your creatures…How can I better satisfy Your desire than by keeping myself simply and lovingly turned towards You, so that You can reflect Your own image in me, as the sun is reflected through pure crystal? …We will be glorified in the measure in which we will have been conformed to the image of His divine Son.  So, let us contemplate this adored Image, let us remain unceasingly under it’s radiance so that it may imprint itself on us.” –Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, O.C.D.

 

The face of the Bride of Christ will become beautiful once again, one person at a time, when each becomes a “praise of glory” like St. Elizabeth, reflecting the light on the Face of Christ to others.  “A soul united to Jesus is a living smile that radiates Him and gives Him!”

Our souls will be glorified in the measure in which they will have been conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. In order to be conformed to Him, we must know Him through prayer, as St. Elizabeth did, by first becoming aware of His Divine indwelling in her soul.

“A praise of glory is a soul that gazes on God in faith and simplicity; it is a reflector of all that He is; it is like a bottomless abyss into which He can flow and expand; it is also like a crystal through which He can radiate and contemplate all His perfections and His own splendor.  A soul which permits the divine Being to satisfy in itself His need to communicate all that He is and all that He has.”

Young Elizabeth Catez

 

“The Word will imprint in your soul, as in a crystal, the image of His own beauty, so that you may be pure with His purity, luminous with His light.”

“May the Father fill you with great largesse, May the Word imprint Himself in the center of your heart, and may the Spirit of love consume you unceasingly.” ~St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

“Children Be On Your Guard Against Idols” — False Faces

“Be on your guard against idols.” (1 John 5:21)

A “Pachamama” drama has unfolded these past weeks.  Beginning with an ecological ceremony in the Vatican gardens at the opening of the Amazon Synod –the meaning and symbolism was unclear– before a wood-carved statue of a “Mother Earth/fertility figure.” The ceremony included participants bowing and prostrating before the figure, which was later tossed into the Tiber River by two Catholic men, who clearly had a strong suspicion that the figure was an idol, and  should not be displayed in a catholic church alongside the Blessed Sacrament.

Sources at the Vatican and the synod gave conflicting information as to the identity of the wood carved figure, which has now been retrieved from the Tiber, and has been subsequently been identified by Pope Francis himself as “Pachamama,” when he extended an apology to the Amazonian people for its dunking. The figure may or may not be brought to the closing ceremonies of the Synod at St. Peter’s Basilica “without idolatrous intentions” says Pope Francis. Still, many Catholics are deeply disturbed that the carving of a naked female figure, which represents neither the Blessed Virgin or any saint, has been a focus of the Synod and has been given such a prominent place of honor in the church.

Catholic News Service photo of ecological ceremony in the Vatican Gardens at the opening of the Amazon Synod.

So, is it an idol or not? Is it a strange ecological god, or a harmless carving – a display of native culture? If the latter is the case, then why bow before it?  Adoration is given only to God.

Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicholas Poussin
Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicholas Poussin

The first at the top of the list of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai is: “I am the Lord, Thy God: thou shall not have strange gods before me.”  The people of Israel do not want to endure waiting to see the Face of God, and so fashion an idol, a Golden Calf, the “work of their hands.” which they can see. But “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)  Idol worship is the opposite of faith. However, we are not iconoclasts. Since Jesus Christ, who is God, became man and allowed Himself to be seen, He may be depicted in art, as seen here in this beautiful crucifix in Florence.

We are not iconoclasts. Since Jesus Christ, who is God, became man and allowed Himself to be seen, He may be depicted in art, as seen here in this beautiful crucifix in Florence.

We no longer live in a time where people worship an idol like a Golden Calf, but the world certainly worships an array of “strange gods.” The dictionary gives many definitions of an idol: 1. An image used as an object of worship. 2. A false god. 3. One that is adored, often blindly or excessively.  But, the definition that fits better than these is one that was used in the Encyclical Letter Lumen Fidei, “Martin Buber once cited a definition of idolatry proposed by the rabbi of Kock: idolatry is “when a face addresses a face which is not a face”.

Seek the Face of Jesus Christ – The Way, the Truth and the Life

How do we recognize these false faces for what they are?  First, in order to recognize what is false, we need to know what is true. Pope Emeritus Benedict said, “While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe: all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human face.”  In other words, we need to seek the face of God by looking at the face of Jesus Christ, who is the Truth. “God… has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ.”  (2 Cor 4:6) At the Incarnation, God became man to redeem us and now God’s Face can be seen: the Son of God, made man and He is given a name; the all-powerful name of Jesus, at whose Name every knee shall bend.

Our true identity is that we are made in the image and likeness of God and we must resemble Him in the end.  Truth leads us to life. The false name and “the face which is not a face” erase the identity of the human person and leave something which is horrible in it’s place: an idol, which leads to death. Truth and faithfulness go together, therefore we must seek always and everywhere what is true, live in truth and lead others to truth in charity, in order to  see the Face of God.

“We also know the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.  And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life. Children, be on your guard against idols.” (1 John 5:20-21)

Never Set Aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ

“It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before the generations of the new millennium.  Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”

–Pope St. John Paul II

c. 1510, Dirk Bouts, Carmel of Toledo. It is believed that this is the image of Christ the St. Teresa was praying before when her dramatic conversion occurred.

 

Why is devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus so important? St. Teresa of Jesus, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, and Doctor of the Church tells us that when we pray we must be very careful never to set aside the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ. “Many, many times have I perceived this through experience. The Lord told it to me.  I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we desire his sovereign Majesty to show his great secrets. A person should desire no other path, even if he be at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. This Lord of ours is the one through whom all blessings come to us. He will teach us these things. In beholding his life we find that he is the best example.”

“Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near…As often as we think of Christ we should recall the love with which he bestowed on us so many favors, and the great things God showed in giving us a pledge like this of his love; for love begets love. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to waken ourselves to love. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the favor of impressing this love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall carry out our tasks quickly and without much effort.” ~St. Teresa of Avila 

 

The Holy Face of Manoppello- photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

My beloved passing fair,

Love has drawn thy likeness, see,

In my inmost Heart, and there–

Lost or straying unaware–

Thou must seek thyself in me.

 

Well I know that thou shalt find

This thine image in my Heart,–

Pictured to the life, with art

So amazing, that thy mind

Sees thy very counterpart.

 

If by chance thou e’er shalt doubt

Where to turn in search of me,

Seek not all the world about;

Only this can find me out–

Thou must seek myself in thee.

 

In the mansions of thy mind

Is my dwelling-place; and more–

There I wander, unconfined,

Knocking loud if e’er I find

In thy thought a closed door.

 

Search for me without were vain,

Since, when thou hast need of me,

Only call me, and again

To thy side I haste amain;

Thou must seek myself in thee.

–St. Teresa of Jesus

 

St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church

“Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things.  Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; he is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please him and receive his great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom he takes his delight.”

The Majesty! How victorious! How joyful! Indeed, like one coming forth from a battle where He has gained a great kingdom! And all of that, plus Himself, He desires for you. Well, is it such a big thing that from time to time you turn your eyes to look upon one who gives you so much?”  ~St. Teresa of Jesus, Feast October 15th

 

Roses, Roses, Roses…Rosary!

“Let the little children come to me.” Photo: Patricia Enk

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face promised that when she went to Heaven she would send down a shower of roses, and indeed she does. Therese points out for us the way of spiritual childhood: simplicity of prayer, and trust. But first we must become like little children…

October begins with the Feast of the “Little Flower,” St. Therese, and with the feast days that follow the graces flow into an ever increasing cataract of roses of grace, mercy, and peace, as with childlike simply we turn to Our Mother, Our Lady of the Rosary. In this month of the Holy Rosary, we are called anew to contemplate the Face of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, together with Mary, as we pray the simple prayers of the Rosary: The Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

Mass of the Roses, Photo: Patricia Enk

When he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ” Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium…It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before new generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”  The Rosary is a traditional Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s Face. “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul,” says Pope St. John Paul II, “and runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ.”

Mass of the Roses, Photo: Patricia Enk

Contemplation is a gift, a grace, from God. It is a communion in which God transforms a soul into His likeness. To put it more simply, as St. Teresa of Jesus says, contemplation is “a close sharing between friends…taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”  Contemplation is not something beyond our reach however–we have an incomparable model in Mary; the eyes of her heart were always turned toward His Face. To dispose our souls to receive this great gift of God we need only reach for a Rosary and pray it with humility, listening attentively in the Spirit together with Mary, in silent love–that veil of mystery–to the Father’s voice. When we contemplate the scenes or mysteries of the Rosary in union with Mary, the Rosary becomes an unceasing praise of God; a way to learn from her about her son, Jesus, to discover His secrets and understand His message for us.

Mass of the Roses, Photo: Patricia Enk

To recite the Rosary, which can be called a compendium of the Gospel, Pope St. John Paul II says, “is to contemplate the Face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, His Most Holy Mother…Against the background of the words of the Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, [luminous,] sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through–we might say through the heart of his Mother…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation…To look upon the Face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of His human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ’s Face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s words can then be applied to us ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.'” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae)

The Mass of the Roses in honor of St. Therese, Photo: Patricia Enk

The entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary and October 7th is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast, originally named for Our Lady of Victory, commemorated the stunning victory, against all odds, obtained by Our Lady in the Battle of Lepanto through the prayer of the Rosary–which saved Christendom on October 7th, in 1571. By keeping our eyes fixed on the Face of Jesus as we pray the Rosary, together with Mary, through her maternal intercession, we too may obtain great victories through the heart of her Son Jesus, who obtained for all mankind the greatest victory over sin and death by His Resurrection.

Painting of the Blessed Mother and Jesus by Margaret Farr