The Mother of God – Her face is resplendent with grace

“How fair you are, O Virgin Mary, Your face is resplendent with grace.”
(from Carmelite Proper)

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Love your mother!

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

January 1st is the Feast of Mary, Mother of God.  We are reminded that God the Father chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of His Son, Jesus. St. Pope John Paul II reflected upon this mystery of the Incarnation: “If it is The Father’s plan to unite all things in Christ, then the whole of the universe is in some way touched by divine favor with which the Father looks upon Mary and makes her the Mother of His Son.” Mary was created pure and perfect, without any stain of sin.  Jesus loves His Mother above all creatures.  She shared in His suffering and ignominious death on the Cross, from which He gave her to John and to each of us as our Mother.  As the moon reflects the light of the sun, we can see in her face the reflection of the face of her Son, who is God.

There are some who reject this most precious gift of His own Mother.  They slander, mock and revile her, just as they did her Son.  Below is a prayer of reparation for blasphemy against the Mother of God–if you would like to send her a kiss instead of insult, please pray it.

An Act of Reparation for Blasphemies against the Blessed Virgin Mary

Most glorious Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother, turn thine eyes in pity upon us, miserable sinners; we are sore afflicted by the many evils that surround us in this life, but especially do we feel our hearts break within us upon hearing the dreadful insults and blasphemies uttered against thee, O Virgin Immaculate, to which we are so frequently constrained to listen.  O how these impious sayings offend the infinite Majesty of God and of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ!  How they provoke His indignation and give us cause to fear the terrible effects of His vengeance!  Would that the sacrifice of our lives might avail to put an end to such outrages and blasphemies; were it so, how gladly we should make it, for we desire, O most holy Mother, to love thee and to honor thee with all our hearts, since this is the will of God.  And just because we love thee, we will do all in our power to make thee honored and loved by all men  In the meantime, do thou, our merciful Mother, the supreme comforter of the afflicted, accept this our act of reparation which we offer thee for ourselves and for all our families, as well as for all who impiously blaspheme thee, not knowing what they say.  Do thou obtain for them from Almighty God the grace of conversion, and thus render more manifest and more glorious thy kindness, thy power and thy great mercy.  May they join with us in proclaiming thee “Blessed Among Women,” the Immaculate Virgin and most compassionate Mother of God.

Hail Mary (three times)

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Our Lady of Czestochowa, with slash marks from the sword of a Hussite raider.

 

“Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face..”

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

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The Holy Night by Carlo Maratta, c.1676

Today, we contemplate the Holy Face of The Infant Jesus, together with Mary and Joseph. God descended to earth and became human to redeem us … but He is so weak, so poor, so helpless!  Mary and Joseph knew, that their beautiful, perfect child was also born to suffer.  They contemplate Him in silence, like all parents of newborns, because words are useless.  Together, with them, we gaze with love on Jesus’ face as He lies in the manger and our gaze becomes our prayer.  While we look at Him, he looks at us and loves us; He will give His life for us.

The beauty of the face of the Infant Jesus, draws us into the great mystery of redemptive suffering, to show us how God’s love was to be revealed, through self-sacrifice. Let us enter into this mystery today by gazing on the Holy Face of the newborn Jesus, and, in gazing at Him, discover the hope and joy of  His redemptive LOVE!

“Holy Mary, Mother of the Savior, help us to bear witness to the joy and light that the birth of your Son, our Redeemer, brought to the world, and to seek him in all things.” (Contemplating The Face of Christ in the Rosary, Pauline Press.)

Merry Christmas!

Happy the people who know you, Lord, who walk in the radiance of your face.  In your name they sing joyfully all the day; at your victory they raise the festal shout. (Psalm 89:16-17)

Happy Feast of The Expectation of The Blessed Virgin Mary

… Longing to See His Face!

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Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous deeds. And blessed forever be his glorious name; may the whole earth be filled with his glory.

Today we unite ourselves with The Blessed Virgin Mary, in her longing to see the Face of her Son and her God.  Below is an excerpt from The Feasts of Mary by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, SVD:

“Mary, Mother of God, make my interior life of union with Jesus more like your own. After Holy Communion Jesus is with me as God and Man, with His Body and Blood, soul and divinity. Jesus is in me, too, through sanctifying grace, I bear within me the supernatural image of the Divine Sonship. He works in my soul by His grace. He forms Himself in me by supernatural principles, which He implants in my mind; by supernatural intentions and meritorious actions. He follows up in my heart also the aim that brought Him into your womb—He wishes to be born in me, to grow, rule, and reveal Himself. Thus my soul in sanctifying grace is always, in a spiritual manner, like your womb—a sanctuary of the living God!”

“I earnestly want to be filled with the dispositions in which you expected the coming of the Savior and thus prepare myself for His coming into my soul by faith and divine charity, as well as for His coming at the hour of my death and judgment. In union with you may my heart yield itself up to childlike confidence in Jesus so that the graces of His Nativity may be brought to my soul in abundance, and He may be born anew within my heart.”

Let us also remember to pray today for all expectant mothers and unborn babies.  O Jesus, whose Holy Face was formed and hidden for nine months in the womb of The Blessed Virgin Mary, your Mother, have mercy on us!  Happy Feast Day!

Advent: Longing to see His Face – The Expectation of The Blessed Virgin Mary

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Mary and Joseph, longing to see the Face of the Infant Jesus.

Although two weeks of Advent have already gone by, now is the perfect time to intensify our efforts not to give in to the constant noise and flashing images that the world sets before our eyes, but direct our gaze, together with Mary, in anticipation, toward Bethlehem.

You may not know that there is a little known Feast Day coming up on December 18th, which begins the octave leading up to Christmas. It is called the Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (longing to see His Face). The Feast has it’s origin in the year 656 in Spain and spread throughout the Middle Ages. Because of an ancient law of the Church which prohibited the celebration of feasts during Lent, the Church in Spain transferred the Feast of the Annunciation from March 25th to the season of Advent.  The Tenth Council of Toledo in 656 assigned the feast to the 18th of December.  It was kept as a solemn octave, eight days leading to Christmas. When the ancient laws regarding feasts were changed, the Annunciation was celebrated twice, on March 25th and December 18th.  In some places in Spain it is still celebrated on both days.

The following is  a portion of a meditation, which Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D., offers for this feast, in a book called Our Lady’s Feast Days:

“Mary, Your life with Jesus was one of the purest, most fervent, most perfect emotions of love to God, whom you sheltered within yourself. How can I ever imagine the 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 beings derive life and joy; the Face whose features enraptured God from all eternity, the Face for which all ages had expectantly yearned. You were to see this Face unveiled, in all the beauty and grace of childhood as the face of your own child.”

The Triduum begins Dec. 15 – 17th and may be continued until Christmas.  The prayer for this beautiful Feast Day is as follows:

“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.”

There are two important aspects of Advent mentioned in this prayer that are necessary for us to prepare our hearts for Jesus on Christmas Day: preparation and penance (that Jesus may “find no obstacle in our hearts.”) Sometimes the greatest obstacle to Jesus entering our hearts is our own self-love.  Let us have confidence in Mary’s intercession to help us overcome this self-love, removing all obstacles to her Son, so that our hearts will be prepared to receive Him Christmas morning and experience with joy the redemptive love shining of the Face of the Infant Jesus.

Look Closely – Our Lady of Guadalupe “Not made by Human Hands”

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Miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Shroud of Turin, and “Il Volto Santo,” the veil of Manoppello all have something in common.  They are all Acheiropoieta, a Greek word meaning: “made without hand.”  They are said to have come into existence miraculously, not created by a human painter.

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The Holy Face on the Shroud of Turin

The extensive research that has been done on these three images, and the results are astounding.  Although I have not been to Mexico to view the miraculous tilma of Our Lady, I have seen both the Holy Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello in person.  Studying them has been my own personal passion.

Being an artist, (and near-sighted) I tend to look at things more closely.  I study each little detail, shape, line, form, color, and  value. I may spend hundreds of hours studying while I work.  I can’t help but know every little nuance by the time I am done painting.  Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schloemer, a Trappist nun from Germany, is also an artist, a painter of icons.  Icon painting is very exact when it is done in the traditional manner.  Sr. Schloemer began to notice striking similarities between ancient icons and images of the Face of Christ, and the images on the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello.  With the permission of her order the research has become her life’s work as well as part of her vocation.

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Pope Benedict meets Sr. Blandina at the Sanctuary Basilica for the Holy Face of Manoppello

Her research indicates that both images on the Shroud of Turin and the Manoppello Image are of the same man.  I agree with her, wholeheartedly, although it is not at first glance apparent.   There are also many similarities between these two images  of Jesus’ Face and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  First, all are on a cloth.  The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on cactus fiber, which should have disintegrated hundreds of years ago according to scientists. The Shroud of Turin is on linen and the Manoppello Image is on woven sea-silk, called byssus.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe, pilgrim image beside the Veronica Altar, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo: Paul Badde, author of The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus, Ignatius Press.

Byssus  is more rare and more precious than gold.  Mentioned in the Bible, byssus, has a shimmering, iridescent quality which reflects light. Byssus is extremely delicate, yet strong at the same time. It  resists water, weak acids, bases, ethers or alcohols. It can’t be painted, as it does not retain pigments, it can only be dyed; and then, only purple.  Did I mention that it can last for more than 2000 years?

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The veil of Manoppello, woven with byssus, is so sheer that you can read through it. Photo: Paul Badde

Another similarity between the Guadalupe image and the Manoppello image is the changeability of the images.  Pilgrims  have related how the image of Our Lady on the tilma appears to change in color, brightness and depth.  Scientists can’t explain how the Guadalupe image appears on the tilma, it is not painted… it is “just there.”  The Shroud of Turin has been described similarly. The veil of Manoppello, or “Il Volto Santo” as it is also known,  is even more incredible, if that can be possible, because in addition to the image being on a veil so sheer that it can be read through, it also changes in detail, color,  and shape.  It even disappears… entirely. It is called a “living image” and so it is.  No two people will see it in the same way.  No single person will see it in the same way twice.

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“Il Volto Santo of Manoppello”

Julian of Norwich, the English mystic of the 14th century,  mentions changeability as a characteristic of the Veil of Veronica in Rome, “the diverse changing of color and countenance, sometime more comfortably life-like, sometime more rueful and death-like.” The Veil of Veronica, it is now believed, was most likely stolen a hundred years later, during the sack of Rome.  But, Julian of Norwichs’ description of the Veil of Veronica certainly fits “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello.

But, there is more.  There is something about the faces… if you study the faces in particular, especially  the eyes, as one opthamalogist did. On the eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe, you will notice that something.  Similar research has been done on the eyes of “Il Volto Santo.”  There are delicate, natural, details in all three images that cannot be accomplished without the aid of paint or brush, on a rough, cactus cloth, or on a linen burial shroud or on gossamer-thin sea-silk.  If you have an opportunity, look closely.  Yes, there is something about the faces, and it is something supernatural.  They are not made by human hands, but by the Hand of God.

“O Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe,

By your presence you made the desert bloom with flowers

may your love transform us into the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

(Prayer by Dom Mark Kirby, Prior, Silverstream Monastery, Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland)

Let me see your face! Terrorism and The Holy Face

“A human being instinctively senses that there is something about evil that seeks to hide its face.”

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Masked Boko Haram Terrorists

“Let Me See Your Face!” ~ Song of Solomon 2:14

What is the basis of a relationship? For a human person, it is recognizing a face and knowing a person’s name. The heart of every human being has an inexpressible longing to see the Face of God and a desire to enter into relationship with Him, to know His Name.

This is so integral to our Faith as to be indispensable. That is why Pope St. John Paul II dedicated the millennium to The Holy Face of Christ. That is why Pope Benedict has written so extensively on The Face of Christ throughout his pontificate, including in Lumen Fidei where he speaks of the light of the Face of Christ shining upon the faces of Christians and spreading as “the paschal candle lights countless other candles,” passing faith from one person to another. That is why Pope Francis directs us again and again to recognizing the Face of Jesus in one another. “Every sick and fragile person can see in your face the Face of Jesus, and you also can recognize in the suffering person the Face of Christ.”

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The Beheading of John the Baptist by Caravaggio (1608)

Watching the many world crises unfold, a particularly terrifying image sends a chill through viewers of the nightly news programs as it recurs again and again. This image, with which most people are now sadly familiar, has several forms: ISIS terrorists, “Russian separatist soldiers” invading the Ukraine,  Boko Haram, and rioters in Ferguson. The first instance, the ISIS terrorist, is cloaked in black from head to toe, posed like a hunter with its prey, preparing to behead a man.  The second image, “Russian separatists,” if  that is what they are, most often appear with black stocking caps or hoods that conceal their identities. Next, Boko Haram in black masks and assault weapons are pictured with the young helpless girls they have kidnapped. Then there are the images of rioters in Ferguson, Missouri, with bare chests and t-shirts wrapped around their heads to hide their faces as they smash and pillage.

A human being instinctively senses that there is something about evil that seeks to hide its face. Evil, that nameless, faceless entity manifesting itself in the world, is not content with cloaking the individual identity of its own slaves, but, above all, evil seeks to mar, disfigure, destroy, and even violently behead, the image and likeness of God found in the pinnacle of His creation: man. It is present in the evil of abortion, refusing to recognize the face of a human baby in the unborn, or in the evil of euthanasia in disposing of inconveniently elderly or sick persons. It is present in the evil of pornography, with the hidden viewer  lusting after nameless human beings, thereby deforming the image of God in both.

The wicked facelessness of violence, hatred, and evil is the inversion of the Christian call to holiness, which is seeking the Face of God. Climbing the mountain of the spiritual life toward God, the Christian abandons selfishness and vice, and then sacrifices even little attachments that hold him back, to grow closer to the summit of the mountain: unity with God, to reflect more perfectly His image in one’s heart. St. Paul said it best: “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image” (2 Cor 3:18). This journey requires self-denial, courage, determination and zeal.

Evil, however, goes the opposite direction. In pride, in hatred, in violence, men who devote themselves to the destruction of the image of God in other men scale the upside-down mountain of pride toward the faceless evil that absorbs their identity and destroys their souls, like the fallen angels in G.K. Chesterton’s poem Gloria in Profundis:

For fear of such falling and failing,
the fallen angels fell,
Inverted in insolence, scaling,
the hanging mountain of hell.

We are not helpless, however, against the faceless foe. St. Pope John Paul II has stated, “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 Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to the Holy Face as having three separate components: “1) Discipleship—an orientation of one’s life towards an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the face of those in need; 2) the Passion of Jesus, expressed by images of the wounded Face of Jesus. 3) the Eucharist—which is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His Face in the Eucharist.”

This is not merely a pious devotion, but a powerful weapon against the enemy. Its power does not, however, result in destruction. In his prayer to the Holy Face, St. John Paul II asks that The Holy Face, through The Holy Spirit, “bring to maturation your work of salvation.” The fruit of using this mighty weapon is peace. “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, peace,” writes Pope Benedict XVI. As we are gazing at God, in the scriptures, in His images, in our neighbor and in the Eucharist, God is gazing at us. By this mutual gaze of love between the Face of God and the soul of man, God restores His Image in our souls. Moreover, Pope Benedict wrote, “To rejoice in the splendor or 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, as Benedict says, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing—not even nameless, faceless evil—can ever take from us.

“The Most Beautiful Work Under the Sun”

I Seek Your Face

Deep in his heart, man has an inexpressible longing to see the face of God. As Pope Benedict XVI writes beautifully in his homilies and in his book, On the Way to Jesus Christ, “The desire to know God truly, that is, to see the Face of God is inherent in every human being, even atheists.” This yearning for God has been expressed from antiquity in the Old Testament:

Listen to my voice, Lord, when I call
. . . Your Face, Lord, do I seek!
Hide not Your Face from me!
-Psalm 27

In fact, the Hebrew term, “panim”, which means “face” means to see the Face of God or the presence of God, occurs 400 times in the Old Testament, and 100 of these refer to God. The same word “panim”, Pope Benedict explains, is a term that describes relationships. The word “shem” meaning “name” is also a term of relationship. God has a face and a name!

How do we seek His Face?

Pope Benedict XVI tells us that we learn in the Psalms the attitude for seeing the Face of God: “Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually.” (Ps. 105:3-4) and in Psalm 24, the prerequisites of “clean hands and a pure heart” “Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” “Seeking the face of God”, says Pope Benedict XVI, “is an attitude that embraces all of life; in order for a man to see God’s face at last, he must himself be illuminated entirely by God.” “Let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Ps 80:3,7,19)

God turns His Face to Us

This deep longing of man to see the Face of God arises because of man’s desire for a personal relationship with His Creator. “God has a Face,” writes Benedict XVI, that is, He is a “You” who can enter into a relationship.” As the story of the people of Israel in the Old Testament reveals, God sees us, hears us, speaks to us, He makes covenants. He loves us. Throughout the Old Testament, He progressively reveals Himself to man, to allow mankind to see His Face Exodus tell us that “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex 33:11) Although Moses begs to see God’s face in his glory (Ex 33:11) he is only able to see God’s back as he passes. (Ex33:18-23) It is only by following Jesus (seeing his back) that we will be able to see in his face the glory of God made visible. (2 Cor 4:6)

God shows us His Face in The Incarnation

The revelation of the face of God took on a new and beautiful manifestation when God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. As fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ gave us a human face that revealed the face of God. “While we too seek other signs, other wonders,” Benedict XVI explains, “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!” Something new happens at The Incarnation, because now God’s Face can be seen: The Son of God was made man and He is given a Name, Jesus.

The Face and The Name

In fact, the Incarnation also reveals a direct connection between the Holy Face and the Name of God. Jesus shows us the Face of the Father, for as He told His disciples: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” But Jesus also makes known to us the Name of God: as He said at the Last Supper when praying to His Father, “I have made Your Name known to them.”

The expression “Name of God” means God as He who is present among men. His Name is a concrete sign of His Existence.

Need for Reparation to The Holy Face and The Holy Name

Because of the profound connection between our relationship with God and His Name and Face, sins committed against this relationship with Him are reflected in the Face of Christ. When a man’s name is slandered or reviled, those insults are reflected on his face. So too, in the Passion, the Face of Our Lord was beaten, bloodied, bruised, spit upon.

How are our sins against our personal relationship with God revealed in His face? The manifestation of our sins on His Countenance come about through blasphemy, atheism, disrespect of God in Sacred Things, the profanation of Sunday, hatred of God’s Church. These indignities suffered by Our Lord in His Face represent the most serious sins, because they are against God Himself.

The damage done by our sins to our relationship with God are reflected in the Face of Jesus Christ. For this reason, devotion and reparation to the Holy Face is fitting in order to make amends for what we have done to Him.

History of the Devotion

Devotion to the Holy Face has existed since the beginning of the Christianity. For instance, the “Veil of Veronica” and other images, such as the Shroud of Turin and icons in the East, have been particular objects of devotion to the Face of Christ.

However, a change occurred in mid-1800’s, when Our Lord appeared to a Cloistered Carmelite nun, Sr. Marie St. Pierre, in Tours, France, at a time when the seeds of atheistic communism and revolution were being planted across Europe. Our Lord asked her for greater devotion to His Holy Face and acts of Reparation. Jesus said to her:

“Rejoice, My Daughter, because the hour approaches when the most beautiful work under the Sun will be here.”

The “Beautiful Work” referred to by Our Lord in this apparition is devotion to the Holy Face. This “Most Beautiful Work under the Sun,” spoken of by Our Lord, has dawned at the New Millennium. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, begun by St.. Pope John Paul II in his last days, devotion to the Holy Face is spreading, and the Face of “The True Sun, Jesus Christ” is beginning to “Shine” in the world.

St. Pope John Paul II and “The Most Beautiful Work under the Sun”

In 1997, St. Pope John Paul II asked for an International Congress for studying the words on the Holy Face Medal and Devotion to The Holy Face as a preparation for the Millenium, which he later placed under “The Radiant sign of The Face of Christ.” The medal of the Holy Face of Jesus was made by Bl.Mother Marie Pierina De Micheli, following the request of Jesus and The Blessed Mother in 1936. One side the medal bears a replica of the Holy Face image and an inscription based on Psalm 66:2: “Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos”, that is: “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us.”  On the other side of the medal, there is an image of a radiant Sacred Host, the monogram of the Holy Name (“IHS”), and the inscription “Mane nobiscum, Domine” or “Stay with us, O Lord.”

In Novo Millenio Ineunte, St. Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of contemplation of the Face of Christ by stating:

“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…To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all, in the living Sacrament of His Body and Blood.”

“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.”

God gazes at us
While we are gazing at God, He is gazing at us. St. John of the Cross says the gaze of God is active, “for God’s Gaze is to love and to work favors. His Gaze is love and love does things. God’s Gaze works four blessing in the soul: it cleanses her, makes her beautiful, enriches her and enlightens her . . . making her like Himself.” By this mutual gaze of love between the Face of God and the soul of man, God restores His Image in our souls.

We enter into this mystery, not by our own efforts, but by faith, grace, and by contemplating Him in silence and prayer, and by anchoring ourselves firmly in the Scriptures, contemplating His Face hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on through His Life, Death and Resurrection.

St. Pope John Paul II called such acts of reparation to The Holy Face the “unceasing effort to stand beside the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified.”

Which Image of the Face of Jesus?

There are many images of the Face of Jesus, but the image of the Face of God is not confined merely to images of Him beaten and bloodied by his passion. St. Pope John Paul II states, “We cannot stop at the image of The Crucified One. He is the Risen One! As St. Paul remarks, the Resurrection is fundamental to the Christian’s relationship with God: if God were not risen, “our preaching would be in vain and our faith empty.” (cf. 1 Cor 15:14) During different seasons of the Church and moments in our faith journey we may feel drawn to contemplate the various aspects of The Holy Face of Jesus from his Incarnation in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, through His Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The Secrets of The Holy Face taught by Pope Benedict XVI

Carrying out St. Pope John Paul II’s “program” at the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict made a pilgrimage to the little mountain village of Manoppello, Italy, to venerate a veil with a miraculous image of The Face of The Risen Christ. The veil, which has been described as a “living image” due to its changing appearance, also known as “Il Volto Santo,” has been recently “re-discovered”: research reveals it to be the prototype of ancient images of Christ in both the Eastern and Western Church.

The face on veil forensically matches the Face on The Shroud of Turin. It is believed to be the “Veil of Veronica” which most likely disappeared or was stolen from the Vatican in the 1500’s.

Benedict later composed a prayer, in 2007, in commemoration of his visit to the Veil of Manoppello on September 1, 2006. Below is a portion of that prayer:

“Show us O Lord, we pray you, Your Face, ever new; that mirror, mystery-laden, of God’s Infinite Mercy. Grant that we may contemplate it with the eyes of our minds and our hearts: The Son’s Face, radiance of The Father’s Glory and the imprint of His nature. The human Face of God, suffering and risen, when loved and accepted, changes the heart and life, “Your Face, Lord, do I seek, do not hide Your Face from me!” (Psalm 27)

“To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In His Face we truly see who God is and what He looks like!”

Benedict XVI, The Pope of the Face of God

The Face of God is a recurring motif in Benedict’s homilies (most recently on Jan. 1st on World Day of Peace, and on Jan. 16th Wed. audience). On January 1, 2013, Benedict spoke on the blessing of the priests of the people of Israel. The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man: “May The Lord bless and keep you, may He make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you: May the Lord turn His Face toward you and give you His PEACE.” Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”

These words of Benedict echo the words of St. Pope John Paul II, that “in The Eucharist, the Face of Christ is turned toward us.”

Moreover, Pope Benedict wrote, “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, the Pope says, is the foundation of our Peace, which nothing can take from us.

Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to The Holy Face as having three separate components:
1. Discipleship – an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the Face of those in need.
2. The Passion of Jesus, and suffering expressed by images of the wounded Face of Jesus.
3. The Eucharist, “the great school in which we learn to see The Face of God”, which is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His Face hidden in The Eucharist.

“Our whole life should be directed toward encountering Him,” writes Benedict, “toward loving Him; and in it, a central place must be given to love of one’s neighbor, that love that in the light of The Crucified One, enables us to recognize the Face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering.” The pope goes on to explain the fruits of this contemplation: “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, PEACE”

Indicating that he is truly the Pope of the Face of God, Pope Benedict’s last action as Pope was to request the Ostentation of the Shroud of Turin on Holy Saturday.

Pope Francis: Seeing the Face of Christ in Our Neighbor

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has followed in the footsteps of Benedict XVI and St. Pope John Paul II by speaking often of the importance of the Face of God. Before all, Pope Francis seems to be imitating his patron St. Francis, in letting his actions speak, by demonstrating “Discipleship” seeking out the Face of Christ in the poor, the sick, and the weak and by BEING The Face of Christ to the poor, the sick and the weak.

In Pope Francis’ first homily he tells us, “The Face of God is like that of a merciful Father that always has patience and is willing to forgive.” “All of us have felt joy, sadness and sorrow in our lives,” Pope Francis reflected. “Have we wept during the darkest moment? Have we had that gift of tears that prepare the eyes to look, to see the Lord?” Here we see the need for repentance.

Francis’ message at the Ostentation of the Shroud reflected further on the Face of God and the gaze of love we exchange with Him. “We do not merely ‘look,’ but rather we venerate by a prayerful gaze,” he said, adding, “I would go further: we are looked at ourselves. This Face has eyes that are closed, it is the Face of the One Who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence He speaks to us…. This disfigured Face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest… And yet, at the same time, the Face in The Shroud conveys a great Peace…”

The new pope continued this theme when on his Wednesday audience on April 3, 2013, he drew a particular connection between the Face of God and the role of women: “Women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord,” he said, “ in following Him and communicating His Face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love.” In fact, said Pope Francis, “The first witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection were women. “

The Face of God has, in fact, become a theme, which Francis has returned to again and again in his preaching.

On Divine Mercy Sunday (April 7th, 2013),“this Mercy of God which has a concrete face, the Face of Jesus, the Risen Christ.” “How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus – How much tenderness is there!” Francis added. “I have so often seen God’s merciful Countenance, His patience!”

On Trinity Sunday 2013, Pope Francis explained the Holy Trinity is not the product of human reasoning, but the Face with which God has revealed himself, walking with humanity.

Speaking to pilgrims June 13, World Refugee Day, “May people and institutions around the world never fail to assist them: their face, is the Face of Christ!”

The Holy Face in the work of Two Popes: The Encyclical Lumen Fidei

Popes Benedict XVI and Francis make clear the necessity of devotion to the Face of Christ in their encyclical Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith, that “Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call and rejecting idols. An idol is “The face which is NOT a face.”
“Those who believe come to see themselves in the light of the faith which they profess: Christ is the mirror in which they find their own image fully realized. And just as Christ gathers to himself all those who believe and makes them his body, so the Christian comes to see himself as a member of this body, in an essential relationship with all other believers.” Lumen Fidei sec.22

Reflected, as in a Mirror and Transformed into His Image

Section 37 of Lumen Fidei speaks of the effect of contemplating The Face of God and how by it, we are transformed into His Image.
“Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light. Addressing the Corinthians, Saint Paul used these two very images. On the one hand he says: “But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture — ‘I believed, and so I spoke’ — we also believe, and so we speak” (2 Cor 4:13). The word, once accepted, becomes a response, a confession of faith, which spreads to others and invites them to believe.
Paul also uses the image of light: “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image” (2 Cor 3:18). It is a light reflected from one face to another, even as Moses himself bore a reflection of God’s glory after having spoken with him: “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).

The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians; as it spreads, it comes down to us, so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others, in the same way that, in the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles. Faith is passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit.” ~ Lumen Fidei

A Great gift to the Church – The Most Beautiful Work under the Sun!

The Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus is great gift to the Church; as Jesus said, “The Most Beautiful work under the Sun”; the “program” set before the whole Church to follow for this millennium by Bl. John Paul II, continued by Pope Benedict XVI and now being carried out by Pope Francis: to contemplate the Face of Christ, with Mary, by grace, in Faith, silence and prayer. To seek Him everywhere: in the Scriptures, our neighbor by Discipleship, and most importantly in contemplating His Holy Face in the Eucharist. By carrying out our part of “the program” we hope to obtain the “most sublime gift of God”: His peace. This is “the beautiful work” which will bring about the Transformation of the Church, restoring the Splendor of the Face of Christ to His Mystical Body.

May The Lord bless us and keep us, may He make His Face shine upon us and be gracious to us: May the Lord turn His Face toward us and give us His PEACE!