The Beauty of Mary

“Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.” (Song of Solomon 4:7)

 

 

“From the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator,” “for the author of beauty created them.”  (Wisdom 13: 3, 5)

The spiritual beauty of God is reflected most perfectly in the woman He created to be His Mother.  No stain of sin would mar the beauty of His reflection in her soul. Never for one instant would she be under the power of the devil. “The Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits  of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception)  Mary herself proclaims, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47)

As the Immaculate Conception, Mary bears in herself the most perfect reflection of the face of God.  Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Blessed Virgin saw shining upon her, as no other creature, the face of the Father, rich in grace and mercy.”  What in Heaven and on earth could be more beautiful than the Mother of God?  It is God who has willed that Mary be beautiful, not only fair in face, but in the fullness of grace. Yet, beauty has a purpose, and that is to draw us by the beauty of the graces God has given her towards the Beatific Vision–the Face of God.  Mary has no greater desire than that we turn towards the Face of her Son, as she does, with eyes of love.

Strangely, there are some who see the Blessed Mother not as a gift from God who leads us to her Son, but as an obstacle. They want to separate the Mother from the Son, even resorting to violence of smashing statues and slashing paintings of her, mistakenly thinking that somehow this could be pleasing to God, but it is only pleasing to the devil. It is blasphemy. When we separate ourselves from Mary, we separate ourselves from Christ. In The Everlasting Man G.K. Chesterton tells a story from his childhood, many years before he became a Catholic, which left a deep impression on his soul:

“When I was a boy a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a newborn child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother, you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows I as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.”

 

Jesus alone is “the Way” that leads to the Father, but Mary is the most beautiful image and likeness of Christ, which will lead us to Him. Dostoevsky once said that “Beauty will save the world!” Mary has a spiritual beauty to share with the world that attracts and expresses what is beyond words, in the depths of her heart, the love of a mother for her Savior and Son.

A Little Litany by G.K.Chesterton

Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Our Lady, in whose face – more than any other creature – we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” –Pope Benedict XVI Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art

When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven – and saw the earth.

Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.

Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.

Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In the strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.

Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.

Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem
God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose,
Of your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.

 

For post “Look Closely – Our Lady of Guadalupe – Not Made by Human Hands” click here.

Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe
“I am your merciful Mother.”

 

 

 

 

 

How to Steal the Kingdom of God

“As a deer yearns for running streams, so my soul is longing for you, my King and my God.  My soul is thirsting for God, the living God, when shall I see Him face to face?” 

Christ in Majesty, Godescalc Evangelistary, 781-783

Our souls are longing to see the Face of Jesus Christ our King, and the good news of the Gospel tells us what we must do to inherit the Kingdom of God:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt. 25:31-41)

To enter the Kingdom of God we must perform the works of mercy, however, there is yet another way to enter into Christ’s Kingdom; and that is to steal it! It is true–our Crucified King desires us to be with Him so much that He will even allow His Kingdom to be stolen. As Jesus was dying a shameful death on the Cross, crucified between two criminals, the crowds were shouting, “If he is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross, and we will believe him.” One of the thieves hanging there reviled, and mocked Jesus to His Holy Face. “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the one called “the Good Thief” or “St. Dismas,” is also known as a saint of the Holy Face, because although he too was suffering on a cross, St. Dismas acknowledged his own guilt and publicly defended Jesus, rebuking the thief who had blasphemed Him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” (Lk, 23:40-41)  What came next is a testament to heroic faith, because although the thief saw the suffering, humiliated, and disfigured Face of Jesus, he called Him a king: 

“Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” 

St. Ambrose wrote that the Good Thief “prayed that the Lord would remember him when he reached His Kingdom, but the Lord responded, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ Life is being with Christ, because where Christ is, there is His Kingdom.”  Perhaps the Good Thief had not performed the works of mercy, but his story is an witness to the saving power of faith and devotion to the Face of  Christ. The Good Thief had stolen the Kingdom through sharing in the suffering of Christ and reparation to the Holy Face of Jesus, and so entered into His divine glory.  

Thy Kingdom come, O Lord!

Christ the King of the Universe

“Every time that anyone gazes at my Face, I will pour my love into hearts and by means of the Holy Face, the salvation of many souls will be obtained.” –Our Lord to Bl. Mother Pierina de Micheli, “Missionary of the Holy Face”

 

 

 

The Divine Image

 

Pieta, with Holy Trinity, Blessed Mother and St. John (Jean Malouel 1400-1410 Met Museum)

The communication of the Most Holy Trinity is a communication of Persons– Father, Son and Holy Spirit — their communication is love.  God also communicates His love to all mankind so that we may know Him and love Him. We learn about God not only from His creation, but through other human beings. We are all made in His image and likeness, after all, reflecting God’s truth, goodness, and beauty.  As is written in the Book of Wisdom, “for from greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of the Creator.” (Wis. 13:5)

We have the capacity to know God because we are created in His image and likeness; however, we also learn, from ourselves and those around us, how unlike God we are.  St. Thomas Aquinas says, “concerning God, we cannot grasp what He is, but only what He is not, and how other beings stand in relation to Him.” The internet has a great potential for real communication; that is, to convey information exchanged between persons, that could really help us learn about the love of God. Unfortunately, mass communication, such as the internet, communicates more about what God is not, than what God is.

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, Italy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“In the world of the internet, which enables billions of images to appear on millions of screens throughout the world, the Face of Christ needs to be seen and his voice heard, for ‘if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man’.” –Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini

 

Those who love God, therefore, would naturally desire to communicate His love to other human beings through the Face of Christ–using the means which God Himself has chosen to communicate His love to us.  The Face of Christ needs to “be seen and His voice heard” on the internet. But where do we see the Face of Christ on the internet?  Where do we hear His voice?

Sadly, even some Christians on the internet present “a face and voice” more like the evil one, than that of Jesus Christ. Most often Jesus’s Face is hidden in a nauseating ocean of hatred, anger, banality, and filth. But He is still present there in our internet “neighbors” whose faces pass by as we scroll down our screens each day: The innocent children in danger, victims of natural disasters, violence, terrorism, addiction, human trafficking, the spiritually blind and lame — all manner of human suffering, together with perpetrators of crime equally in need of our prayers.  Though we are separated from them by a computer screen, the suffering Face of Jesus is present in all their faces and voices. 

The first element of Devotion to the Holy Face, says Pope Benedict XVI, is “discipleship and orientation of one’s life towards an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the face of those in need.”  We need to begin by seeking out the Divine Image in them, and also by becoming the “face and voice of Christ” to them. In order to do this, “believers first need to become better acquainted with Jesus through the Eucharist,” allowing ourselves first to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into His image, thereby reflecting the Face of Christ to other souls made in His image–to be communicators of His love.

Holy Face of Manoppelllo (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

The Divine Image

To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is God, our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is man, His child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays in the human for divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

— William Blake

 

 

Luminous with His Light – St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD

Young Elizabeth Catez

“The Word will imprint in your soul, as in a crystal, the image of His own beauty, so that you may be pure with His purity, luminous with His light.”  

Ten years before entering the Carmelite Convent in Dijon, France, eleven year-old Elizabeth Catez met the prioress on the afternoon of her First Holy Communion. What the prioress told her on that occasion left a deep impression in her soul; upon learning Elizabeth’s name, the prioress told her that her name meant “House of God.” She later wrote on the back of a holy card for Elizabeth: “Your blessed name hides a mystery, accomplished on this great day. Child, your heart is the House of God on earth, of the God of love.”

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16)

Waiting to enter Carmel–St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

Upon entering Carmel at the age of twenty-one, Elizabeth sought God’s Face within the temple of her own soul, in prayer and silence, with a growing desire to be united with Jesus, to share in His life and sufferings–to be transformed into His image–so that God the Father would find in her the image of His Son, in whom He was well-pleased. Elizabeth wrote, “God bends lovingly over this soul, His adopted daughter, who is so conformed to the image of His Son, the ‘first born among all creatures,’ and recognizes her as one of those whom He has ‘predestined, called, justified.’ And His Fatherly heart thrills as He thinks of consummating His work, that is of ‘glorifying her by bringing her into His kingdom, there to sing for ages unending’ the praise of His glory.”  She prayed that the Holy Spirit “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.”

“I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light.”~St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD

“We must become aware that God dwells within us and do everything with Him; then we are never commonplace, even when performing the most ordinary tasks.” 

This was the fruit of contemplation that St. Elizabeth of the Trinity wanted to share with everyone; the secret of transforming love hidden within our own hearts. By gazing steadfastly upon God, in faith and simplicity, the Word of God, Jesus Christ–as in the legend of St. Veronica’s Veil–will leave the imprint of His image on the veil of the soul. By her continual loving gaze at Him, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was transformed into His image. When she died at the young age of twenty-six, she had already fulfilled her mission in the Church as a ceaseless “Praise of Glory,” reflecting the luminous, pure light of the Holy 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.

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Paul Badde pondering the Holy Veil of Manoppello

UPDATE: If you missed THE HUMAN FACE OF GOD IN THE HOLY VEIL OF MANOPPELLO which aired on EWTN, Tuesday, November 8th, it may be viewed by clicking (Here). Filmed on location in Italy, host Paul Badde introduces the Veil of Manoppello as he relates it to other images of the Holy Face of Jesus. (30 minutes)