While the world media moves on rather quickly from disasters, the Christian remains at the foot of the Cross, because it is Jesus who suffers in our neighbor. Though the cameras and reporters depart, for some, just recovering from shock, it is just the beginning: Suffering from the deaths of loved ones, loss of belongings and means of support, living in hot tents or shelters, burying the dead, trying to put back together their lives. These are the steps of our pilgrimage: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25:40) We can become the face of Jesus to others.
“The Lord Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain our goal: ‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Lk 6:37-38) …It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy…to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.” –Pope Francis, Face of Mercy
As the rain poured down in Manoppello, we received word from our family that the state of Louisiana was once again flooding–which renewed anxiety and fear for our friends and loved ones back home. Our area had already suffered greatly from floods back in March. Facing our fears and trusting in God is always a part of pilgrimage. And now, the heartbreaking news of the devastating earthquake in central Italy as well as the ongoing suffering from the terrible floods here in Louisiana remind us to seek the Face of Jesus in our neighbor on our life’s pilgrimage.
In a few short days, we will celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Blessed Mother Teresa heroically carried out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by being the Merciful Face of Christ to others and by seeing the Merciful Face of Christ in others and most especially in the Eucharist, from which she and the Missionaries of Charity drew the grace and strength to serve Jesus “in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
“Seeking the Face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and His hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.” –Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Let us follow the example of Mother Teresa and seek the face of Jesus in our neighbor by whatever means we have and remember in our prayers all those who have suffered and are continuing to suffer in the world. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (to be continued…)
Please pray for those affected by the earthquake in Italy in Central Italy. It looks like the area which was hit is perhaps within an hour of The Holy Face Sanctuary. Jesus is present in all who suffer and can bring good, we pray, even out of this catastrophic event.
“O, Lord of Hosts, restore us; Let Your Face shine on us,that we may be saved.” (Ps. 80:4)
(Padre Domenico, predicted, in 1915, a devastating earthquake as a small boy, which hit that region the next morning, killing 30,000 people, including two of his sisters and burying he and his father in the rubble of their church. A man he didn’t know, pulled him from the rubble to safety, whose face he later recognized when he first visited the Shrine of the Holy Face as the Face of Jesus on the miraculous veil. When he knelt before the Holy Face on the Veil, he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble…” He asked to remain at the Shrine and was there until the time of his death.)
Pt. 2: The Feast of the Transfiguration in Manoppello
“Jesus took Peter, James and John…and led them to a high mountain by themselves. And He transfigured before them; His Face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light…Lord, it is good to be here.” (Mt. 17:1-2,4)
There are several important feasts of the Holy Face–Shrove Tuesday (the day preceding Ash Wednesday) and Good Friday are two, each focused on reparation to the Face of Christ. In Manoppello, the day the Holy Veil arrived in the hands of a mysterious stranger is celebrated as a joyful feast in May, as well as a celebration on August 6th, the feast of the Transfiguration.
Being in Manoppello on the feast of the Transfiguration reminded me of an important event in the life of St. Therese. The day before the feast of the Transfiguration, a few weeks before her death, St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus lay dying. Her sisters brought her a picture of the Holy Face and placed it where she could see it, pinned to her bed curtains. St. Therese exclaimed, “Oh, how much good that Holy Face has done me in my life!” The Transfiguration was always celebrated in the Lisieux Carmelite convent by honoring the Holy Face. St. Therese had, on a previous feast of the Transfiguration, sprinkled the image with perfume and tossed rose petals before it. (I always wondered why Discalced Carmelite nuns had the perfume, but, after all, it was France!) It was on the Transfiguration that Therese, along with a few companions, made a solemn consecration to the Holy Face as an extension of their Oblation to His Merciful Love, desiring to be “Veronicas” by consoling Jesus in His Passion and offering souls to Him. The Transfiguration is always a preparation for the mystery of the Cross.
“O Beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we contemplate Your infinite Glory our one desire is to charm Your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too, so that here on earth no one can recognize us. O Jesus! Your veiled gaze is our heaven!”–St. Therese
When we visited Manoppello, the blessed day of the Transfiguration was to be celebrated at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face by bringing the Veil in procession from the reliquary high above the altar to another in front of the altar where it could be viewed and venerated on all sides by the faithful. Music and celebrations were planned in the piazza for the day and in the evening there was to be a solemn procession through the lighted streets culminating with Benediction.
I had planned my pilgrimage around the feast of the Transfiguration after seeing Paul Badde‘s beautiful photos of the procession in honor of the Holy Face on Pentecost, May 15th. I had such a great longing to honor His Holy Face in this way by participating in a jubilant procession such as the one on Pentecost! It was the whole impetus for my making the pilgrimage and I looked forward to the event with great joy and expectation. However, man’s plans are not God’s plans and “into every life a little rain must fall” and so it did. It rained, and it rained and it rained. Cats and dogs! The procession was cancelled, or rather post-poned till Sunday night when the weather was more favorable and when I would not be there.
Naturally, I was disappointed but, still, here He was before me in the church, so that is where I remained for the day. The previous day Sr. Petra-Maria had given me a tour of the beautiful museum and filled my mind and heart with the research, history, treasures, and mysteries of the Sacred Veil of Manoppello. I haven’t spoken much about the Holy Veil itself so far, for one reason: that it is too great to be expressed in words. But I will make a pitiful attempt, like the photographs, which–although some are quite beautiful–can never fully capture what is seen by the viewer. The Veil of Manoppello is an image “not made by human hands” it is a miracle of light and a reflection of Creation–ever changing, ever new. It is dark, it is brilliant, it is somber, joyful, always merciful, always peaceful. If you see nothing, stand at a different angle–and there He is! Sr. Petra-Maria told me that there is one angle from which you can always see the image–but “you must become like little children.” (Mt. 18:3)
I can attest to the truth of what Sr. Petra-Maria said, “you must become like little children.” Back in 2012, when I first climbed the stairs and stood high behind the altar to view the Veil, the Face of Jesus appeared, bruised, bloodied, swollen. I could see the marks from thorns, the torn beard, His eyes peaceful yet filled with tears. I then knelt down in prayer and sorrow. From this angle, the perspective of a little child, I saw the Holy Face anew, no longer bloodied and bruised, but as though a living reflection in a mirror, and once held in that Gaze my heart has been captivated by it ever since. It is the Face of Mercy!
Throughout the day, as I prayed, I was greatly edified by the reactions of the people who streamed in to pay their reverence and express their love. I stayed until evening when my husband arrived, umbrella in hand, and we made our way through the pouring rain back to the hotel. The next morning after Mass we would leave the Holy Face Sanctuary for the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto. (to be continued)
“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being a viator, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination…each according to his or her ability will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion; by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” –Pope Francis from The Face of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus
Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and so our souls have a yearning, a natural longing for the infinite. We are called to communion with God, to see Him “face to face.” He is calling us to seek Him, to know Him, and love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. The history of salvation can be described as a gradual discovery of the Face of God by nations and individuals, marked by their battles, falls and triumphs, as they turn toward or away from the Face of God, on a pilgrimage–a journey which will only end when each person comes “face to face” with God.
The Year of Mercy cannot be complete until we have made some sort of pilgrimage toward God. Although I had made a local pilgrimage to the Door of Mercy at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, I had felt a very strong tug in my heart to return to Italy and re-visit places of pilgrimage that were especially meaningful to me. Together with my husband, I made the necessary preparations, but, the most important “packing” for the journey was to remember on our pilgrimage all those God has given us to love, and their intentions, people that we would like to have with us, but could not make the journey. We especially carried within our hearts those who were too sick, or too old, as well as those who have lost their faith, the deceased, and people in our country and in the world in need of someone’s prayers, placing all in our hearts so that we could carry them, in spirit, through the Doors of Mercy.
We began with the place in which I encountered the Face of Mercy in a very profound way in October of 2012: the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in the small mountain village of Manoppello. This humble, beautiful village has hidden in its heart, for centuries, what St. Pio of Pietrelcina called “The greatest relic of the Church”–a gossamer-thin byssus veil, bearing, in a miraculous way, an image of the human Face of Jesus.
We arrived very late at night after 28 hours of travel to a hotel in the village very near the Sanctuary. The next morning we walked to the Basilica for Mass, entering the beautiful dedicated Holy Door, engraved with depictions of events in the history of the Veil. My favorite was the panel recalling the visit of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the Shrine in September of 2006. It was a year later, that he wrote his moving prayer to the Holy Face in honor of that occasion and elevated the Shrine to the status of a Basilica.
The day after we arrived was a special occasion as well, as the next day, August 6th, was a Feast of the Holy Face, the Transfiguration. The Veil, normally kept in a special reliquary high above the back of the altar (but accessible by a stairway from behind) was to be brought down after the Mass and placed in another movable reliquary, used in processions, near the front of the altar. The Veil would remain there throughout the day for prayers and veneration of the faithful, then be returned to its place behind the altar for the night.
Earlier in the day, on the steps leading up to the relic, I bumped into journalist Paul Badde, who has taken more photos perhaps than anyone of the Holy Veil and written so much about its amazing re-discovery. I couldn’t have been more surprised than if I had bumped into Lazarus emerging from the tomb! Paul has been making an amazing recovery from heart surgery, stroke, and a coma which lasted for more than
three weeks during Lent of 2016. Paul later introduced me to Sr. Petra-Maria, who, I soon discovered, shares with pilgrims her extensive knowledge and love for “Il Volto Santo.” Like two other nuns, who shared similar names–Sr. Marie St. Pierre, a Discalced Carmelite nun associated with the Holy Face in Tours, and Bl. Mother Maria Pierina, an Immaculate Conception nun associated with the Holy Face Medal–Sr. Petra-Maria is a true apostle of the Holy Face of Manoppello. The Holy Face draws her like a magnet; she never tires of gazing at His Face or drawing others to His peaceful, merciful countenance and telling and re-telling the incredible details of the features, the history, and especially, the spiritual significance of the miraculous image. (I’ll have to save those details for a special post.)
Celebrations and entertainment were held in honor the Holy Face in the piazza in front of the Basilica in the evening by local musicians and very talented young people of the community, who gave a very enjoyable musical performance of the life of St. Francis. I’ll never forget the line of young “Franciscan monks” on the stage singing “Andiamo! Andiamo!…” “We go! We go! For the Blessed Mother!” The next day the Holy Veil was brought out after Mass on the Feast of the Transfiguration for the day and in the evening there was planned a solemn procession with the Veil and benediction. But, as in all things in life, plans change… (To be continued in Pt.2)
“If you only knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). These were Jesus’ words to the woman at the well and also the words that echoed in my own heart as I knelt before the miraculous image of the Face of Jesus, Il Volto Santo, at the Shrine in Manoppello, Italy, several years ago. Like the woman at the well, I encountered there the Face of Mercy. “If you only knew the gift of God…”
“Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you, sees Him. Show us Your Face and we will be saved! Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you only knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests His power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your invisible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
To know the gift of God, like Peter, Matthew, Zacchaeus, the adulteress, Madgalene, the repentant thief, and the woman at the well we must first look at the Face of Jesus and linger a moment in a mutual loving gaze. Whoever sees Him sees the Father (John 14:9.) Under the gaze of the Father we will “feel sought after, loved and forgiven by God.” Jesus wants to give us the Gift of Himself, to draw us into His divine life, fill us with the “Living Water” of the Holy Spirit, so that we may then give Him to others. To “bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind”–in other words, by performing the corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy. We need only to take that first step by contemplating His Face. “If you only knew the gift of God!”
“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.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI
“How fair you are, O Virgin Mary! Your face is resplendent with grace.”– Carmelite Proper
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written:
“The Virgin Mary is she who more than any other contemplated God in the human Face of Jesus. She saw Him as a newborn when, wrapped in swaddling clothes, He was placed in a manger; she saw Him when, just after His death, they took Him down from the Cross, wrapped Him in linen and placed Him in the sepulcher. Inside her was impressed the image of her martyred Son; but this image was then transfigured in the light of the Resurrection. Thus, in Mary’s heart, was carried the mystery of the Face of Christ, a mystery of death and glory. From her we can always learn how to look upon Jesus, with a gaze of love and faith, to recognize in that human countenance, the Face of God.”
(Below is a re-post from the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 2015)
Seeking the Face of God through Mary
In the icon of “Queen Beauty and Mother of Carmel,” the Infant Jesus tenderly invites us to look at the face of His Mother, “resplendent with grace.” What makes the Virgin Mary’s face “resplendent with grace?” It is the light of the Face of Christ – just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, the face of Mary reflects the light of the true sun, Jesus Christ.
Mary is “The glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the highest honor of our race,” (Judith 15:9) because she sought the face of God, His holy will and pleasure, in all things. Just as it is possible for the moon to shine even in the brightness of day, Mary gives more beauty to the heavens, more glory to God than any other creature on earth. And when the dark night of faith is upon us and the sun is hidden from our view, Mary is there to enlighten our path and show us the way to her Son, until “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 78-79)
At the present moment, although the world is filled with darkness, we can turn to her for help in seeking His Face and leading souls to Him. Even pebbles on a path on the ground can reflect the light of the moon at night; and so the children of Mary by following her example, “to seek the Face of God in all things,” can guide others through the darkness by reflecting the light of the Face of Christ as does Mary.
It is Jesus Himself who desires that we turn to the face of His Mother. He created her with all the perfection and beauty that would be fitting for the Mother of God. Her soul, holy, immaculate and unstained by sin, is the perfect mirror in which He reflects His Face. He holds her up to us as the model for all His disciples as He did in Luke’s Gospel: “While He was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’” This singular praise of Mary from the woman in the crowd was not enough for her Son. And so Jesus replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:27) Mary is thus thrice blessed, first, in being chosen to be the Mother of God, second, in that Mary heard the word of God and third, because she kept His word in her heart.
Mary holds out to us her Scapular, a sacramental sign of being clothed in her own garment, to place over our shoulders, so that we may imitate her in faith, hope, charity and all the virtues that adorn her soul. By contemplating the Face of Jesus always, together with Mary, we can do our part in making His Face shine upon our world as well.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
O most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, blessed Mother of Christ, Immaculate Virgin, we praise and honor you as our Queen and Mother.
Help us to persevere in constant prayer for the needs of our world and share with you in the work of redemption. Be with us, Holy Virgin, and guide us on our way, as we journey together in faith, hope and love to your Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord.
In the Rule of his Order St. Benedict gives the key to discerning a true vocation in those seeking admittance to the Benedictine Order: “Let us examine whether the novice is truly seeking God.” (Ch. 58, Rule) Since the Order’s inception, up to this day, the sons and daughters of St. Benedict have taken for their motto “Ora et Labora.” This “Prayer and Work” for many Benedictines is truly seeking the Face of God in the “prayer” of contemplation and the “work” of reparation to the Face of God covered with the blood, wounds, dust and spittle of blasphemy–to stand, together with the Blessed Mother, before the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified. If there is a common thread among the holy men and women of the Order, it is woven through the veil of the Face of Christ.
But, they will tell you in their own words…
St. Gertrude (1256-1302), while making reparation to the Adorable Face of Jesus, wounded and disfigured, said to Him, “Tell me, O Lord, the remedy that can soothe the suffering of Thy Divine Face!” Jesus replied: “If anyone meditates upon my sufferings with tenderness and compassion, his heart will be to Me as a soothing balm for these wounds.” Jesus gave St. Gertrude this promise: “All those who meditate frequently on my Divine Face, attracted by the desires of love, shall receive within them, through My Humanity, a bright ray of My Divinity, which shall enlighten their inmost souls so that they shall reflect the light of My Countenance in a special manner throughout eternity.”
St. Mechtilde (1240-1299) once exclaimed to her sisters, “Let us all, full of holy desire, hasten to venerate the sweetest Countenance of Our Lord, which will in Heaven be our all–all that a glorified soul can desire!”
Blessed Columba MarmionO.S.B.(1858-1923) writes that our relationship with God hinge upon two things; our walking in the truth of our nature as creatures, who remain always in humble adoration before our Creator and our dignity as children of God. “Our adoption as children supposes that we act always as loving children towards Our Heavenly Father, constantly seeking His good pleasure: Seek His Face evermore! This Facies Dei, Face of God, is the smile of His loving approbation. If you always keep the truth of this twofold relation, you will be more and more fixed in truth and in peace.” “Look your Heavenly Father in the Face, and show him your soul in truth,” Bl. Marmion counsels, “…do not forget that He is God the Infinite! The love of the creature, in order to be true, must be the love of adoration; the spirit of fear of the Lord. If you keep the eye of your soul fixed on God alone, you will receive many graces.” “It is good sometimes, when alone with God, to stretch out our hands and look at Him in faith showing Him the depths of our soul that His eye may penetrate into those abysses that are hidden in the recesses of the heart. Then our prayer is pure and very powerful, for the child gazes into the Father’s Face, seeking His Face, that is to say His good pleasure: “Seek ye the Lord, seek His Face EVERMORE!”
Mother Marie des Douleurs (1902-1983) Foundress of the Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified emphasizes the relationship between the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His Holy Face: “We must discover on this Face the revelation of the secrets of His Heart.” She also points to the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to restore the image of God in our souls: “Devotion to the Holy Face is the particular aspect by which the Holy Spirit makes us learn all we need to know to become the saints that Jesus desires. This devotion is of such central importance and so vital for us that we cannot live without it!”
Blessed Ildephonsus Cardinal Shuster, O.S.B. (1880-1954) wrote, “The Face of Jesus in Heaven is the cause of joy to the angels, but on earth it is a token of pity for sinners. We say to the Father Respice in faciem Christi tui, (Ps 83:10) (Look upon the Face of Thy Christ) but let us fix our own gaze on that Face of Jesus, lest we lose sight of it. As the Eternal Father, when He beholds the Face of Jesus, is touched with compassion for the wretched children of Adam, so let us show a holy reverence for that Sacred Face and for those pure eyes that look on us so tenderly; let us take care that all our actions are worthy of the ineffable sanctity of that Divine regard.”
Last but not least, is the Servant of God, Ildebrando Gregori O.S.B. (1894-1985) founder of the women’s religious congregation the Benedictine Sisters of Reparation of the Holy Face. The devotion to the Holy Face was rooted and imprinted on his Congregation: “The title that sets you apart is Reparation of the Sacred Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the story of Jesus’ Passion that manifests itself, in a particular way, in the love which St. Benedict had for that Face. The Face of Jesus which was seen dripping blood, crowned with thorns, spat upon; His eyes were bruised, the broken eyebrows, broken lips. His Face, more beautiful than Paradise, appeared like the face of a leper. So Adorers of the Holy Face, Reparation of his wounds in the contemplation of prayer (Ora), in the service of the needy (Labora)… (adoration of the Face of Christ) is essential to make reparation, to create harmony with Christ Jesus who makes us love what the beloved loves, to want what He wants and rejecting what brings Him pain, injury, suffering.”
This apostle of devotion to the Face of Christ applied the Rule of St. Benedict to a work of human and spiritual formation for the poorest and most abandoned children, victims of World War II, in whom he saw the suffering face of Jesus. He later extended that work to include the elderly. At the time he was Abbot General he met Blessed Mother Maria Pierina de Micheli, of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, to whom Our Lord gave the mission of the propagation of the Holy Face Medal. He became her Spiritual father and director until the time of her death in 1945. Padre Gregori shared with Bl. Mother de Micheli the love, devotion and deep desire to make reparation to the Face of Jesus and to propagate the Holy Face Medal throughout the world.
“I wish that the Lord bless you as He blessed the holy pious women, that He will fill you with His holy Love. His Blessed Face is your ideal, and will piously torment you with the desire to give Him love and praise, this is the perfect reparation. “–Servant of God Ildebrando Gregori OSB
The book of Revelation of St. John unveils for its reader the beauty of the liturgy of the Mass. “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne:” “The Lord God.” (Rev. 4:2) It then shows the Lamb (Jesus Christ), “standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6): Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.” (St. John Chrysostom) All in heaven and on Earth who take part in the service of the praise of God participate in the eternal liturgy whenever we celebrate the mystery of salvation. The sacramental celebration is woven with signs and symbols which are rich in meaning. “God speaks to man through visible creation. The material cosmos is so presented to man’s intelligence that he can read there traces of its Creator.” (CCC 1147) “…these perceptible realities can become means of expressing the action of God who sanctifies men, and the action of men who offer worship to God.” (CCC 1148)
We may not know or appreciate the meaning of these “signs and symbols” in the liturgy, but they are there all the same. For example, We may give little thought to the meaning of a simple action by the priest or deacon of handling or folding the altar linen or the corporal, but a German theologian, Klaus Berger, has recently made a stunning discovery which shines a bright light on the deep symbolism contained in this humble action. Mr. Berger, while doing research for an extensive commentary on Revelation by St. John, uncovered the surprising connection between the altar linens prescribed for the liturgy and the burial cloths of Christ mentioned in the Gospels. Mr. Berger then shared his amazing discovery, which reveals the key liturgical role of the cloths, with Paul Badde, who has written extensively on the sudaria or burial cloths of Jesus (The True Icon). Paul has written a truly fascinating article about the discovery for Catholic News Agency (German) The translation may be found on Raymond Frost’s Manoppello blogspot (click here for full article in English).
In the article Paul Badde explains the theological connection between the burial cloths which touched the Body and Blood of Jesus and the altar cloth and corporal, the white linen napkin on which are placed the vessels containing the Body and Blood of Christ during Mass. The corporal, which was to be made of pure linen, could only be touched reverently by the priest with his thumb and forefinger in the old rite.
The connection between these altar cloths used in the liturgy and the sudarium, or burial cloths of Jesus (Shroud of Turin and Veil of Manoppello) says Paul Badde, can be understood in reference to a vision of Pope Gregory I during a Mass when Jesus, appeared as the Man of Sorrows during the Consecration of the Eucharist, reflecting the true Presence of Christ. Pope St. Gregory the Great, “The Father of Christian Worship,” is renown for his exceptional efforts is revising the liturgy of his day.
The cloths used in the liturgy are rich in symbol and meaning which can aid us in our devotion. During the Mass we may not see Christ with our bodily eyes, but He is present. Knowing our weakness, in His infinite mercy He has left us His image to contemplate on the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello so that we may call them to mind when gazing with faith on the simple linen cloths used in the Mass. The images make manifest the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) mentioned in St. John’s Revelation: The Heavenly powers, all creation, the servants of the Old and New Covenants the new People of God especially the martyrs “slain for the word of God,” and the all-holy Mother of God (the Woman clothed with the sun with the moon at her feet), The Bride of the Lamb, and finally “a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues.” (Rev.7:9)
“Illiterate men can contemplate in the lines of an image what they cannot learn by means of the written word.” – Pope St. Gregory the Great
“The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.”–St. John Damascene
It was Pope St. John Paul II who first used the phrase, “Eucharistic Face of Christ,” which was previously unknown in the Church. Pope St. John Paul II, by dedicating the millennium to the Face of Christ, drew back the veil for us, so that like disciples on the road to Emmaus, who recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread,” (Luke 24:30-32) we too, may seek, find and adore His Face present and hidden in the Eucharist where we may gaze on Him freely in faith.
“May, O Lord, the light of Thy Face shine upon us.” These words were the inspiration for Pope St. John Paul II to place the 3rd Millennium under “the radiant sign of the Face of Christ.” He emphasized the importance of contemplation of the Face of Christ by stating: “And 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.”
“O my soul, you will always find in the Blessed Sacrament, great consolation and delight, and once you have begun to relish it, there will be no trials, persecutions, and difficulties which you cannot endure.”
“Let him who wills ask for ordinary bread. For my part, O Eternal Father, I ask to be permitted to receive the heavenly Bread with such dispositions that, if I have not the happiness of contemplating Jesus with the eyes of my body, I may at least contemplate Him with the eyes of my soul. This is Bread which contains all sweetness and delight, and sustains our life.” –St. Teresa of Jesus, “The Way of Perfection”
“He is always looking at you; can you not turn the eyes of your soul to look at Him?”–St. Teresa of Avila