“May the LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be merciful to you! The LORD turn His Countenance towards you and give you peace!“–Num 6:22-27
Peace is the fruit of devotion to the Face of Christ; it is, in fact, the greatest gift of God. Devotion to the Holy Face is not narrow; it is not limited to prayers or venerating images of the Face of Jesus. Although these things are good in themselves and a means of orienting ourselves toward the Face of God, they are not enough. Devotion to the Holy Face is as high and as wide as the Cross of Christ–extending to each person made in the image and likeness of God and respecting their dignity. Pope Francis wrote in his message for the World Day of Peace,
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.
We can become an “artisan of peace” by turning toward the Face of God in prayer, especially before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, from which we draw the strength to love our neighbor, respecting the Face of Jesus within them, even when it is marred by sin–or what St. Teresa of Calcutta called “the distressing disguise of Jesus.”
“Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us to have ‘hands innocent and a heart pure,’ hands illumined by the truth of love and hearts enraptured by divine beauty, that transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may gift ourselves to the poor and the suffering, whose faces reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus. Amen.” — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers, protects us from the corrosive disease of being “spiritual orphans”. –Pope Francis Jan. 1, 2017
(From St. Ireneaus) “There is one God, who by his word and wisdom created all things and set them in order. His Word is our Lord Jesus Christ, who in this last age became man among men to unite end and beginning, that is, man and God.
The prophets, receiving the gift of prophecy from this same Word, foretold his coming in the flesh, which brought about the union and communion between God and man ordained by the Father. From the beginning the word of God prophesied that God could be seen by men and would live among them on earth; he would speak with his own creation and be present to it, bringing it salvation and being visible to it. He would free us from the hands of all who hate us, that is from the spirit of sin, and enable us to serve him in holiness and justice all our days. Man was to receive the Spirit of God and so attain to the glory of the Father.
The prophets, then, foretold thatGod would be seen by men. As the Lord himself says: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. In his greatness and in expressible glory no one can see God and live, for the Father is beyond our comprehension. But in his love and generosity and omnipotence he allows even this to those who love him, that is, even to see God, as the prophets foretold. For what is impossible to men is possible to God.
By his own powers man cannot see God, yet God will be seen by men because he wills it. He will be seen by those he chooses, at the time he chooses, and in the way he chooses, for God can do all things.He was seen of old through the Spirit in prophecy; he was seen through the Son by our adoption as his children, and he will be seen in the kingdom of heaven in his own being as the Father. The Spirit prepares man to receive the Son of God, the Son leads him to the Father, and the Father, freeing him from change and decay, bestows the eternal life that comes to everyone from seeing God.
As those who see light are in the light sharing its brilliance, so those who see God are in God sharing his glory, and the glory gives them life. To see God is to share in life.” ~St. Ireneaus
Merry Christmas! May His Face shine upon you and your loved ones, today and always!
“In Thee God will manifest the splendor of His presence, for the whole world to see”~Baruch 4
*What is Byssus?– Byssus is a cloth of exceeding fine texture used by the ancients. Fit for Royalty, a King, a High Priest, and God. Known as “sea-silk,” it is more rare and precious than gold. Made from the long tough silky filaments of Pinna Nobilis mollusks that anchor them to the seabed–strong enough to resist the extreme hydrodynamic forces of the sea. 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, and alcohols. It can’t be painted, as it does not retain pigments, it can only be dyed; and then, only purple. It can also last for more than 2000 years.
Byssus is mentioned in the Bible forty times–For just a few examples: in Genesis, Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in clothes of byssus, and put a gold chain on his neck. (Genesis 41) The curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26) were twined with byssus. Kingly and priestly garments were made with byssus. (Exodus) Solomon made a veil for the Holy of Holies with cherubim embroidered upon it in byssus.
The Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppellois also made of rare, precious byssus silk. The skill needed to weave a byssus veil as fine as the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello is exceedingly great. Chiara Vigo, known as “the last woman who weaves byssus” has said that neither she or anyone alive today could duplicate the gossamer-thin Veil, which is sheer enough to read a newspaper through. The weave is so delicate, she says, that only the nimble fingers of a very skillful child could weave something so fine.
It has been speculated–perhaps even the young Blessed Virgin Mary learned to weave byssus, as a young child in the temple, for the priestly garments. Perhaps, she herself wove this particular miraculous Veil with her own pure hands, which was placed as a face-cloth (sudarium) on the Face of Jesus in the tomb, and is thought to have recorded the very moment of the Resurrection of Jesus, true God and true Man, High-Priest and King!
(Click here for a BBC article on the last woman who weaves byssus, Chiara Vigo.)
“The church is like Mary awaiting a birth. Like her, we should say of Jesus and mean with our hearts: Come! I want to see your face!”–Pope Francis
“A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on it’s side, but it is evidence of filial love.“
(Please see update below-Prayers needed)
Love desires to see God. So says St. Peter Chrysologus: “When God saw the world falling to ruin because of fear, He immediately acted to call it back to Himself with love…” By an invitation of grace, love and compassion God called Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Moses–and a “flame of love” was enkindled in their hearts, “it’s intoxication overflowed into men’s senses. Wounded by love, they longed to look upon God with their bodily eyes, yet how could our narrow human vision apprehend God, whom the whole world cannot contain?” St. Chrysologus writes, “It is intolerable for love not to see the object of it’s longing!”No matter what good the saints did to merit a reward, they could not see the Lord. “A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on it’s side, but it is evidence of filial love. It gave Moses the temerity to say: If I have found favor in your eyes, show me Your Face. It inspired the psalmist to make the same prayer: Show me Your Face.Even the pagans made their images for this purpose: they wanted to see what they mistakenly revered.” (from sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus)
God Himself initiates the longing to see His Face, extending this grace to all who are willing to accept it, which is why the Blessed Virgin Mary “Full of Grace” had the greatest, deepest longing to see the Face of God–more than any creature on earth. In the third week of Advent, the Church celebrates this longing to see God’s Face, together with Mary, with a Triduum (three days of prayer) and a Feast–It is called The Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Longing to See His Face. (a bit of the history may be found here.) The Triduum begins on December 15th and continues until the feast day which is on December 18th. (The prayer, found below, for the Triduum and Feast Day may also be prayed on the days leading up to Christmas.)
There are two very important aspects of Advent mentioned in this prayer that should not be overlooked as they 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 opening our hearts to God 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 we will be prepared to receive Him Christmas morning and share her joy in the redemptive love shining on the Face of Jesus.
Prayer for the Triduum and Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Longing to See His Face
“Mary, your life with Jesus was one of the purest, most fervent, most perfect 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 being derive life and joy; the Face whose features enraptured God from all eternity, the Face for which all ages expectantly yearned. You were to see this Face unveiled, in all the beauty and grace as the face of your own child.
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.” (Prayer by Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D.)
UPDATE: In your charity, please pray for the soul of Archbishop Edmond Farhat, who died in Rome on December 17. He said this in his homily January 17, 2016 about the Holy Face of Manoppello:
“It is not an object of another time; it is the icon of the eternal face, the face of goodness and of friendship, of mercy and of peace. The face that speaks, that examines, that asks, that awaits a response. It seems to say: ‘Look at me, you who are tired. Come to me and I will give you rest.’…” We fix our gaze on the Holy Face and we will be transformed by God’s mercy. The sign is not an end in itself; the sign is a pointer on the way of the return, the return to the Father.”
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Through the mercy of God may he rest in peace and may he gaze upon Your Face this day. Amen.
“Hide yourself, my love; turn your face toward the mountains, and do not speak; but look at those companions going with her through strange islands.”–Stanza 19, Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross
The great mystical Doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross, wrote a beautiful commentary on Stanza 19 of his Spiritual Canticle, on prayer–the desire of the soul to communicate with God, the need of silence on the part of the soul, and the darkness or obscurity of faith in the soul who is seeking God’s Face.
St. John says that the bride-soul asks four things of the Bridegroom (Christ): First, that He “communicate very inwardly” in the hidden place of the soul. Second, that He inform and “shine on her faculties” with His glory. Third, “that this communication be so sublime and profound that she may neither desire nor know how to give a description of it…” Fourth, that He be enamored of the graces and virtues He has placed in her.”
“Hide yourself, my love;”
St. John says this means to ask God “to communicate Yourself in secret, manifest Your hidden wonders, alien to every mortal eye.”
“turn your face toward the mountains”
“The ‘Face’of God is the divinity and the ‘mountains’ are the soul’s faculties (memory, intellect, and will).” The verse is saying: “Let your divinity shine on my intellect by giving divine knowledge, and on my will by imparting to it divine love, and on my memory with the divine possession of glory.” The soul, St. John writes, “can only be satisfied with God’s Face.”
“and do not speak”
The communication God grants to the soul are too high and deep to be apprehended by the senses. “Let the depth of the hiding place, which is spiritual union, be of such a kind that the senses will be unable to feel or speak of it…,” says St. John of the Cross.
“but look at those companions”
“When God looks, He loves and grants favors. And the companions whom the soul tells God to look at are the many virtues, gifts, perfections, and other spiritual riches He has placed in her as the pledges, tokens, and jewels of betrothal.” This verse, says St. John is like saying, “But, Beloved, first turn to the interior of my soul, and be enamored of the company–the riches–You have placed there, so that loving the soul and through them You may dwell and hide in her. For, indeed, even though they are Yours, since You gave them to her, they also belong to her.
“going with her through strange islands.”
Here the soul is saying, “Since I go to you through a spiritual knowledge strange and foreign to the senses, let Your communication be so interior and sublime as to be foreign to all of them.”
To “seek God’s Face” is to seek Him in prayer; to “look at Him” is to take the time to contemplate Him. When we do this, St. John of the Cross tells us, God is doing great things in our soul…He shines His Face upon us!
The Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18)
“I will wait for the Lord who hath hid His Face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him.” (Isaiah 8)
Is there anyone who enjoys waiting? Our human nature rebels against all forms of it: there is the mundane waiting we must endure in lines, in traffic, at ball games, practices, and in doctor’s offices; the anxious waiting for phone calls, for results, or for the end of sufferings; the joyful waiting for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other celebrations. Then there is the heavy combination of all three types of waiting–which is of a mother waiting for the birth of her child.
Our weak human nature does not like to wait. We want to “get there” right away, to “know” right away, for something to be “done” right away. Waiting requires patience and most of humanity has very little. But wait we must, and since everything in life is permitted by God solely for our good, waiting must be very good for us since we spend so much of our lives doing it.
If waiting is indeed good for us, then it is certain that the evil one will do everything possible to trip us up as he did with the children of Israel while they were waiting, waiting, waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. When God was telling Moses, “I am the Lord, thy God: thou shall not have strange Gods before me,” the devil was tempting them to pride; the Israelite’s did not want to endure waiting to see the Face of God so they fashioned an idol, the “work of their own hands.” Here lies the temptation for us all in what should be a grace-filled period of time: distraction in turning the eyes of our soul away from the Face of God and toward the false faces or idols of the world–bright, sparkly, enticing and all around us. How can we resist falling into the traps of idolatry?
The ultimate good is to see the Face of God and therefore Mary must have waited like no one has ever waited before! Mary, for the love of God, waited in patience, humility, faith, charity, in hope, and in supreme fortitude. She did this by fixing the eyes of her soul on Jesus, her Redeemer and God–Whose Face she could not yet see within her womb. Mary’s uncomplaining acceptance of God’s Will–to seek His Face and only His Face–bore the most sublime fruit in Mary’s soul of divine PEACE, which the world can never take away. So, this Advent and in all times of waiting, wait with Mary, and her reward will also be ours…to see the Face of her Son!