Give Glory to God All the Earth! Omnis Terra

“Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!”

“The whole earth adores you, O God, and sing hymns to you” (Ps 65:4)

Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying "the Veronica" Face of Christ (from "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia" manuscript 1350)
“Omnis Terra” procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

UPDDATE: Homily of Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto — Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Holy Face and the Wedding at Cana

Homily in the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Sunday, January 16, 2022

+ Bruno Forte

Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto

It was the year 1208, the second Sunday after the Epiphany, named Omnis Terra by the words of the Introit “Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!” (“The whole earth adores you, O God, and sing hymns to you” (Ps 65:4), when Pope Innocent III instituted the procession to carry the veil of the Holy Face (the so-called Veronica) from St. Peter’s Basilica to the nearby church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Here the Bishop of Rome wanted to bless with the precious relic the sick of the ancient Pilgrims’ Hospital, which he himself had rebuilt and upgraded. With that gesture Pope Innocent intended to highlight the healing power of the Face of the Saviour contemplated with faith and the fruitfulness of the prayer of adoration and intercession before that Face, which we recognize to be present in the veil of byssus venerated in Manoppello.

“Vera Icon” Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

This year the cycle of liturgical texts causes us to listen to the story of the wedding at Cana, taken from the Gospel according to John (2:1-11), on the Sunday of Omnis Terra, thus providing us with a luminous source to better contemplate and welcome the message that comes to us and to the whole Church from the Holy Face preserved in this place. The account, moreover, offers us the key to the entire Gospel, as the indication of the final verse makes us understand: This, at Cana in Galilee, was the beginning of the signs performed by Jesus; and he manifested his glory to them, and his disciples believed in him (v. 11). What Jesus does at Cana is the principle and model of what he will accomplish for our salvation: whoever enters the mystery of Cana enters the mystery of Christ!

Against the background of the symbolism of marriage, a beautiful metaphor of the covenant between the Lord and his people (Cfr. Hos 2:16-25; Jer 2:1-2; 3,1.6-12; Ez 16; Is 50:1; 54,4-8; 62:4-5), the sign of Cana reveals the Face of Jesus as that of the divine Bridegroom of the People of God, with whom the Lord will conclude the new and definitive covenant in the Paschal Mystery of the Son. The wedding at Cana anticipates the Passover of Jesus as an event of nuptial covenant, fulfilling and going beyond the Sinai covenant, and manifests the relationship with the Most High realized in Christ and with Him as an intense and life-giving relationship of love.

The story, then, read in the place that preserves the precious veil of the Holy Face, allows us to connect the vision of this beloved Face to the role that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has in the Church: it is she who notices the need that has come to be determined in the wedding feast. They no longer have wine (v. 3): in these words the tender and concrete attention of the Mother, who presents to her Son the need of her friends, is manifested. Similarly, Mary accompanies us to the encounter with the Face of the Savior, helping us to make joyful and profound our reception of the gaze of her Son, He who heals, forgives and fills our hearts with joy.

The “Living Face” becomes visible on the Holy Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

In the wine, moreover, mentioned five times in the account (vv. 3.9.10), another important sign of messianic times can be recognized. This is how the Prophets had spoken of it: From the mountains the new wine will drip and flow down the hills (Am 9:13); the wine will characterize the eschatological banquet, where it will be offered free of charge (cf. Is 25:6 and 55:1). The new wine will gladden the wedding day of the Lord and his people (Cfr. Hos 2:21-24). In this light, the wedding banquet at Cana appears as the hour of God’s saving intervention, who comes to fill the expectation of his people in a superabundant way and transforms the water of purification of the Jews (cf. v. 6) into the new wine of the Kingdom.

The letter of the Law is transformed into the wine of the Spirit! In the Face of the Lord Jesus, then, both the expectation of Israel and the question, full of desire, that dwells in the restless heart of each of us, especially in the face of the pain of the world and, in particular, in the face of the drama we are experiencing with the pandemic, is recognized. This interpretation also allows us to understand Jesus’ answer: “Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not yet come” (v. 4). The expression emphasizes the surprising newness that Christ brings and that will be fully manifested in his “hour,” that of the paschal event of His passion, death and resurrection. It is in the hour of Christ that the messianic time will manifest itself as the fulfillment of the promises and of the promise of the new and definitive fulfillment: and the serene Face of the Risen One, even though separated from the signs of the Passion, is here to remind us of this.

The words that the Mother addresses to the servants are also of great importance: “Wherefore what he tells you, do it” (v. 5). They evoke the context of the Sinai covenant: just as the people of the old covenant respond to divine revelation giving consent in faith – “What the Lord has said, we will do” (Ex 19:8; 24:3, 7) – so Mary manifests her unconditional trust in her Son, who has just evoked the mystery of his “hour”. The result is highlighted on the one hand by the identification between Mary and Israel, by virtue of which the hope of the chosen people resounds in her, on the other by the faith of the Mother, who shows herself open to the impossible possibility of the sign that the Son will want to fulfill, and which will be the faith of the Church.

The eyes following the onlooker — Holy Veil of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

This makes clear the invitation that she addresses to the “servants” (indicated here with the term “diakónoi”, with which in 12:26 John designates the true disciples of Jesus): it shows the role of model and mother in the faith that she will have in the community of the covenant. In Mary, the old covenant passes into the new, Israel into the Church, the Law into the Gospel, because of her total and unconditional faith in her Son, to whom she directs herself and others. In the Church born of the Passover of the new and perfect covenant, the Virgin Mother is the one who presents to the Son the needs of the time of waiting and leads to faith in him, a necessary condition for the new wine to fill the jars of the ancient purification.

The way to enter into the messianic wedding – sealed by the blood of the Lamb, offered on the mountain of sacrifice – is therefore faith in the Crucified And Risen One, whose hour is anticipated at Cana, that faith to which the Mother invites us: “Wherefore whatever he tells you, do it” (v. 5). That which at Cana is prefigured and announced, will come about in fullness in the sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross: with the beloved disciple, united to her, the dying Jesus threads a dialogue, which is a model of what every believer can renew with Him, letting oneself be gazed upon by the Holy Face of the Redeemer and contemplating Him with humble love.

Il Volto Santo – The Face of Love and Mercy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

In short, before the Face of Jesus, every baptized person can recognize himself as a beloved disciple next to his Mother, a disciple who, believing in love, is the object of the infinite love of the Father and the Son, faithful even to the cross (v. 26), witness to the fruitful mystery of blood and water, flowing from the pierced side of Jesus Crucified (v. 35), called to be a privileged herald of his resurrection (Cfr. Jn 20:8). Looking at Mary at Cana and under the Cross, we too learn to ask the Lord, whose Face looks at us with love, to help us love Him as she loved Him. We do so with words taken from the beautiful “Laude” (Praises) by Jacopone da Todi (1230/36-1306), Donna de Paradiso (Woman of Paradise) (Laude LXX), a moving re-reading of John’s story, which helps us to place ourselves with Mary and like her under the merciful and life-giving gaze of Him:

“Woman of Paradise, / your son is taken / Jesus Christ the blessed … / Madonna, he is betrayed, / Judas has sold him; / thirty pieces he has gained, / in an awful exchange” / … / “O son, son, son, / son, loving lily! / Son, who will give counsel / to my anguished heart? / … / “Mamma with afflicted heart, / I place into your hands / those of John, my chosen; / behold your son. / John my beloved / take her to yourself in charity, / have pity on her, / whose heart is so distressed”. / … / “O Son with face so fair, / O son, why has the world, / scorned you so? / … / “Son, thy soul has flown /son of the lost, / son of the disappeared, / … / What a death of son and mother / of a death endured,/ embraced / mother and son!”.

As Mary before the Face of the Son dying out of love for us, may each of us before the Holy Face preserved in this place obtain to die with Jesus to the old man, to rise with Him to be a new creature, anticipating in the fragility of time something of the infinite beauty of heaven, which in the Holy Face venerated here is revealed and promised with the discretion and humility of love victorious over evil and death. Amen.

Omnis Terra, Latin for “All the Earth, ” is the name given to the Second Sunday in Ordinary time, when the Gospel of the Wedding at Cana is read.  In the midst of the wedding feast, Mary whispers to her son Jesus, “They have no wine.” At Mary’s words, Jesus then performed his first miracle: “the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee, and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him.” (John 2: 1-11)  The revelation of Jesus’s glory is the cause for all the earth rejoicing, giving praise to His Name at the wedding feast of the Lamb! This year Omnis Terra falls on January 16th, and will be celebrated with a solemn Mass and procession at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.

From the 2021 Omnis Terra Procession, Vaticano interview with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal houshold, and personal secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Interview begins at 1:16.

Since ancient times processions have been a reminder that our Christian life is a constant movement toward God and our eternal home.  A procession is a type of pilgrimage and expression of piety that flows from the liturgy.  Solemn processions can be quite beautiful–accompanied by hymns, prayers, and lit candles– flower girls dropping roses petals, lines of freshly scrubbed altar servers, Knights of Columbus in plumed hats and capes, bearing their swords (The K of C costume and sword were the envy of every little boy, but have been recently updated to a less colorful uniform), priests accompanying the Eucharist or precious relics, acolytes surrounded by clouds of incense, and the faithful holding their rosaries trying to keep their place as they walk slowly behind.  But make no mistake, a procession is not a pretty parade. There is power in procession that terrifies the infernal foe and makes all of hell tremble.

Fr. Frederick W. Faber in his treatise on the Blessed Sacrament wrote:

“We process toward our heavenly home in the company of God.  Procession is the function of faith, which burns in our hearts and beams in our faces, and makes our voices tremulous with emotion as our ‘Lauda Sion’ bids defiance to an unbelieving world.”

detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia"
Detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia”

The world is not only unbelieving but publicly blasphemes God to His Face, and it is for this reason that He must be honored publicly.  Whether it is within the confines of a church or through the city streets, the procession is a public function of faith, hope, and love. It is an antidote to the poison disseminated by our culture which falsely asserts that religion is “private” and not something to be brought up in polite society or in the public square.  By solemn procession the Church loudly proclaims to all the world that Jesus is Lord!

Archbishop Ganswain holding the replica of the Holy Veil of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome. 2016
Archbishop Ganswain holding the replica of the Holy Veil of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome. 2016

History was made on “Omnis Terra”(All the earth) Sunday in January of 2016, when bishops, priests, and pilgrims re-enacted the historic “Omnis Terra” Procession of Pope Innocent III (pictured above), carrying a reproduction of the precious image that many scholars identify with “the Veronica” or “true image” of the Face of Jesus. The pilgrim procession began at St. Peter’s in Rome and processed to  Spirito Santo church and hospital, drawing attention especially to the Face of Christ in the sick and the poor.

On the occasion of the first “Omnis Terra” procession in 1208, Pope Innocent III wrote this beautiful prayer of devotion to the Veil of Holy Face of Jesus:

“O God, who has marked us with the light of Thy Face as your memorial, and at the request of Veronica, left us Thy Image imprinted on the sudarium; grant we pray, that by your passion and death, to adore, venerate and honor you, in mystery and as through a mirror on earth, so that we might be able to certainly see you, face to face, when you come as our judge.”

On “Omnis Terra” Sunday, January 15, 2017, history was made once again at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, when a third solemn annual procession was introduced–in addition to the two solemn processions already observed in May (commemorating the arrival of the Holy Veil to Manoppello), and the solemn procession in August (on the Feast of the Transfiguration). 

The addition of a third procession of the Holy Face at the Shrine of Manoppello is not only Trinitarian, it is a deeply significant and public witness of honor paid by the faithful to His Holy Face and thus also to the Holy Name of Jesus!  May all of hell tremble at the sight of His Holy Face!

A Hymn composed by Pope Innocent III from the year 1216:

“Sancte Salve Facies”

Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying "the Veronica" *Face of Christ (from "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia" manuscript 1350)
Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” *Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

Hail Holy Face of Our Redeemer on which shines the appearance of divine splendor impressed upon a little cloth of snowy radiance and given to Veronica as a standard of love.

Hail beauty of the ages, mirror of the saints, which the spirits of the heavens desire to see.  Cleanse us from every stain of sin and guide us to the fellowship of the blessed.

Hail our glory amidst this hard life, so fragile and unstable, quickly passing away.  Point us, O happy figure, to the heavenly homeland to see the Face that is Christ indeed.

Hail, O sudarium, noble encased jewel, both our solace and the memorial of Him who assumed a little mortal body–our true joy and ultimate good!

*The precious miniature manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia,” was published around 1350 and is preserved in the State Archives in Rome.  The illustration at the bottom of the first page of the Liber is one of the oldest illustrations of “the Veronica,” which depicts Pope Innocent III with “the Veronica” in his right hand and the Rule granted to the brothers of the hospital in his left.  Prior to the Jubilee of 2000, the French medievalist Jacques Le Goff wrote, “Over the centuries Rome was enriched with notable relics. One in particular acquired an exceptional prestige:  the sudarium of Christ known and revered by the name of “the Veronica.”  The circumstances by which the image first came to Rome is a mystery but was mentioned for the first time under Pope John VII (705-707)

More information will be posted when it becomes available as to live-streaming of the Mass, Procession and blessing of “All the World” with the Holy Face from the Basilica Shrine in Manoppello.

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