“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