Most people are familiar with C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia books, or The Screwtape Letters, but, very few have read his last, over-looked, and probably, most spiritually insightful work; Till We Have Faces. Lauren Enk Mann has written an excellent article on Lewis’ book for Crisis Magazine which reveals the profound significance of our own struggle towards the ultimate goal, at the end of life’s pilgrimage – to see God face to face, something which we cannot do “Till We Have Faces.” (Click below for the full article)
“Whoever refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of my justice.” –Our Lord to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul (1146)
On April 11th, Divine Mercy Sunday of 2015, Pope Francis gave a great gift to all the people of the world: Misericordiae Vultus (Merciful Face). The first lines of the document declaring an “Extraordinary Year of Mercy” are both profound and powerful, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian Faith.” In this beautiful letter (which can be read here) Pope Francis, the servant of the servants of God, extends to all who read it “Grace, Mercy and Peace.”
The Holy Year will open on December 8, 2015, The Solemnity of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, highlighting God’s greatest mercy in the history of mankind. “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy” by choosing Mary to be the Mother of the Redeemer. The “Holy Doors” of Mercy will be opened beginning in Rome and then in Cathedrals and Co-Cathedrals throughout the world. The Holy Doors “will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instils hope.” The jubilee will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King, “the living face of God’s mercy” on the 20th of November 2016. “On that day, as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace.”
In the letter Pope Francis invokes the Holy Spirit by praying, “May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in co-operating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.” This prayer is an echo of the words of Pope St. John Paul II who prayed, ” May the Holy Spirit, which you have granted, bring to maturation your work of salvation, though your Holy Face, which shines forever and ever.” and of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who said, “The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s mercy.”
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis wants us to “Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, that we may experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity.” He calls us to be merciful to others and reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a way of awakening our conscience and enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel so that “we become merciful just as our heavenly Father is merciful.” (Lk 6:36)
“Pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year because it represents the journey each of us makes in life.” Pope Francis tells us that Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain out 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) Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus asks us to “forgive and give.” “To be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God.”
The season of Lent for the Jubilee Year will be a time to meditate on Sacred Scripture “to help rediscover the merciful Face of the Father.” The Pope cites (Hos 11:5) speaking of the unfaithful people of God who deserved a just punishment and anger, in which the prophets speech “reveals the true face of God:”“How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! How can I make you like Admah! How can I treat you like Zeboilim! My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy.” “Gods anger lasts but a moment, His mercy forever.”
The Holy Father also turns his gaze to the face of Mary, Mother of Mercy and our Mother, “May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness.” Pope Francis asks us to address our Merciful Mother in the words of the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen), “a prayer ever ancient and ever new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes toward us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son, Jesus.”
The primary task of the Church, Pope Francis urges us, is to be “a herald of mercy,” “especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplation of the Face of Christ.”
The Salve Regina or “Hail, Holy Queen”
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, although differing in personality and charism, all have something in common, if we connect the pontifical dots… and the dots are: Mercy, the Face of God and Peace.
Beginning with Pope St. John Paul II, who established Divine Mercy Sunday, canonized St. Faustina, the Saint of Divine Mercy and wrote in an encyclical: “The Message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me… which I took with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense, forms the image of this Pontificate.”
The message of Divine Mercy to the world began in 1931, when Our Lord appeared to a Polish nun, St. Faustina, in a vision. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left was touching His garment in the area of His Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. Jesus said to her:
Paint an image according to the pattern you see with the signature: Jesus I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory. (Diary, 47, 48) I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You” (327) I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world.
At the request of her spiritual director, St. Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays in the Image. She heard these words in reply:
The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when my agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. …Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (299).
The image represents the graces of Divine Mercy poured out upon the world, especially through Baptism and the Eucharist.
Good Friday, the day on which Jesus died and “Blood and Water poured forth for souls” begins the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena, which ends on Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday in Easter. (The novena can be found here: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena.php)
Pope St. John Paul II died on April 2nd, the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2002. Pope Benedict XVI recalled the words of Pope St. John Paul II at the dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, Poland: “Outside the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for human beings.” Pope Benedict said, “His message, like St. Faustina’s,leads back to the face of Christ, the supreme revelation of God’s mercy. Constantly contemplating that face: This is the legacy that he has left us, which we welcome with joy and make our own.”
Pope Benedict XVI did indeed make the message of Divine Mercy his own, connecting it to devotion to the Holy Face. He spoke again and again of the Holy Face of Jesus, “that mirror, mystery-laden of God’s infinite Mercy.”
Continuing to “connect the dots,” Pope Francis, on Divine Mercy Sunday 2013 said:
“Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being The Face of The Lord, who in human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations or in the developed societies. Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the Face of Jesus Christ, bear the Face of The Lord, who even before he was born, and then soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person and – I spoke of the child, let us speak of the elderly, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the Face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the “culture of waste proposes! They cannot be discarded!”
Pope Francis recently made the joyful announcement of a special Holy Year of Mercy, again relating the message of Mercy to the Face of God:
“Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (cf. Lk 6:36)
This Holy Year will begin on this coming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will end on November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe — and living face of the Father’s mercy.”
Whenthe world turns to the merciful and glorious Face of God there will be peace, as Pope St. John Paul said in his prayer to the Holy Face:
“Holy Face, which looks at us and searches for us, kind and merciful, You who call us to conversion and invite us for the fullness of love, we adore and bless you. In Your luminous Face, we learn to love and to be loved, to find freedom and reconciliation, to promote peace, which radiates from you and leads to you.”
In Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on the World Day of Peace in 2013, he said that peace is “His [God’s] most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”
Let us pray that the fruit of the upcoming “Holy Year of Mercy” announced by Pope Francis will be peace, not as the world gives, but by the gift of The Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.” This, Pope Benedict XVI said, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing can take from us.”
“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 grant you His PEACE!”
O Jesus, Who in Thy bitter Passion didst become “the most abject of men, a man of sorrows,” I venerate Thy Sacred Face whereon once there did shine the beauty and sweetness of the Godhead; but now it has become for me as if it were the face of a leper! Nevertheless, under those disfigured features, I recognize Thy infinite love and I am consumed with the desire to love Thee and make Thee loved by all men. The tears which well up abundantly in Thy sacred eyes appear to me as so many precious pearls that I love to gather up, in order to purchase souls of poor sinners by means of their infinite value.
O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy Divine Image and to set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.
–Prayer of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
The Golden Arrow in reparation to the Face of Christ
May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and ineffable name of God, be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.
Act of Love to the Holy Face
Adorable Face of My Jesus, my only love, my light and my life, grant that I may see no one except Thee, that I may love Thee alone, that I may live with Thee, of Thee, by Thee and for Thee. Amen.