“The Essence of Charity” – Holy Face Novena 2021 Begins Soon

“It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before the generations of the new millennium.  Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”

–Pope St. John Paul II

“For God so loved the world” 

The Holy Face Novena will begin on Sunday, February 7th, and will be posted here for each day.

The Feast of the Holy Face for 2021 will be on  February 16th –“Shrove Tuesday” — the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

“Do you see how I suffer? Yet, very few understand me. Those who say they love me are very ungrateful! I have given my HEART as the sensible object of my great LOVE to men and I give my FACE as the sensible object of my sorrow for the sins of men. I wish that it be venerated by a special Feast on Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. I wish that the feast be preceded by a novena in which the faithful make reparation with Me, joining together and sharing in my sorrow.” –Words of Our Lord to Bl. Mother Maria Pierina de Micheli  

c. 1510, Dirk Bouts, Carmel of Toledo, Spain. It is believed that this is the image of Christ the St. Teresa of Avila was praying before when her dramatic conversion occurred.

There are many saints and blesseds associated with the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, too many to mention — but, the Face of Christ was the foundation of their prayer life. St. Teresa of Avila, Discalced Carmelite foundress, wrote, “Never set aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ.” We cannot come to the Father except through Him.  

Sr. Marie St. Pierre was also a Carmelite nun, of Tours, France, in the 1800s. She received communications from Our Lord, who asked for a devotion to His Holy Face and a Work of Reparation: the offering His Holy Face to the Father in reparation for the sins of blasphemy, sacrilege, the crimes of atheistic communism, the profanation of the Holy Name, and the Holy Day of Sunday. The sins against the first three if the Ten Commandments are the greatest sins against God. The damage done by our sins to our relationship with God are reflected in the Face of of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. For this reason, devotion and reparation to the Holy Face is fitting in order to make amends for what we have done to Him.

Our Lord said to her, “I have taken upon my Head all the sins of mankind, so that my members may be spared. Therefore, offer my Face to the Father, this is the means of appeasing Him.”

“My daughter, I give you my Face and my Heart, I give you my Blood, and I open my wounds to you; draw from them and pour it out. Buy without money, my Blood that is the price of souls. Oh! What grief for my Heart to see the remedies which have cost me so dearly, scorned. Ask from my Father as many souls as the number of drops of Blood that I shed during my Passion.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, who read the revelations of Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre taught the novices under her care to recite these two aspirations of Sr. Marie St. Pierre every day: At the elevation of the Host, “Most Holy Father, look upon the Face of your Jesus, and make as many elect as there are sinners.” and at the elevation of the chalice, “O Divine Blood of Jesus, water our earth, and cause the elect to spring up!”

“The Reparation is a Work destined to save society.”  Pope Pius IX

“All who will undertake this work and who will truly devote themselves to it will not die the eternal death. I will defend their cause before my Father and I will give them the kingdom of Heaven.” 

“This work is the essence of charity!” — Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre

Carmelite nun Sr. Marie St. Pierre, who received revelations about the devotion to the Face of Jesus

It is interesting to note that the drawing of the Face of Christ, known as the Holy Face of Tours, that is most often associated with Sr. Marie St. Pierre, OCD, actually came to the Carmelite Monastery of Tours only after her death. In 1851, the Prioress of the Tours Carmel, had received two facsimile copies, obtained from Rome, from the Benedictine nuns of Arras, who, in the tradition of St. Gertrude, also had a devotion to the Holy Face.

But there was another treasured painting of the Holy Face that already existed in the monastery when Sr. Marie St. Pierre entered Carmel:

“The Carmelites possess a very interesting historical picture worthy of veneration; a beautiful image of Our Lord, the original of which, it is said, is preserved at Gênes, and is regarded by pious tradition as the true portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ that He, Himself, sent to King Abgare. A small number of copies of the picture have been taken, and are to be seen in Spain.”

— from the Life of Sr. Marie St. Pierre 1884

I am continuing to research what the original Holy Face painting of the Tours monastery looked like, and where it may be today. (Perhaps French readers, or other Carmelites may know and could help?) Below is an historic 8th century painting of King Abgare receiving what became known as the Holy Face of Edessa, or the Mandylion. The “true image” depicted 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 open eyes are peaceful and looking slightly to one side. His mouth is partially open. The image was reported to have been miraculous, not only in appearance, but also as an instrument of healing.

Click here if you would like to read a little of the History of images of the Holy Face.

King Abgare receives the image of the Face of Jesus

Devotion to the Holy Face is so much more that venerating images of the Face of Christ. It is seeking God’s Face in the Gospels, in His Eucharistic Face, in our neighbor, and through the eyes of Mary — contemplating with her, the Face of Jesus in the mysteries of the Rosary:

“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…To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all, in the living Sacrament of His Body and Blood.”

Pope St. John Paul II

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