Another Earthquake in Italy

Important Update: October 30–6.1 Earthquake centered at Norcia.There are no reports of damage or injury at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face.  Let us pray that God keeps His little place in Manoppello safe.

Central Italy has once again been hit by a terrible earthquake. “I am praying for the injured and the families who have suffered the most damage, as well as for rescue and First Aid workers,” Pope Francis told the crowds at St. Peter’s Square this morning.

Please pray for those affected by the earthquake in Italy in Central Italy. 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)

Venerable Padre Domenico da Cese, please intercede for any deceased, trapped

Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese
Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese

victims, and the rescuers. 

(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.)

Four Stories – One Face, Part 2

13th Century Surrender of the Mandylion in Constantinople
13th Century Surrender of the Mandylion in Constantinople

”Does any one who has divine knowledge and spiritual understanding not recognize that [iconoclasm] is a ruse of the devil? For he does not want his defeat and shame to be spread abroad, nor the glory of God and his saints to be recorded.”

— St. John Damascene

Iconoclasm–the name means “image breaking”; it is a heresy which maintained that the veneration of religious images was unlawful.  It has been disputed as to whether it began due to Muslim influence, which regarded all representation of the human form to be an abominable idol, or, as some historians believe, whether it came about for political reasons. A resurgence of iconoclasm among radical Muslims is in fact prevalent today, as evidenced by statues and holy images that have been destroyed in churches across the face of the globe. However, there are also some Christians, even today, who believe that venerating images is idolatry.  Iconoclasm was condemned as unfaithful to Christian tradition at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

The iconoclast persecution was raging in the 8th century, and though iconoclasts destroyed images and tore evidence of the Holy Face of Camulia from holy books, there were also Early Church Fathers, who opposed iconosclasm like St. John Damascene, a Doctor of the Church who wrote many works strongly defending the use of such images.

The Mandylion of Edessa
The Mandylion of Edessa

“Previously, God, Who has not a body or a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image.  But now, that He has made Himself visible in the flesh, and has lived with people, I can make an image of what we have seen of God…and contemplate the glory of the Lord, His Face unveiled.”–St. John Damascene   

King Abgar with Veil, Monastery of St. Catherine Sinai, Egypt 8th Century
King Abgar with Veil, Monastery of St. Catherine Sinai, Egypt 8th Century

The Edessa-Another image “not made by human hand” of the Face of Jesus, was mentioned many times at the Council; It was known as the Mandylion of Edessa.  St. John Damascene wrote this regarding the Mandylion (which means “towel” or “handkerchief” in Arabic):

“It is said that King Abgarus of Edessa had sent a painter to make a portrait of Christ.  But he was not able to do it because of the light that shone out of the Lord’s Face. So, taking a veil and placing it before his holy and life-giving face, Jesus impressed his image on it and sent it to King Abgarus, thus satisfying his desire.” –St. John Damascene (source)

St. Jude Thaddues, holding the Face of Jesus
St. Jude Thaddeus, holding the Face of Jesus

According to one tradition (there are several), the poor King suffered from leprosy and gout and hearing of the miracles of Jesus, sent a letter to Jesus with his secretary Ananias, (who also happened to be the wonderful painter mentioned above). It was St. Jude Thaddeus who brought the Holy Veil to the King. After hearing St. Jude Thaddeus preach, and receiving the holy image the King was healed. King Abgarus, who brought Christianity to his kingdom, is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Church.

Reference to the Holy Face of Edessa has been found in historical sources dated back to 590.  “Arab sources also mention the cloth on which Jesus imprinted the image of His Face.” (source) Although there was disagreement over the centuries as to the question of how the image of the living face of Jesus was formed on the cloth, everyone agreed that it was indeed miraculous.

Christ Pantocrator, St. Catherine Monastery,
Christ Pantocrator, St. Catherine Monastery, Sinai 6th or 7th Century

Many reproductions were made of the image, some appearing miraculously on tile that had covered the sacred cloth. The Mandylion was brought eventually to Constantinople, “the queen of all cities,” on August 16, 944, which is still celebrated as a feast day in the Eastern calendar.  It was recorded as being kept in a golden vessel, and only taken out once a year from the Sacred Chapel, where other precious relics of the Passion were also kept until the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

There are many who believe that the image of Edessa was possibly The Shroud of Turin folded in four, others believe it may have actually been the Camulia . (source) The faint image, is difficult to see on the Shroud of Turin, and is not the face of a living man. (The face on the Shroud could not be seen clearly until it was first photographic negatives were produced in 1898.)

image-5-2(In attempting to untangle these intricate threads of history, one must look at references to the earliest icons derived from a common source–the “proto-image.” One of the earliest known icons is Christ Pantocrator, portraying the Face of Christ. There have been several versions of the icon since, each apparently striving to be faithful to a specific original “proto-image”–an image referred to as acheiropoieta “not made by human hands.” Often the icons also depict a unique characteristic and intriguing clue–a short tuft of hair at the center part, which becomes very important in discovering the “proto-image.”)

But what happened to the Camulia Veil? Before disappearing from the radar of historians during the iconoclast persecution, the Camulia Veil had been ordered by Emperor Justinian II to be brought to Constantinople. The Veil, sometimes carried as a standard in battle by the emperor, was for the most part hidden away, and taken out once a year for the emperor’s eyes only–but only after he had gone to confession and received communion.  Justinian’s reign was turbulent, however, and the wise patriarch of Constantinople, Kallinikos, who was later blinded by Justinian II (one hopes that Justinian went back to Confession), entrusted  the Veil to the hands of a Greek man to be brought to safety in Rome. In the year 705, that Greek man became Pope John VII and the new pope built a Chapel in St. Peter’s known as the “Veronica Chapel” to house a precious relic…(To be continued in “Four Stories – One Face, Pt. 3)

“The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.”

— St. John Damascene, Treatise

Book Sources: True Icon: From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello, The Rediscovered Face, the Unmistakeable Features of Christ and Witnesses to Mystery, Investigations into Christ’s Relics

Thank you to Paul Badde for generously sharing his photo images!

 

Four Stories – One Face, Part 1

Byzantine iconoclasm 9th Century
Byzantine iconoclasm 9th Century

There are at least four separate historical accounts of a veil or cloth of miraculous origin, “not made by human hands,” bearing an image of the Face of Jesus Christ. Each account relates, in its own way, that the Sacred Image came into contact with the living Face of Jesus. Human nature, being what it is, has altered the story, over the centuries, like the old game of “telephone” where one child whispers a story to the first child in line and by the time it has reached the last child the narrative has become very different.

Humanity has journeyed through millennia of dangers, persecution, wars, and intrigue since Christ walked on the earth (and on water), which obscured the facts of the origin of the Holy Veil of the Face of Jesus. The stories of the Veil were handed down to us today by way of history, tradition, literature, art, and music. Somewhere within these intertwined stories is the truth, but, one must have the humility to acknowledge before such a great mystery that we don’t know the whole of the story because God, whose “ways are not our ways,” has allowed them to be hidden.

There are many clues (read anything written about the Holy Face by Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or Pope Francis to find those clues) as to why the Holy Face is taking such a prominent role at this particular point in history to draw humanity back out of the abyss of darkness it now finds itself submerged in. It seems that God, in His Mercy, is “drawing back the veil,” in these dark days, allowing facts to come to light. The four stories point us to one image in particular.

To begin, each are said to depict the Face of the living Christ on a sheer veil or cloth–a human face of a man who has suffered, with traces of wounds, bruises, and swelling visible, especially on the left cheek. His wavy hair is long and parted with a small, short lock of curls at the center. His beard is sparse as though torn, and divided in two. cropped-image-14-version-2.jpegHis open eyes are peaceful and looking slightly to one side. His mouth is partially opened. The images each were reported to have been miraculous not only in appearance, but also as an instrument of healing.

1024px-heinrich_kiepert-_asia_citerior-cappadociaThe Camulia-The oldest story of such an image is the Camulia—named for where it was found, the town of Kamuliana, in Cappodocia, Turkey. The story is of a pagan woman name Hypatia who was receiving Christian instruction and had difficulty believing in Jesus unless she could see Him. “How can I worship Him when He is not visible and I cannot see Him?” She asked. One day she drew from the water of a well, a cloth, with His Holy Face. She became a believer from that moment on. Although there is no longer any trace in art history of the Camulia, the image was described by Theophylactus Simocattus as “the image of the God incarnate…said since ancient times and to the present day that divine art created it, that it was not produced either by a weaver’s hands nor was it painted by the colors of a painter.” The Camulia was cited as a historical image during the iconoclast war against sacred images. During the second council of Nicaea in 787, a deacon named Cosmos demonstrated how the iconoclasts wanted to destroy evidence of testimony of the Eastern Fathers in favor of images of the Face of Jesus. He held up a martyrology from which pages of the story of the Camulia had been ripped out. That was the last mention of the Camulia in history. (source)

The history of the Camulia overlaps with another historical narrative, also originating in Turkey, of an image of the Face of Christ–The Mandylion of Edessa– which will be continued in the next post, “Four Stories – One Face, Part 2.”

Book Sources: True Icon: From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello, The Rediscovered Face, the Unmistakeable Features of Christ and Witnesses to Mystery, Investigations into Christ’s Relics

“I want to Gaze on God Always” – St. Elizabeth of the Trinity!

St. Elizabeth of The Trinity
St. Elizabeth of The Trinity

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

–Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, O.C.D.S.

Elizabeth, a strong-willed three year old.
Elizabeth, a strong-willed three year old.

We have a new Saint in the Church as of October 16th–the French Discalced Carmelite nun, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity! Elizabeth Catez, known to her family as “Sabeth,” was born July 18th, 1880, near Bourges, Frances, the daughter of a military officer.  Early in life she lost her father. Under the firm guidance of her mother, Elizabeth, a very strong-willed child, learned to master her temper. (Just look at that glare!)  At the age of fourteen, Elizabeth heard in her heart a call to be a Carmelite nun but due to her mother’s objections she was not able to enter Carmel until the age of 21.  Her life was “a praise of glory” of the Most Blessed Trinity present in her soul and loved amid interior darkness and excruciating illness. A praise of glory “is a soul that dwells in God, loves Him with a love that is pure and disinterested… a silent soul, which remains like a lyre beneath the mysterious touch of the Holy Spirit…a soul that gazes steadfastly upon God in faith and simplicity; it is a reflection of all that He is…” IMG_0944

In the mystery of the divine indwelling she found her “heaven on earth.”

“It seems to me that I have found my Heaven on earth because Heaven is God, and God is in my soul.  The day I understood this, everything became clear to me, and I would like to proclaim this secret aloud to those whom I love, so that they also may always cling to God in everything.”

Elizabeth suffered greatly from the effects of Addison’s disease.  As she was dying she realized that God had also chosen her to be “conformed to the image of His Son” and that this meant “sharing in His sufferings and becoming like Him in His death.” She died on November 9th, 1906, after five brief years in Carmel.  Her Feast day is November 8th.

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore,  help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.  May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery. Give peace to my soul, make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place.  May I never leave you there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative action.  O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You…even unto death!  But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to clothe me with Yourself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to posses me, to substitute Yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your life.  Come to me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior, O Word Eternal, Word of my God.  I want to spend my life listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You.  Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light.  O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that that I may not withdraw from your radiance.  O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come upon me, and create in my soul a kind of Incarnation of the Word; that I may be another humanity for Him, in which He can renew His whole Mystery.  And You, O Father, bend lovingly over your poor little creature; cover her with your shadow, seeing in her only the Beloved in whom You are well pleased.  O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I love myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey.  Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.  November 21, 1904 — St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

 

The Face of Christ in the Rosary

IMG_1246When he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ” Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium…It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before new generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”  The Rosary is a traditional Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s Face. “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul,” says Pope St. John Paul II, “and runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ.”

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

To recite the Rosary, which can be called a compendium of the Gospel, Pope St. John Paul II says, “is to contemplate the Face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, His Most Holy Mother…Against the background of the words of the Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete seriesIMG_0915-1 of the joyful, [luminous,] sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through–we might say through the heart of his Mother…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation…To look upon the Face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of His human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ’s Face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s words can then be applied to us ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.'” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae) 

"The contemplation of Christ's Face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One!"~St. Pope John Paul II
“The contemplation of Christ’s Face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One!”~ Pope St. John Paul II

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

 

 

 

May the Lord Bless and keep you! – The blessing of St. Francis

fullsizerender-22
Blessing of St. Francis to Brother Leo

Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi

“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years.  The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”

St. Francis of Assisi by Jose Beniliure y Gil
St. Francis of Assisi by Jose Beniliure y Gil

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers which was for the priests and 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. 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.”

 

The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin

This is the great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:

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

Amen!

 

*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…”)