St. Elijah and Contemplation

Seeking the Face of God in Prayer

Icon of St. Elijah written by Patricia Enk

There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. Then the Lord said: “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord willl be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord–but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire–but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?” He replied, “I have been most jealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts.” (1 Kings 19)

Fixing our eyes on God

Pope St. Gregory explains why Elijah is described as standing at the mouth of the cave (“where we direct our mental gaze, there we may be said to stand.”) and veiling his face when he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him: “…as soon as the voice of heavenly understanding enters the mind through the grace of contemplation, the whole man is no longer within the cave, for his soul is no longer taken up with matters of the flesh: intent on leaving the bounds of mortality, he stands at the cave’s mouth.”

Humility and Detachment – the keys to contemplation

“But if a man stands at the mouth of the cave and hears the word of God with his heart’s ear, he must veil his face. For when heavenly grace leads us to the understanding of higher things, the rarer the heights to which we are raised, the more we should abase ourselves in our own estimation by humility: we must not try to know ‘more than is fitting; we must know as it befits us to know.’ Otherwise, through over-familiarity with the invisible, we wish going astray; and we might perhaps look for material light in what is immaterial. For to cover the face while listening with the ear means hearing with our mind the voice of Him who is within us, yet averting the eyes of the heart from every bodily appearance. If we do this, there will be no risk of our spirit interpreting as something corporeal that which is everywhere in its entirety and everywhere  uncircumscribed…while our feet stand within the walls of His holy Church, let us keep our eyes turned toward the door; let us mentally turn our backs on the corruption of this temporal life; let us keep our hearts facing toward the freedom of our heavenly fatherland.”

Almighty, ever-living God, your prophet Elijah, our Father, lived always in your presence and was jealous for the honor due to your name. May we, your servants, always seek your Face and bear witness to your love. We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

— Pope St. Gregory

Proof of Love

“Il Volto Santo” The Holy Face of Manoppello. (Photo by Paul Badde/EWTN)

The first thing I noticed, the very first time that I saw the Holy Face of Manoppello, was Jesus’s eyes filled with love and His Face covered with blood. The Precious Blood on His Holy Face from the strikes, blows, and thorns, and from His beard cruelly torn and ripped out. Like the image of the Holy Face on the Shroud of Turin, the sight affected me very deeply. Here is the proof of His love on His Face, and the “price of our salvation.”

“You were not redeemed with corruptible things as of gold or silver… but with the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.”

(1 Peter 1:18)

What should be the response of the soul to our God who has given such costly proof of His love? The answer is: our devotion. Fr. John Hardon, S.J. wrote, “Devotion is a composite of three elements: It is first, veneration, it is secondly, invocation, and it is thirdly, imitation.” Veneration, he says, is “a composite of knowledge, love, and adoration.” By veneration we understand when we gaze on His Face what our sins have done. When a man’s name is reviled it is reflected on his face. The indignities suffered by Our Lord in His Passion represent the sins against the first three Commandments. Blasphemy, the disrespect of God and sacred things, atheism, and the profanation of the Holy Name and the Holy Day of Sunday are the greatest sins against God and are reflected in the Holy Face of Jesus Christ, stained, bloody, bruised, covered with filth, dirt, and spittle. As we look upon His Face, we are moved to console Him. “Whoever gazes on Me, already consoles Me.” — Our Lord to Bl. Mother Maria Pierina De Micheli

Next, devotion is manifested through invocations and prayers by which we give God the praise that is due Him, making reparation, and asking God’s help.

“Who is like God?” St. Michael holding high the Face of Jesus (Sculpture by Cody Swanson, which stands at the side of Old St. Patricks Catholic Church in New Orleans.) Photo: Patricia Enk
Ryan Matherne, OCDS, prepares for Holy Face Devotions

Devotional invocations and prayers may of course be private, but it should also, in some way, be public — because the sins against Our Lord were public. Although Holy Face Devotions had been held since the Discalced Carmelite nuns had founded their first monastery here in New Orleans, the regular public devotion had been interrupted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Ryan Matherne, President of the Secular Discalced Carmelites in New Orleans, moved by a strong desire to reinstate the public devotion to the Holy Face, led the way to making it possible for the devotions to be held for the first time since 2005 on Sunday, June 27th, 2021. They will continue to be held every fourth Sunday of the month, following the noon Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in New Orleans. Other new groups have sprung up here in the United States and around the world. Fr. Lawrence Carney, founder of the League of St. Martin, was also moved by his deep love and devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, and “in response to the growing crisis in the Church,” has been encouraging and organizing groups to hold public devotions.

“Oh Savior Jesus, who didst will that reparation should be as public and universal as had been the offense, penetrate us with the true spirit of reparation.  Give us the grace to love Thy Divine Face, to make it known and loved by the whole world, in order that it may be to us a source of light and means of salvation.  Amen. ” 

— Blessed Mother Maria Pierina De Micheli
Holy Face image at Sacred Heart side altar, Old St. Patrick’s Photo: Sally Vlosich, OCDS

Finally, as Fr. Hardon reminds us, devotion means imitation. We are able to show our love for Jesus by giving proof of our love through imitation of Jesus — in pain, humiliation, suffering, and by the shedding of His blood. “That is what the Church means when she has us say that when Christ offers Himself daily on the altar in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we are told to identify with that sacrifice. His and ours. He, the Head of the Mystical Body, can no longer suffer, but thank God, we can!” –Fr. John Hardon, S.J. We can offer any sufferings that will inevitably come to us in this life, in union with Jesus’s sacrifice, in imitation of Him, as a proof of our love, and in gratitude to the “Lamb who was slain for our salvation.”

A Test of 2,000 Years

(Photo: Randall Enk) Sculpture commemorating JPII visit to St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, 1976. Inscription reads: “The joy which accompanies the birth of the Messiah is seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of the joy at every child born into the world.” —The Gospel of Life — Pope John Paul II

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through…”

— Cardinal Karol Wojtyla

Pope St. John Paul II spoke these stunning and prophetic words while he was yet a Cardinal, during his visit to the United States in 1976. He went on to say:

“I do not think that wide circles of the Christian community realize it fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church in particular, must take up. It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but, in a sense, a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization with all its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations.”

— Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, 1976

His prophecy has proven to be true. Most of the Christian community did not see it coming in 1976. But Cardinal Wojtyla, who had lived under a Communist government in Poland, was able to recognize the signs that the historic confrontation was at our doorstep. The Polish Church has certainly taken up the fight for Christianity, as they have for a thousand years. But, elsewhere in the world two thousand years of culture and Christian civilization has been rapidly disappearing before our eyes. Who could deny it? The trial that he spoke of is already upon us, the clash between “the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.”


It should be no small consolation that although we are in in the midst of this historic confrontation between light and darkness, we are assured that it “lies within the plans of divine Providence.” Therefore, even little souls need not fear, because, as David said to Goliath, “I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts… the battle is the Lord’s, and He shall deliver you into our hands.” (1 Sam 17: 45-47)

“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.”

— G. K. Chesterton, as he lay dying, 1936.

In order to fight and persevere, we must first choose our side. The spiritual battle is being fought on so many fronts that the battle lines have been obscured. The foremost battle being fought is over life itself. It is the grave evil of abortion, with over sixty-six million babies sacrificed in the name of “choice” since abortion was made legal in the United States. Yet, sadly, even Catholics will quarrel over that bloody fact, pointing to lesser evils occurring, that they deem equally important, as though that could ever justify perpetuating such an atrocity. The devil is busy doing what the devil does – sowing confusion and division, especially among Christians, and particularly within the Catholic Church where the worst harm can be done. Perhaps this is due to a rejection of authority, a lack of faith, trust, and humility, or the lack of willingness to suffer as Christ did. The remedy to the confusion and division is devotion to the Face of Christ – the contemplation of the splendor of the truth shining on the Face of Christ to bring light to our darkened world, and to reconcile us with the Father.

Mourning over the dead body of Christ, Joan Mates, 1492 (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“In contemplating Christ’s face, we confront the most paradoxical aspect of His mystery, as it emerges in His last hour, on the Cross. The mystery within the mystery, before which we cannot but prostate ourselves in adoration….In order to bring man back to the Father’s face, Jesus not only had to take on the face of man, but He also had to burden Himself with the ‘face’ of sin. ‘For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.'” (2 Cor 5:21)

— Pope St. John Paul II, Novo Millenio Ineunte

Like David, we may not have the power, armor, or strength to take down the enemies of God, whether they are within ourselves or the world. David put His trust in the Name of the Lord, as he picked up his sling and “five smooth stones from the wadi” (1 Sam 17:40). It only took one stone to bring Goliath down. We take up the “trial” as we take up our rosary beads, contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary as we pray the mysteries, giving honor and glory to His Holy Name. When we contemplate the Face of Christ by praying, and studying Scripture, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit who restores God’s image in our souls, so we are prepared to evangelize by spreading the light on the Face of Christ to others. As we contemplate the Face of Jesus in the sick, suffering, and in those in need, we draw closer to His suffering Heart, and are able to extend compassion to our neighbor. As we contemplate and adore the Face (the Real Presence) of Jesus in the Eucharist, we cast away the false faces of idols, and are humbled before the Eucharistic Face of an all-powerful God who humbles Himself by remaining in the form of a small piece of bread out of love for us.

These are the simple means God has given us for the “test of 2,000 years of Christian culture and civilization with all its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights, and the rights of nations” as prophesied by Pope St. John Paul II: God gives us His Name, His Face, and His own Mother. We can’t lose.

And speaking of those who fight the good fight… Read here the response of Archbishop Cordileone to the American Democratic Catholic legislators “Statement of Principals.” with excellent commentary by “One Mad Mom Blog.”

Heart to Heart, and Face to Face

“You know that I myself do not see the Sacred Heart as everybody else. I think that the heart of my Spouse is mine alone, just as mine is His alone, and I speak to Him then in the solitude of this delightful heart to heart, while waiting to contemplate Him one day face to face.” — St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus

“For God so loved the world”

To the Sacred Heart of Jesus 

by St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus

St. Therese of Lisieux

At the Holy Sepulcher, Mary Magdalene,
Searching for her Jesus, stooped down in tears.
The angels wanted to console her sorrow,
But nothing could calm her grief.
Bright angels, it was not you
Whom this fervent soul came searching for.
She wanted to see the Lord of the Angels,
To take him in her arms, to carry him far away.

Close by the tomb, the last one to stay,
She had come well before dawn.
Her God also came, veiling his light.
Mary could not vanquish him in love!
Showing her at first his Blessed Face,
Soon just one word sprang from his Heart.
Whispering the sweet name of: Mary,
Jesus gave back her peace, her happiness.

O my God, one day, like Mary Magdalene,
I wanted to see you and come close to you.
I looked down over the immense plain
Where I sought the Master and King,
And I cried, seeing the pure wave,
The starry azure, the flower, and the bird:
“Bright nature, if I do not see God,
You are nothing to me but a vast tomb.

“I need a heart burning with tenderness,
Who will be my support forever,
Who loves everything in me, even my weakness…
And who never leaves me day or night. ”
I could find no creature
Who could always love me and never die.
I must have a God who takes on my nature
And becomes my brother and is able to suffer!

You heard me, only Friend whom I love.
To ravish my heart, you became man.
You shed your blood, what a supreme mystery!..
And you still live for me on the Altar.
If I cannot see the brilliance of your Face
Or hear your sweet voice,
O my God, I can live by your grace,
I can rest on your Sacred Heart!

O Heart of Jesus, treasure of tenderness,
You Yourself are my happiness, my only hope.
You who knew how to charm my tender youth,
Stay near me till the last night.
Lord, to you alone I’ve given my life,
And all my desires are well-known to you.
It’s in your ever-infinite goodness
That I want to lose myself, O Heart of Jesus!

Ah! I know well, all our righteousness
Is worthless in your sight.
To give value to my sacrifices,
I want to cast them into your Divine Heart.
You did not find your angels without blemish.
In the midst of lightning you gave your law!…
I hide myself in your Sacred Heart, Jesus.
I do not fear, my virtue is You!…

To be able to gaze on your glory,
I know we have to pass through fire.
So I, for my purgatory,
Choose your burning love, O heart of my God!
On leaving this life, my exiled soul
Would like to make an act of pure love,
And then, flying away to Heaven, its Homeland,
Enter straightaway into your Heart.

Stay With Us, O Lord!

Hand holding a Host viewed through the Face on Holy Veil of Manoppello in Italy. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, in 2001, Pope St. John Paul II wrote:

The invisible Face of Christ, the son of God, is manifest in His Body an Blood in the simplest and, at the same time, the most exalted way possible in this world.

The ecclesial community responds to people in every age who ask perplexed: “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12,21), by repeating what the Lord did for the disciples of Emmaus: He broke the bread. In the breaking of the bread, the eyes of those who seek Him with a sincere heart are opened. In the Eucharist, the intuition of the heart recognizes Jesus and His unmistakable love lived “to the end” (Jn 13,1). And in Him, in that gesture, it recognizes the Face of God!

— Pope St. John Paul II

In 1997, St. Pope John Paul II asked for an International Congress for studying the Holy Face Medal and Devotion to The Holy Face as a preparation for the Millennium, which he later placed under “The Radiant sign of The Face of Christ.” The front of the medal bears an image of the Holy Face from the Shroud of Turin and an inscription based on Psalm 66:2: “Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos”,  “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us.”  The other side of the medal, bears an image of a radiant Sacred Host, representing the Eucharistic Face of Christ, the monogram of the Holy Name (“IHS”), and the inscription “Mane nobiscum, Domine” or “Stay with us, O Lord,” which are the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus when they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. The Holy Face medal is a tangible reminder of the “invisible face of Christ” made manifest in His Most Holy Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament.

Holy Face Medal design - front and reverse

The medal of the Holy Face of Jesus was made by Bl.Mother Marie Pierina De Micheli, following the request of Jesus and The Blessed Mother.  Mother Pierina, with the help of her spiritual Director received the permission of the Curia of Milan, Italy.

In 1936, Our Lord told Bl. Mother Pierina, “I will that My Face, which reflects the intimate pains of My Spirit, the suffering and the love of My Heart, be more honoured. He who meditates upon Me, consoles Me. Every time that My Face is contemplated, I will pour My love into the hearts of men and through My Holy Face will be obtained the salvation of many souls.”

The Blessed Mother also told  Sr. De Micheli, “This medal is a weapon of defense, a shield of courage, a guarantee of love and of mercy that Jesus wishes to give to the world in these times of sexuality and of hatred towards God and His Church. Diabolical snares are laid to tear the faith from the hearts of men, evil is spreading, the true apostles are few, a divine remedy is necessary and this remedy is the Holy Face of Jesus. 

St. Pope John Paul II “In the Eucharist, the Face of Christ is turned towards us.”

“Your Face, O Lord, I seek” (Ps. 27:8). The ancient longing of the Psalmist could receive no fulfilment greater and more surprising than the contemplation of the Face of Christ. God has truly blessed us in Him and has made “His Face to shine upon us” (Ps 67:1). At the same time, God and man that He is, He reveals to us also the true face of man, “fully revealing man to man himself” (Gaudium e spes, 22).

Gazing on the face of Christ, the Bride contemplates her treasure and her joy. ‘Dulcis Iesus memoria, dans vera cordis gaudia‘: how sweet is the memory of Jesus, the source of the heart’s true joy! Heartened by this experience, the Church today sets out once more on her journey, in order to proclaim Christ to the world at the dawn of the Third Millennium: he ‘is the same yesterday and today and forever’” (Heb 13:8).

— Pope St. John Paul II

““Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos”,  “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us — “Mane nobiscum, Domine” or “Stay with us, O Lord!” 

Adoro Te Devote by St. Thomas Aquinas
"Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen." 
--Last Stanza of "Adoro Te Devote"
The Virgin of the Host, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

The Beauty of the Trinity in the Face of Jesus

Holy Face of Jesus of Manoppello (photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“Jesus has shown us the Face of God, One in substance and Triune in persons; God is all and only Love, in a subsisting relationship that creates, redeems, and sanctifies all: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

— Pope Francis

Sr. Marie St. Pierre was a Discalced Carmelite nun who lived in the mid 1800’s. She had had many interior visions regarding the Holy Face of Jesus — including a sublime conception of the The Holy Trinity and the Holy Face — which she tried to express in these words she received from Our Lord:

Discalced Carmelite Nun Sr. Marie St. Pierre, holding “Golden Arrow” with three circles representing the Trinity.

“Remember, O my soul, the instruction which thy celestial Spouse has given thee today on His adorable Face!  Remember that this Divine Head represents the Father who is from all eternity, that the mouth of this Holy Face is a figure of the Divine Word, engendered by the Father, and that the eyes of this mysterious Face represent the reciprocal love of the Father and the Son; for these eyes have but one and the same light, the same knowledge, producing the same love, which is the Holy Spirit.  In his beautiful silken hair  contemplate the infinitude of the adorable perfections of the Most Holy Trinity in this majestic head, the most precious portion of the Sacred Humanity of thy Saviour; contemplate the image of the unity of God.  This, then, is the adorable and mysterious Face of the Saviour, which blasphemers have the temerity to cover with opprobrium: thus they renew the sufferings of His Passion, by attacking the Divinity of which it is the image.”

— Sr. Marie St. Pierre

Our Lord told Sr. Marie St. Pierre that she could comfort and console Him for blasphemy against God by her praises, such as in the words of the “Golden Arrow Prayer:”

May the most holy, most sacred, most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified, in Heaven, on earth and in the hells, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.

— The Golden Arrow Prayer, praises in reparation for blasphemy.
“For God so loved the world”

“According to the diligence you will manifest in repairing my image disfigured by blasphemers, so will I have the same care in repairing your soul which has been disfigured by sin.  I will imprint thereon my image, and I will render it as beautiful as when it came forth from the baptismal font… Oh! could you but behold the beauty of My Face!–But your eyes are yet too weak.”

— Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre

Another Discalced Carmelite Nun, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, also directs our gaze to the Face of Jesus in order to contemplate the beauty 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.

“I want to gaze on You always.” –St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD

“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

Manoppello, Italy Celebrates Historic Anniversary

May 2021 procession of the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

There are three solemn feast days celebrated each year to honor of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy: the “Transfiguration” on August 6th, “Omnis Terra” in January, and the May memorial of the mysterious arrival of the “Veronica” to Manoppello in the early 1500’s. This year, the historic May anniversary of the Holy Face was celebrated with a traditional procession between the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, and the church of San Nicola di Bari. A Solemn Mass was presided over by the Archbishop of the Chieti-Vasto Diocese, Bruno Forte, and was concelebrated by the Minister of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, Provincial Father Friar Matteo Siro in the church of San Nicola di Bari.

Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello in the processional reliquary. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The Capuchin Friars minor have guarded the precious “Veronica” relic veil of the Face of Jesus since 1638, when “a devout and well-respected man” named Don Antonio Fabritiis donated the holy veil bearing the Face of Christ to the Capuchin monastery in the small, isolated mountain village of Manoppello. A document entitled Relazione Historica re-telling the local legend of the Veil was written by Capuchin Donato da Bomba and notarized in 1646 and then, certified by sixteen local witnesses. The story told of the arrival of the Veil in Manoppello, “in around 1506,”(the date was vague) in the hands of a mysterious stranger who was thought to have been a holy angel, who later, suddenly disappeared.  (Aside from the “angel,” the main characters in the story have been historically verified.)

Photo: Esther Dinh

The recorded story told was this: “There lived in Manoppello the very famous Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, doctor in medicine…one day when he was out in the public square just outside of the door of the Mother church of the town of Manoppello, St. Nicholas Bari, in honest conversation with other peers, and while they were speaking a pilgrim arrived unknown by anyone, with a very venerable religious appearance, who having greeted this beautiful circle of citizens, he said, with many terms of manners, and of humility to Dr. Giacomo Antonio Leonelli that he had to speak with him about a secret thing which would be very pleasing, useful and profitable for him.  And thus, taking him aside just inside the doorway of the church of St. Nicholas Bari, gave him a parcel, and without unfolding it told him that he ought to hold this devotion very dear, because God would do him many favors, so that in things both temporal and spiritual he would always prosper.”  So the doctor took the parcel and turning towards the holy water fount carefully opened it, and “seeing the Most Sacred Face of Our Lord Christ…he burst into most tender tears…and thanking God for such a gift…turned to the unknown pilgrim to thank him…but he did not see him anymore.”  When the good doctor, “shaken” and “filled with wonder,” went outside to his friends and asked where the man went, his friends replied that they never saw him exit the church. They searched high and low but never found the mysterious pilgrim, “hence all judged that the man in the form of a pilgrim to be a heavenly Angel, or else a Saint from Paradise.” 

— Relazione Historica

The Holy Veil remained the property of the Leonelli family for nearly a century, until a family member in need of money sold the Veil to Don Antonio Fabritiis, who in turn gave it to the Capuchins in 1638.  The Holy Veil, called the “Il Volto Santo,” was kept in a dimly lit side chapel until the church was renovated in 1960, when it was decided that the Veil should be moved to a more prominent place behind the altar of the church of St. Michael, the Shrine of “Il Volto Santo,” which was elevated to the status of a Sanctuary Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Holy Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Holy Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Processional Reliquary of the Holy Veil Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

Holy Face Procession. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Through the luminous, transparent veil, the Face of Jesus is still visible.
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Holy Face of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Many thanks to the intrepid Paul Badde for sharing his amazing photos of the Holy Face!

More may be read here – on Holy Face of Manoppello Blogspot, in an article by Antonio Bini, including other beautiful photos and video of the Solemn Mass.

Opening Benediction of the celebration, Saturday, May 15th, with the Holy Face by the Rector of the Sanctuary, Padre Antonio Gentili.

PRAYER TO THE HOLY FACE

Lord Jesus, Face of eternal love, in this holy place, guardian of the veil in which you show yourself in the signs of pain and let the infinite mercy of your Divine Heart shine through, grant us to live a new beginning on the journey of faith, of charity and hope, that you call us to travel together with You. May your gaze fill us with the light that comes from the Father to illuminate our steps and lead us to the pastures of heaven, and pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts, perfume of your grace and imprint of your beauty. And Mary, who first looked at Your Face and kissed it with the tenderness of a Mother, She who saw him close his eyes on the arms of the Cross, contemplated him risen and now contemplates him in glory, help us to seek your ever new desire. Face of King crucified out of love, victorious over evil and death, to meet you in the embrace of your Church, recognize you in your sacraments and bear witness to you in the works and days of our life. Amen!

  • Bruno Forte
    Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto
Closing blessing with the Holy Face by Archbishop Bruno Forte, Monday, May 17th, when the Holy Face was brought back to to Basilica on Tarigni hill from the parish church in San Nicola. Video by Esther Dinh

The Key to the Conversion of Russia

“I have come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.”

–Our Lady of Fatima to the three children of Fatima: St. Jacinta Marto, St. Francisco Marto, and Sr. Lucia Santos
Lucia, Francisco, Jacinta – The children of Fatima

The children of Fatima had no idea that Russia was a country; they thought that “Russia” was a sinful woman who was in need of conversion. Although the consecration to the Immaculate Heart had been fulfilled, according to Sr. Lucia, the Communions of Reparation on First Saturdays perhaps have not, since poor Russia has not yet converted. The “errors” of communism have certainly grown and spread “throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. In fact, like a malignant cancer, the speed at which communist ideology has spread here in the United States is alarming. The battle is not over, and it must be fought – but how?

Pope St. John Paul II

Pope St. John Paul II was perhaps the greatest obstacle threatening the existence of communism in the past century. On the anniversary of the first apparition of Fatima, May 13th, 1981, an assassination attempt was made to kill him, and almost did, but the bullet that was meant for his heart was deflected by the hand of the Blessed Mother. That bullet now rests in the crown of her statue in Fatima. Great strides were made by “tearing down the wall” in his lifetime, but much remained to be done…

In 1997, Pope St. John Paul II asked for an International Congress for studying the words on the Holy Face Medal and Devotion to the Holy Face as a preparation for the Millennium, which he later placed under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ.” The medal of the Holy Face of Jesus was made by Bl. Mother Marie Pierina De Micheli, following the request of Jesus and the Blessed Mother in 1936. One side of the medal bears a replica of the Holy Face image and an inscription based on Psalm 66:2: “Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos”, that is: “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us.”  On the other side of the medal, there is an image of a radiant Sacred Host, the monogram of the Holy Name (“IHS”), and the inscription “Mane nobiscum, Domine” or “Stay with us, O Lord.”

“Illumina Domine, Vultum Tuum Super Nos”

Being a good shepherd, Pope St. John Paul II did not leave this world without giving the Church the weapons needed to fight atheistic communism. For this purpose, he directs our eyes to the Face of Jesus as he placed the new Millennnium under “the radiant sign of the Face of Christ.”

“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.” 

–Pope St. John Paul II

Our Lady of Fatima

The Rosary must be prayed in such a way that we “contemplate the Face of Christ with Mary.”

Lies, disinformation, propaganda, and fake news that multiply at every click of a computer, must be fought with the “Splendor of the truth shining on the Face of Christ:”

“As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it toward idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging ‘the truth about God for a lie’ (Rom 1:25).  Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened.  Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself...

But, no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator.  In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it… No one can escape from the fundamental questions:  What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil?  The answer is only possible thanks to the splendor of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit, as the Psalmist bears witness: 

“There are many who say: ‘O that we might see some good!  Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord’” (Ps 4:6)

The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Cor 1:15), the “reflection of God’s glory” (Heb 1:3), “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).  Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: “In fact, it is only in the mystery of the Word Incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of man.  For Adam, the first man, was a figure of the future man, namely, of Christ the Lord.  It is Christ, the last Adam, who fully discloses man to himself and unfolds his noble calling by revealing the mystery of the Father and the Father’s love.”

— Pope St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

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

The Church was warned about the threat of communism on March 7, 1847, when Our Lord spoke to a cloistered Carmelite nun, Sr. Marie St. Pierre, “Rejoice, my daughter, the hour approaches of the truth of the most beautiful work which may be under the sun.” “That is,” said Our Lord, because “it is the essence of charity” — like the act of the compassionate woman, known as “Veronica,” who tradition tells us wiped the Face of Jesus on His way to Calvary.* The “most beautiful work” is devotion to the Face of Christ.

At that time in France the seeds of atheistic communism were being planted. Communism wasn’t well known then, and went by many other names, such as socialists, liberals, and communists. Jesus told Sr. Marie “that the sectarians called communists had only made an attempt to blindfold us. Oh! If you only knew their secrets and diabolical machinations! If you could comprehend their anti-Christian principles! They are only waiting a favorable moment to set France in flames, therefore, be earnest in your supplications for the Work of Reparation.” (Devotion to the Holy Face) Sr. Marie St. Pierre wrote, “France is asleep at the mouth of a volcano… They [Communists] usurped the control of the press. They numbered among their party the most distinguished men of the day.” Jesus “commanded to “cross swords with the communists, who as He told me, were the sworn enemies of the Church, and of her Christ.”

Jesus then presented her with the weapons she need to “wage war.” Her “weapons,” of course, were the Holy Name of God, the instruments of the Passion, prayers for the conversion of communists, and the enemies of the Church, all through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“May God arise and may His enemies be scattered,

and may all those who hate Him flee before His Face. 

May the thrice Holy Name of God overthrow all their plans.

May the Holy Name of the Living God split them up by disagreements.

May the terrible Name of the God of eternity annihilate all their impiety.

Lord, You do not desire the death of a sinner, 

but that he may be converted and live.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Conversion is turning back to God. In your charity, please pray with all the means the Church has given us, not only for Russia, but for all those who have turned away “for they know not what they do.” So that they “will be converted, and there will be peace”– Our Lady of Fatima.


“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. Michael “Who is like unto God?”

*Pope St. John Paul II wrote this beautiful meditation on the tradition of St. Veronica in 2000, the same year in which he dedicated the millennium to the Face of Christ:

Sixth Station, St. Theresa Church, Ashburn, Virginia

Veronica does not appear in the Gospels. Her name is not mentioned, even though the names of other women who accompanied Jesus do appear.
It is possible, therefore, that the name refers more to what the woman did. In fact, according to tradition, on the road to Calvary a woman pushed her way through the soldiers escorting Jesus and with a veil wiped the sweat and blood from the Lord’s face. That face remained imprinted on the veil, a faithful reflection, a “true icon”. This would be the reason for the name Veronica.
If this is so, the name which evokes the memory of what this woman did carries with it the deepest truth about her.

One day, Jesus drew the criticism of onlookers when he defended a sinful woman who had poured perfumed oil on his feet and dried them with her hair. To those who objected, he replied: “Why do you trouble this woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me . . . In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial” (Mt 26:10, 12). These words could likewise be applied to Veronica. Thus we see the profound eloquence of this event.

The Redeemer of the world presents Veronica with an authentic image of his face. The veil upon which the face of Christ remains imprinted becomes a message for us.
In a certain sense it says: This is how every act of goodness, every gesture of true love toward’s one’s neighbor, strengthens the likeness of the Redeemer of the world in the one who acts that way. Acts of love do not pass away. Every act of goodness, of understanding, of service leaves on people’s hearts an indelible imprint and makes us ever more like the One who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7). This is what shapes our identity and gives us our true name.

This is the deep meaning and call to every Christian revealed in the presence of the unknown woman we call “St. Veronica”– each act of charity, every act of compassion will leave the imprint of the Face of Jesus in our souls, transforming us into His own Image.

— Pope St. John Paul II Pray for us!

Turn aside for a while…

Come now, little man,
turn aside for a while from your daily employment, 
escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts. 
Put aside your weighty cares, 
let your burdensome distractions wait,
free yourself awhile for God,
and rest awhile in Him.

Enter the inner chamber of your soul, 
shut out everything except God
and that which can help you in seeking Him,
and when you have shut the door, seek Him.
 
Now, my whole heart, say to God, 
'I seek your Face,
Lord, it is your Face I seek.' -- St. Anselm, Proslogion 

Hills of Manoppello, near the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face

“I have sought Thy Face. I have sought for Thee and none other beside Thee. Thy Face is my only reward. I will seek Thy Face, O Lord: in this demand will I persevere. Indeed I will not look for any unworthy object, but only Thy Face that I may love Thee more generously, because I find none other more precious. Thy Face is the reward of the elect. The righteous shall dwell under Thine eyes, and when they will love Thy Face, they will eat the bread of the sweat of their brow (Genisis:3:19):

“Let us return, wiping away the sweat, let us end the weariness and the weeping that we may shine in Thy all satisfying Face. Neither let us search any more, because there is nothing better. Let us not abandon Thee, and we shall not be abandoned by Thee. Because what was said about the Lord, after the Resurrection? I will be filled with overflowing joy with Thy Face, because without Thy Face, there would not be joy for us.”

— St. Augustine
“May I ever see you only, look on you, long for you; may I gaze with love on you alone, and have my lantern shining and burning always in your presence.” — St. Columban, Abbot

View the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy, live.

“The Icon of Easter”

“This veil over the large linen has a liveliness, as if wind were blowing into it. And under its right edge we can still see parts of the pattern of the shroud through the fabric. Making the veil completely transparent has obviously overwhelmed the capacity of the author of this almost childlike drawing.”

— Paul Badde from “The Icon of Easter – Forensic Evidence from the Resurrection of the Son of God,” referring to the Sudarium Veil depicted in the ancient “Codex Pray” drawing.https://de.catholicnewsagency.com/article/ikone-der-dna-des-gottessohnes-1312
Paul Badde pondering the Holy Veil of Manoppello Photo: Alan Holdren

Ever since one of the premier art historians in the world, Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J., told Paul Badde that the Veronica Veil had been found in a small Capuchin church in the Abruzzi Mountains in Italy, Paul, himself an art historian, has been searching through centuries of art for the forensic evidence to verify this earth-shaking claim. Why earth-shaking? Because the burial cloths of Christ, such as the Shroud of Turin and the Oviedo, not only contain the DNA of Jesus Christ in His Sacred Blood, and witness to the horrible torture He endured in His Passion, but one of those cloths, though without a trace of blood or paint, bears witness to the power of the Resurrection — it is the transparent veil that covered the Holy Face of Jesus.

Around 1410, Master Joan Mates depicted the Lamentation and Entombment of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea places a veil over Jesus Face, National Museum of Catalonia, Barcelona

“There are no witnesses to the act of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. But the apostles were able to secure cloths and evidence with DNA from Him.”–Paul Badde, Vatican Magazin – The Icon of Easter

Cover Vatican Magazine “God’s DNA”

Paul Badde has uncovered many works of art, and other evidence as well, which support this astounding claim. But his trained eyes have noticed crucial details previously passed over by many art historians. He has written a remarkable piece for Vatican Magazine highlighting an “extremely important link for the history of the authenticity” of both the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Veil of Manoppello, Italy — the ancient “Codex Pray” of Hungary. The Codex Pray dates to about 1192 at the latest.

The “Codex Pray” drawing tells the story, in a simple yet clever way, of the Resurrection of Jesus. It has been the earliest artwork found which shows the Shroud of Turin, indicated by the artist’s attempt to draw the herringbone weave pattern that is a particular feature of the Shroud that scholars say dates to the first century. And although faulty carbon dating in 1988 claimed the Shroud was a medieval forgery dating back to between 1260-1380, the Codex Pray was made 133 years before that. As Paul Badde points out in his article that the Codex was made in the 1100’s – and the Shroud of Turin hadn’t been seen in public before it “appeared in Lirey in Champagne in 1355.” If that were not remarkable enough, there is another cloth in the drawing — a transparent one — and this is the one being pointed out to the three women at the tomb by an angel. “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.” (Mt. 28:6)

“In the Codex Pray in Budapest, the shrouds (burial cloths) of Christ from the zero hour of Christianity appear for the first time around the year 1180 almost realistically in this drawing.” – Paul Badde

“The most significant detail of this depiction is, however, often overlooked in the many debates about the burial cloths of Christ. In this representation of the Codex Pray from Budapest, the extremely important link for the history of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is that the angel doesn’t point to the big, long linen but to the transparent sudarium. which like no other “image” allows us to gaze into the paschal mystery of the paschal hour.”

–Paul Badde, “Icon of Easter”

“Transparency is the key.”

— Paul Badde
Transparent Veil of Manoppello, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The delicate sudarium veil that covered the Face of Jesus in the tomb was transparent, and light enough to move “as if wind were blowing into it,” as the artist of the Codex attempts to show. In 1511, when Martin Luther went to see the greatest relic in Rome known as “the Veronica” or “True Icon,” he testified to this fact when he gave a rather incredulous description of what he saw in a letter to a friend:

“It is simply a square black board on which a transparent piece of cloth hangs and above this is another veil.  There poor Jena Hans cannot have seen anything more than a piece of transparent cloth that covers a black board. This is the Veronica which is shown.” 

–Martin Luther

Although Martin Luther’s purpose in pointing out the transparency of the cloth in his the letter was to debunk the relic of the Veronica, he actually affirms the most extraordinary characteristic of the veil — it is transparent, and yet, seen in certain light, the proto-image of the Face of Jesus, as it has been recognized throughout history, is revealed.

Veil of Manoppello,photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

This veil…was transparent and enigmatic as the resurrection itself, at the heart of our faith.”

–Paul Badde
Miraculous Transparent Veil of the”Holy Face of Manoppello” in Italy Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN
Hand viewed through the miraculous Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The full translation of the German article may be read below:

The Icon of Easter – Forensic evidence from the Resurrection of the Son of God by Paul Badde

The Flemish painter Juan de Flandes painted around 1498 “The Resurrection of Christ and three women at the grave.” Palacio Real de Madrid. “The angel points to the key relic that was known to thousands of pilgrims to Rome during the artist’s lifetime…”

The icon of the resurrection — the napkin (or sudarium) from the tomb of Christ — is essentially transparent. as we were able to marvel at again three years ago on the booklet that Pope Francis prepared in 2019 for the participants in the liturgy of his Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica which displayed a panel from 1498 by Juan de Flandes, depicting the moment when “ Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome “came to the tomb”, as Mark says. “They saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe; they were very amazed. But he said to them: Don’t be amazed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen; he is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him. ” The Flemish painter in Spain incorrectly depicted the empty tomb as an open sarcophagus, which demonstrates that he had never been to Jerusalem. On the other hand, he obviously knew Rome and was familiar with its treasures, as shown here. Because over the edge of this sarcophagus hangs very realistically a transparent veil to which the angel points –the sudarium — the key relic of the Lord that was known to thousands of pilgrims to Rome during the artist’s lifetime and ever since Pope Innocent VIII had first carried this veil barefoot on a Sunday in January 1208 from Peter’s Basilica to the nearby hospital church of Santo Spirito. This veil, too, was transparent and enigmatic like the resurrection itself, at the heart of our faith.

Pope Francis’ Easter liturgy booklet 2018
Omnis Terra Procession of Pope Innocent III in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

Because the essence of Christianity is neither the cathedral of Cologne nor St. Peter’s Basilica, but only the resurrection of Christ from the kingdom of the dead to Life in the land of the living, however impossible it may seem. But without the belief in precisely this impossibility, our whole faith would be filth, says Paul. Then we could leave the church immediately with the multitudes of all the others who have left without even having to ask as Peter did: “Lord, where should we go?” Because first of all Christ would no longer be our Lord and secondly we would already know where we wanted to escape to with the money from the church assessment we no longer pay, no matter that it is impossible to find a place or a society of people without abuse and without lies, fraud, crime, and violence.

If, on the other hand, Christ has truly risen from the dead, then anything is possible. Then the church will wake up again from the death zone of abuse and flourish again, in Cologne, throughout  Germany and everywhere. Nevertheless, many theologians over the past centuries have tried to minimize the offensive nature of the challenge to believe in the resurrection of Christ by using scriptural tricks and to make it more compatible with the spirit of the age (“zeitgeist”). These kind of “glass bead games” however were never possible for icon writers or visual artists as long as they were serious about the core of their beliefs.

“There are no witnesses to the act of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead. But the apostles were able to secure cloths and evidence with the DNA from Him.”

–Paul Badde, The Icon of Easter

Theologians and artists share a common problem, however: there were no witnesses to the act of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. None of the evangelists were there. All four only report what it looked like in Jesus’ tomb after the resurrection. Matthew tells of an “angel” in a snow-white robe who says to three women in the burial chamber: “He is not here”. It is similar with Mark. Luke speaks of “two men in shining robes”. And with John we learn how Peter and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” looked into the tomb of Christ early in the morning. – There is only one thing that none of the four evangelists say: that the tomb was empty. Obviously, it wasn’t. Jesus was no longer there. But there were cloths at the scene of which the poet Wipo (+ 1048) spoke in his Easter sequence “Victimae paschali laudes”, Mary had seen two “angelic witnesses”, namely the “napkin and linen cloths” (Latin: sudarium et vestes). These witnesses and forensic traces of evidence have, thank God, been preserved uncorrupted  and materially, with the DNA of the Son of God.

First there is the sacred Sudarium from Rome, which is now in Manoppello, and then there is the Holy Shroud, the world-famous linen in Turin. We encounter both fabrics for the first time in the testimony of John, who described Easter morning in this way: “Then Simon Peter, who had followed him, arrived and went into the tomb (which was a cave hewn in the rock). He saw the linen cloths lying there and the napkin (Greek: soudarion) that had been lying on Jesus’ head; but it was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had come to the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.” – That is the key passage in this gospel, which, however, only becomes plausible when read in conjunction with the specific cloths that John mentions here.

The “Holy Shroud” or the Shroud of Turin is only rarely shown and yet has been researched as has no other textile in the world, by a genuine and separate science, Sindonology, which in the last century has focused on this linen cloth with the dimensions of 14 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 7 inches (436cm by 110 cm) and which captures the panorama and the torture of the flagellation, the crowning of thorns and the crucifixion of Christ in an inexplicable way, as in a detailed script, as well as the subsequent piercing of his heart and the extinction of his last spark of life by means of a lance. This cloth contains blood and water.

The burial cloths of Jesus, Moscow, 15th Century

The sudarium, on the other hand, is a very delicate veil that was kept in Rome for centuries and then for a long time in Manoppello, where it was locked away until 1923, in similar fashion to the shroud in Turin. Nevertheless, for almost a century, unlike the situation of the Shroud in Turin, every pilgrim to Manoppello has been able to observe and study the sudarium at close quarters every day from morning to evening above the main altar as never before. At certain times and in certain light it shows the face of Christ with open eyes and healed wounds.

Yet when unshadowed, the veil reveals, above all, complete transparency as its inner characteristic – as if Easter were the festival of transparency towards heaven and God’s eternity in another world. A good hundred years before Juan de Flandes, the Catalan painter Joan Mates (1370 – 1431) masterfully expressed this characteristic of the napkin of Christ in his panel of the “Lamentation of Christ”, where we see Nicodemus, who after Jesus’ deposition from the cross is putting a transparent fabric over His face. The model for this depiction here can only have been the Roman “Sudarium” of the Popes from St. Peter’s Basilica, the “true icon”, which has also been called “Veronica” there since the Middle Ages. Countless images in the history of art attest to this Easter transparency.  One of the key witnesses to this mystery, moreover, is Dr. Martin Luther, who saw the veil on his trip to Rome in 1511 and who still sneered in 1545 that the “Lord’s face in his little sweat cloth”, which was regularly shown and displayed at Saint Peter’s, was nothing but „ein klaret lin“ in other words: Doctor Luther had only seen a “transparent linen” here.

The large shroud, which is by no means transparent, appeared for the first time in Lirey in Champagne in 1355 and was only brought through the efforts of St. Charles Borromeo from Chambéry in Savoy to Turin in 1578, 233 years later, which began the process of western Christendom gradually getting to know it.  Previously, the Shroud had been the most precious part of the treasures of the emperor of Byzantium remaining more or less a rumor for the pilgrims of Europe until 1578. 

An image- document in the Széchényi library of the National Museum of Budapest dates back to 1192 (at the latest), and for decades has become something of a new founding document for all shroud researchers and their highly complex science. It is a small colored drawing on parchment in a codex measuring 9.5 inches by 5.9 inches, which also highlights the resurrection of Christ from the dead – and the burial of the crucified Lord. Above we therefore see Jesus dead, lying with a peaceful face, on a sheet that has been rolled out on a stone. His eyes and mouth are closed, with a sparse beard and long hair parted in the middle which hide his ears and frame his face. At the head of Jesus stands Joseph of Arimathea, the councilor of the Sanhedrin, at the feet of the Lord stands John. Both grasp the cloth with which the body was removed from the cross, while Nicodemus empties a bottle with precious spices over the body, as we read in the Gospel of John (19:39). The stone slab underneath is reminiscent of the so-called “anointing stone” from the Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which has long been venerated as the most important relic of the Pantocrator Church of Constantinople. Three striking details are unique in this representation. First, the body of Jesus is naked. Second, he keeps his hands crossed over the pubic area, his right hand over the left. Third, both hands only show four fingers and no thumb. So Jesus is depicted here as a real victim of an ancient, real, and concrete crucifixion, in which the nails were driven through the roots of his wrists (and not the palms of the hands). During this torture, the thumbs cramped inward into the palms of the hands due to the injury to the median nerve. And for this representation there is only a single “picture” in the vast array of pictures throughout History, which must have served as an exemplar and model. This is the Shroud of Christ in Turin which shows these significant details, but long before this linen even had appeared in Europe!

The Codex Pray of Budapest, Hungary 1150-1192

And this drawing from the library of Budapest was also made at least 133 years before the date assigned to the Shroud, resulting from a sensational radiocarbon investigation in 1988, according to which the shroud was supposed to have been woven between 1260 and 1390. This drawing from Budapest, which documents its evidence as if with a photo proof, dates from 1192 at the latest. For in 1150, on the occasion of an arranged wedding in Constantinople, the ambassador of Hungary was received by Manuel II Komnenos, and the Emperor of Byzantium showed him and his delegation the hidden treasures of his Blachern Chapel. In the process, the Shroud of Christ must have impressed itself in detail on one of the participants of the Hungarian delegation. Below the entombment we see – as centuries later with Juan de Flandes – three women come to the grave at the right, where an angel on the left with an outstretched right forefinger indicates the resurrection of Christ on this first Easter morning. Between the angel and the women we see a large, folded sheet of fabric, which is covered on the inside with Greek crosses and on the outside with zigzag lines, which are interpreted in research as an attempt to draw the herringbone pattern of the shroud. Four small holes depict four very old fire damage holes that can still be found in the “Holy Shroud” today.   But above this shroud, under the angel’s finger, we see another folded little cloth, as if blowing, or as “rolled up, next to it, in a special place”, which had been lying on the face of the dead Jesus, as we came to know by the gospel of John.

This veil over the large linen has a liveliness, as if wind were blowing into it. And under its right edge we can still see parts of the pattern of the shroud through the fabric. Making the veil completely transparent has obviously overwhelmed the capacity of the author of this almost childlike drawing. Nevertheless, in contrast to the large shroud, the sudarium appears as animated as the stole of the angel next to it. And in any case, we encounter the two cloths together in an almost realistic way for the first time in the picture, from the zero hour of Christianity. And both without “pictures”, without a body image and without a face, at least to our eyes.

The most significant detail of this depiction is, however, often overlooked in many debates about the burial cloths of Christ. In this representation in the Codex Pray from Budapest, the extremely important link for the history of the authenticity  of the shroud of Turin the angel doesn’t point to the big, long linen but to the transparent sudarium which like no other “image” allows us to gaze into the paschal mystery of the paschal hour.

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk