Contemplating the Mystery of Light with Pope Benedict XVI

The Transfiguration by Carl Bloch (1872) Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up a high mountain to pray and was transfigured before them, becoming so dazzlingly bright that his clothes were “whiter than the work of any bleacher could make them.” (Mk 9:2-100

 

Like many of our beloved elderly, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been quietly sharing in the suffering of Christ. Since visiting his brother, Georg, in Germany before Georg died, Pope Benedict XVI had contracted very painful erysipelas rash on his face. The sad news brought to mind the pope’s words during his pontificate about the Transfiguration, that “mystery of light,” when the reality of Jesus, who is “light from light,” became perceptible to the senses to Peter, James, and John on the mountain, when His Face became radiant with Divine Glory. The Transfiguration not only prepared and strengthened the apostles for the Passion of Jesus, but was also a foretaste of the Resurrection.  As Pope Benedict wrote in the first volume of his work Jesus of Nazareth: 

[The Transfiguration] “reveals the profound interpenetration of His being with God, which then becomes pure light. In His oneness with the Father, Jesus is Himself ‘light from light.'”

 

“The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI (photo:Paul Badde/EWTN)

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI invited us to contemplate this mystery of light from the Gospel:

“Today, the liturgy invites us to focus our gaze on this mystery of light. On the transfigured face of Jesus a ray of light which he held within shines forth. This same light was to shine on Christ’s face on the day of the Resurrection. In this sense, the Transfiguration appears as a foretaste of the Paschal Mystery.

The Transfiguration invites us to open the eyes of our hearts to the mystery of God’s light, present throughout salvation history. At the beginning of creation, the Almighty had already said: ‘Fiat lux – let there be light!’ (Gn 1: 2), and the light was separated from the darkness. Like the other created things, light is a sign that reveals something of God: it is, as it were, a reflection of his glory which accompanies its manifestations. When God appears, ‘his brightness was like the light, rays flashed from his hand.’ (Heb 3: 3ff.).

Light, it is said in the Psalms, is the mantle with which God covers himself (cf. Ps 104[103]: 2). In the Book of Wisdom, the symbolism of light is used to describe the very essence of God: wisdom, an outpouring of his glory, is ‘a reflection of eternal light’ superior to any created light (cf. Wis 7: 27, 29ff.).

In the New Testament, it is Christ who constitutes the full manifestation of God’s light. His Resurrection defeated the power of the darkness of evil forever. With the Risen Christ, truth and love triumph over deceit and sin. In him, God’s light henceforth illumines definitively human life and the course of history: ‘I am the light of the world,’ he says in the Gospel, ‘he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn 8: 12).

In our time too, we urgently need to emerge from the darkness of evil, to experience the joy of the children of light!'”

Pope Benedict XVI, Paul Badde, and Sr. Blandina Schlomer Sept. 2006, at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello.

In September of 2006, Pope Benedict XVI travelled as a pilgrim to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, where he contemplated another “miracle of light” — the Holy Face on the Veil of Manoppello. A year following this visit, he elevated the shrine to a basilica, and wrote the following prayer:

Pope Benedict XVI contemplates the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN
Light shines through the Holy Veil of Manoppello during evening procession. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI to The Holy Face

Lord Jesus, as the first Apostles, whom you asked: “What do you seek?” accepted your invitation to “Come and See,” recognizing you as the Son of God, the Promised Messiah for the world’s redemption, we too, your disciples in this difficult time, want to follow you and be your friends, drawn by the brilliance of Your Face, much desired, yet hidden.

Hand viewed through the miraculous Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Show us, O Lord, we pray you, Your Face ever new; that mirror, mystery-laden, of God’s infinite mercy. Grant that we may contemplate it with the eyes of our mind and our hearts: the Son’s Face, radiance of the Father’s glory and the imprint of His Nature (cf. Hb 1:3), the human Face of God that has burst into history to reveal the horizons of eternity. The silent Face of Jesus, suffering and risen, when loved and accepted, changes our

Face becomes visible with light on the Holy Veil of Manoppello.
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

hearts and lives. “Your Face, Lord, do I seek, do not hide Your Face from me.” (Ps. 27:8ff) How many times through the centuries and millennia has resounded the ardent invocation of the Psalmist among the faithful! Lord, with faith, we too repeat the same invocation: “Man of suffering, as one from whom other hide their faces.” (Is. 53:3) Do not hide your Face from us! We want to draw from your eyes that look on us with tenderness and compassion the force of love and peace which shows us the way of life, and the courage to follow you without fear or compromise, so as to be witnesses of your Gospel with concrete signs of acceptance, love and forgiveness. O Holy Face of Christ, Light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness, life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death, O inscrutable gaze that never ceases to watch over mankind. Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs and in the faces of those that live with us! Make us God’s pilgrims in this world, longing for the infinite and ready for the final encounter, when we shall see you, Lord, “face to face” (Cor. 13:12) and be able to contemplate you forever in heavenly Glory. Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us to have “hands innocent and a heart pure,” hands illumined by the truth of love and hearts enraptured by divine beauty, that transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may gift ourselves to the poor and the suffering, whose face reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus. Amen.

Holy Veil of Manoppello said to be the image of the Resurrected Christ
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

In March of 2012, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “As Jesus was transfigured before them, His Face ‘dazzling with light,’ the voice of the Father could be heard, ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.’ (Mk 9:7)  Thus, the light and the voice: the divine radiance on Jesus’ Face, and the voice of the Heavenly Father that witnesses to Him and commands that He be listened to.

The mystery of the Transfiguration must not be separated from the context of the path Jesus is following. He is now decisively oriented to fulfilling his mission, knowing all too well that to arrive at the Resurrection He must pass through the Passion and death on the Cross. He had spoken openly of this to His disciples; but they did not understand, on the contrary they rejected this prospect because they were not reasoning in accordance with God, but in accordance with men.

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

It is for this reason that Jesus takes three of them with Him up the mountain and reveals His divine glory, the splendor of Truth and of Love. Jesus wants this light to illuminate their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of His Passion and death, when the folly of the Cross becomes unbearable to them. God is light, and Jesus wishes to give his closest friends the experience of this light which dwells within Him.

After this event, therefore, He will be an inner light within them that can protect them from any assault of darkness. Even on the darkest of nights, Jesus is the lamp that never goes out.” (Pope Benedict XVI, March 2012)

Let us pray for our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and all who share in Christ’s suffering, that their hearts will be illumined  and transfigured by this mystery of light shining on the Face of Christ.

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“While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe:  all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human Face.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI

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News: Holy Face of Manoppello blogspot has posted a schedule for the days leading to the Feast of the Transfiguration celebrated at the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face for the fortunate pilgrims who may visit. By special privilege of the Pope Francis in these days the faithful can gain the Plenary Indulgence.

Beautiful video below of the Feast of the Transfiguration at the Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.

 

+++Blessing with The Holy Face Veil of Manoppello on the Feast of the Transfiguration+++

 

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

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

Lord Jesus, Savior of the world, hope that will never disappoint us, have mercy on us and deliver us from all evil! Please overcome the scourge of this virus which is spreading, heal the sick, preserve the healthy, support those who work for the health of all. Show us your face of mercy and save us in your great love. We ask you through the intercession of Mary, Your Mother and ours, who faithfully accompanies us. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)
NEWS UPDATE: Cardinal Brenes imparted a moving blessing with the charred Holy Face of Jesus which had been separated from the Crucifix during the attack and fire at the Church in Managua, Nicaragua, on the Feast of the Transfiguration.

 

God Calls Us Back With Love

St. Peter Chrysologus, Doctor of the Church

“Love desires to see God.”  So says St. Peter Chrysologus:  “When God saw the world falling to ruin because of fear, He immediately acted to call it back to Himself with love…” By an invitation of grace, love and compassion God called Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Moses–and a “flame of love” was enkindled in their hearts, “it’s intoxication overflowed into men’s senses. Wounded by love, they longed to look upon God with their bodily eyes, yet how could our narrow human vision apprehend God, whom the whole world cannot contain?” St. Chrysologus writes, “It is intolerable for love not to see the object of it’s longing!” No matter what good the saints did to merit a reward, they could not see the Lord.  A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on it’s side, but it is evidence of filial love.  It gave Moses the temerity to say: If I have found favor in your eyes, show me Your Face. It inspired the psalmist to make the same prayer: Show me Your Face.  Even the pagans made their images for this purpose: they wanted to see what they mistakenly revered.”  (from sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus)

A wonderful ongoing reflection to read in “Faith and Culture” from the writings of Pope St. John Paul II  and Pope Benedict XVI on the nobility of the human face and the Face of Christ – here:

“A Face to Contemplate” 

and here: The Revelation of God’s Face

 

The Sign of the Mask

    Holy Veil of Manoppello
    Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

 “Why do you hide your face?” (Psalm 44)

 

Signs — they are used to indicate something important, unusual, guide us or warn us of danger. So, too, it is with signs from God. There is one sign in the world today that encompasses all those definitions, and it is as plain as the nose on our face.

By now nearly everyone has experienced wearing a mask. A medical mask seriously hinders normal communication; if we can’t “read” one another’s facial expressions we lose a crucial means of communication. A mask covering a person’s entire face would naturally cause anxiety and fear. Criminals hide their faces, like the rioters, looting and destroying, wreaking violence in the night — indicating a complete severing of the relationship between human beings.  A mask may also be a “sign,” or symbol, of mankind’s broken relationship with God.

Being able to communicate with a person face to face helps us grow in relationship and love. “Already the face of man is like a light for the beholder. From it we get to know a stranger, or recognize a known person. Whoever shows the face is identified by it. If then the face of man is like a light, how much more will the Face of God not be for the beholder?” –St. Ambrose

“Because for your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face.”  (Psalm 44:15)

Hans Holbein der Altere. Munich, Germany

Covering or uncovering the face has deep Biblical significance:  In 1 Kings 19 Elijah covered his face in reverence and humility when he recognized by “a tiny, whispering sound” that he was in the divine presence of God. “So it was Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle.” Union with God is “to see God face to face” one day, as the saints do in heaven. The faces of the enemies of God are also covered — “covered with shame.” “Cover their faces with shame, LORD, so that they will seek Your name.” (Psalm 83:16)  Christ’s Face was “covered with shame” in His Passion, when He bore mankind’s sins, in order to restore the broken relationship between God and man  — so that God’s enemies would “seek His name” — that is, to turn back to God’s Face in repentance.  God looks upon the Face of His Son Jesus, covered with shame, blood, sweat, dust and spittle. Yet, in His darkness, Jesus shines the light of His Face upon those who will look on Him, reconciling them with God the Father.

“And God who said: ‘Let the light shine from the darkness,’ has shone in our hearts, to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the Face of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Cor. 4:6) We know, then the place where Christ is shining within in us. Indeed, He is the eternal splendor of souls, sent by the Father on earth to illuminate as with the light of His Face, so that we could observe the eternal heavenly things, we who previously were immersed in the darkness of the earth.” –St. Ambrose

It makes no difference if one is healthy or sick, innocent or guilty, all must now wear masks. All must endure the stifling, suffocating, infernal nuisance of a mask that is now part of everyone’s lives. Setting aside the political and medical controversies that have swirled around the subject of masks since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, there is something of greater importance here that has been ignored —  it is a sign — for humanity to turn back to the Face of God.

“Why do you turn away Your Face? May we say it another way. Even if, Lord, you turn Your Face away from us, yet we are sealed with the glory of your Face. Your glory is in our hearts and shines in the deep places of our spirit. Indeed, no one can live if you should turn away Your Face.” –St. Ambrose

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The Sudarium Veil of the Face of Christ, Photo: Patricia Enk

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

Lord Jesus, Savior of the world, hope that will never disappoint us, have mercy on us and deliver us from all evil! Please overcome the scourge of this virus which is spreading, heal the sick, preserve the healthy, support those who work for the health of all. Show us your face of mercy and save us in your great love. We ask you through the intercession of Mary, Your Mother and ours, who faithfully accompanies us. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)

 

God’s Greatest Gift – His Peace

Photo: Patricia Enk

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

In His discourse at the Last Supper Jesus gives to his disciples, and to us, the gift of His peace. He leaves it “with” us. Most people would think of peace as a state of being undisturbed, tranquil or quiet. But Jesus tells us at the same time not to “let our hearts be troubled or fearful.” We must must somehow preserve this peace while living, as did the first disciples, in a disturbing, troubling, and frightening anti-Christian world. It is a paradox. What is this “gift” of His peace — a peace that can remain with us while the world around has gone mad? 

The world offers its own sort of “peace” but it is at the price of rejecting Jesus Christ and His Cross. It is the false peace of tolerance and acquiescence — getting along, or going along with the prevailing culture — in the hope that by submission to its unceasing demands we will somehow be left alone to live our lives, losing none of our comforts or security. Anyone accepting this false type of peace however will ultimately lose everything, including eternal salvation. There is no real peace apart from Jesus Christ.

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

Pope Benedict XVI wrote that the revelation of the Face of God took on a new and beautiful manifestation when God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. As fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ gave us a human face that revealed the Face of God. “While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe: all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human face!” Something new happens at the Incarnation, because now God’s Face can be seen: The Son of God was made man and He is given a Name, Jesus.

God, our loving Father, offers us a gift of true peace that is so much greater than anything the world has to offer, if only we turn back to His Face. God has a Face and a Name,  “the concrete sign of His existence” which He has shown us through His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. “To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave Himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In His Face we truly see who God is and what He looks like!” – Pope Benedict XVI 

It was on the World Day of Peace 2013 that Pope Benedict spoke about the blessing of the priests of the people of Israel. The blessing repeats the three-times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man:

“May the Lord bless and keep you, may He make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you: May the Lord turn His Face toward you and give you His PEACE.” (Num. 6: 22-27)

Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.” -Pope Benedict XVI

Moreover, Pope Benedict wrote, “To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of His Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of His interior life and of His will, so that we can live according to His plan for humanity. Jesus lets us know the hidden Face of the Father through His human Face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.” This, the pope says, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing can take from us.

Limpias Crucifix

Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to the Holy Face as having three separate components: 1. Discipleship – an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the Face of those in need. 2. The Passion of Jesus, and suffering expressed by images of the wounded Face of Jesus. 3. The Eucharist, “the great school in which we learn to see the Face of God,”  which is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His Face hidden in the Eucharist. “In the Eucharist, the Face of Christ is turned toward us.” – Pope St. John Paul II

“Our whole life should be directed toward encountering Him,” writes Benedict, “toward loving Him; and in it, a central place must be given to love of one’s neighbor, that love that in the light of the Crucified One, enables us to recognize the Face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering.” In short, to enter into a relationship with Jesus and to follow Him. The pope goes on to explain the fruits of this contemplation: “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, PEACE.” Peace, not as the world gives, but the peace which can only come from Jesus Christ. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

Listen to my voice, Lord, when I call
. . . Your Face, Lord, do I seek!
Hide not Your Face from me!
-Psalm 27

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“Abide in peace, banish care, take no account of all that happens. And you will serve God according to His good pleasure.” — St. John of the Cross 

“…and if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from Heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.” (2 Chr. 7:4)

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus
 
Lord Jesus, Savior of the world, hope that will never disappoint us, have mercy on us and deliver us from all evil! Please overcome the scourge of this virus which is spreading, heal the sick, preserve the healthy, support those who work for the health of all. Show us your face of mercy and save us in your great love. We ask you through the intercession of Mary, Your Mother and ours, who faithfully accompanies us. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)
 
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The Bearer of Victory

Christ the Redeemer and the Virgin Mary with the “Arma Christi” c.1520’s

It becomes more and more evident, to people of faith anyway, that a spiritual battle is raging in the world. Great or small, each Christian has a role in the decisive battle to be fought, through the Cross, and under the banner of the Face of Christ.

Veronica Veil, 1480, National Gallery, Washington

History records the existence of a miraculous veil with the Face of Jesus — not made by human hands. Down through the centuries it was called by many names, however, most commonly it was known as the Veronica (Vera-icon, Latin for “True Image”).  But there was also another name by which the veil was known: Berenice, from the Ancient Greek Berenike (or pheronike).  It was the same name as Veronica (Latin transliteration of Berenice), but with an another meaning — The Bearer of Victory.

The Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus, since 574, had been carried into battles as an imperial standard, used only when the Emperor Justin II was at the head of the army.

Crusader in helmet with the instruments of the Passion

“The veil was taken out for military campaigns. Teofilaktos Simokattes wrote that during the Battle of Solachon in 586, the veil acted as divine inspiration for the Byzantine forces. Simokattes also wrote that the labarum was ‘created by God Himself and hadn’t been woven or painted by man.’ In 622, the standard played a pivotal role in the war against the Persians, inspiring Heraclius’ armies in battle against the armies of Khosrau II. The seventh century Greek poet George Pisida wrote an account of the campaign, in which he call the veil’s depiction a ‘master-Portrait created by God.’  The relic continued to act as the imperial standard until the end of the seventh century. ” (Witness to Mystery: Investigations into Christ’s Relics, Grzegorz Gorny, Janusz Rosikon)

Servant of God, Marcel Van

Servant of God Marcel Van, known as the “Little brother of St. Therese and Apostle to little children,” was a Redemptorist brother who was martyred in Communist Vietnam.  He was given a vision in which Marcel saw the banner of victory atop a cross:

 “I saw a cross appear beside little Jesus.  At the top of this cross a piece of cloth was suspended on which was printed the Face of Jesus.  Little Jesus looked at me with a joyous expression, then, showing me the cross he said to me; ‘Little brother, here is your portion of the inheritance, here is the inheritance of the children. Do you see it clearly?’ Then little Jesus, indicating himself added: ‘Little brother, here is the elevator which will allow you to take possession of this inheritance, and it will also be the same for the children. Do you understand? That is the way your sister St. Therese had led you up till now, after having followed it herself.  Little brother, tell that to the children.'”  Br. Marcel said the vision remained ingrained on his mind in every detail. The “elevator” refers to an insight of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, by the “little way” of spiritual childhood — “doing little things with great love” — the elevator lifting her to the Father was Jesus’s arms of love. The Servant of God won many spiritual battles throughout his life by practicing the “little way” of St. Therese, gaining victory after victory until he was martyred in 1959.
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Your sweet Face is for me Heaven on earth. ” ~St. Therese

“How much good the Holy Face has done me during my life! The just will recognize Him not only on the Cross — a symbol of salvation, which will precede His coming, but more exactly, by His Face, which will shine on the last day.” –St. Therese 

 

 

Pope Benedict XVI gazes at the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

What is the significance for today of the Veil of the “Master Portrait created by God” being carried as a standard in battle?  Why has God gifted humanity with a  miraculous veil bearing an image of His Face? Why did Pope St. John Paul II dedicate the millennium to the Face of Christ? I would propose one answer to these questions: God is directing our gaze to the Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus because He has given this great gift to us as the means to obtain victory in the battle  against Satan — by the contemplation of the Face of Christ.  And the most efficacious way to contemplate the Face of Jesus is through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary when we pray the Rosary!

“It is first of all necessary to let the Blessed Virigin Mary take us by the hand to contemplate the Face of Jesus. Mary gives us eyes and a heart that can contemplate her Son.” –Pope Benedict XVI

Pope St. John Paul II has written about a “self-portrait” of the Face Jesus in Veritatis Splendor, and so did Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus painted this masterpiece of Himself on a mountain, where He prayed “face-to-face with the Father.”  The Face of Jesus may also be revealed, though in a veiled way, in the Word of God:

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.  Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt. 5:1-12)

The Beatitudes by Carl Bloch

The Beatitudes, Pope St. John Paul II says in Veritatis Splendor, “are a sort of self- portrait of Christ, and for this very reason are invitations to discipleship and to communion of life with Christ.” In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI describes the Sermon on the Mount as a “hidden Christology.” He writes, “Anyone who reads Matthew’s text attentively will realize that the Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of His figure.  He who had no place to lay his head (Mt. 8:20) is truly poor; he who can say, “Come to me…for I am meek and lowly of heart” (Mt. 11:28-29) is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God.  He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God’s sake.

The brushstrokes of the Master are the Christian virtues by which He reveals His Face: Justice, Mercy, Humility, Meekness, Purity of Heart.  Jesus painted this self-portrait as an invitation for those who seek His Face to follow Him as His disciples, calling us to communion with Him and accompanying Him to the Cross.

St. Jerome wrote: “The Face of Jesus will continue to save each time we have recourse to it, invoking His aid, Lord, God of Hosts, bring us back, let Your Face shine on us and we shall be saved!  (Psalm 80:7)

In order for the battle to be won, each Christian must also become a “Bearer of Victory” by reflecting the Face of Christ to others in our broken world — holding high the banner of the Holy Face, and the Cross of Christ!

“Today, fixing our gaze with you on the Face of the risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment and say with firm hope: Christ Jesus, I trust in you!”
Pope St. John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization Mass of St. Faustina Kowalska, April 30, 2000 

 

“Behold God’s Love For You!” – Part Two

(Continued from Part One) “On January 26, 1902, at the parish church of Saint-André, a city on the island of La Réunion (French Colony), Abbot Henry Lacombe, pastor of the church, was witness to the miracle that he would recount to thousands of people during the Eucharistic Congress of Angouleme (1904), as well as to the group of priests gathered for a spiritual retreat in the town of Perigueux. The Face of Jesus appeared in the Host which was for many hours witnessed by thousands of people.”

Abbott Lacombe gave this report: “It was January 26, 1902. We were celebrating Perpetual Adoration. The Most Holy Sacrament was exposed in the tabernacle. I began to celebrate the Mass. After the elevation, at the moment of the Our Father, my eyes were lifted toward the Host and I saw a bright halo around the rays of the monstrance. I continued to recite the prayers of the Mass with great agitation in my soul but which I tried to overcome. We came to the moment for Communion and again I looked toward the monstrance. This time I saw a human face, with lowered eyes and a crown of thorns on the forehead. What moved me the most was the dolorous expression painted on the face. The eyelashes were long and thick. I tried not to let on to the presence of the turmoil agitating inside of me. After Mass, I went to the sacristy and summoned the older children from the choir to go to the altar and closely observe the monstrance. The children raced back and told me, ‘Father, we see the head of a man in the host. It is the good Lord revealing Himself!’

A young man of 16, Adam de Villiers, who had studied in a college in France, also arrived. I said to him as well: ‘Go in the church and see if you notice something strange in the Tabernacle.’ The young student went to the sacristy and returned immediately, saying: ‘Father, it is the good Lord who appears in the Host. I see His divine face.’ Since then, all my doubts disappeared. Slowly the entire town went to the church to see the miracle.

Journalists and people from the capital of St. Denis also arrived. The face on the Host suddenly became animated and the crown of thorns disappeared. I used every possible precaution, and fearing the effects from the rays of light, I had all the candles extinguished and the shutters closed. The phenomenon became even more clear. There was a young artist among the visitors who faithfully reproduced the face in the Host. Later, the vision changed again and a crucifix appeared which covered the entire Host from top to bottom. After the Eucharistic blessing and recital of the Tantum Ergo, the vision disappeared.”  (The Eucharistic Miracle of the Island of Reunion)

A second example of the Face of Christ on a Host, which has been recently under investigation, occurred on November 15, 2013 at Christ the King Parish in Kerala, India.  The Face of Christ appeared on the Host as the pastor, Rev. Fr. Thomas Pathickal, was saying the morning Mass.  According to  Christ the King Parish Vilakkannur website   ” A Theological Commission of Syro-Malabar Church made a detailed study of the miraculous incident as per the guidelines of the Holy See and declared that the Eucharist is a Relic of Divinity.”

The archbishop also asked the parish to document “signs and supernatural” occurrences resulting from the alleged Eucharistic miracle. The International Theological Commission also studied the host, saying the Church could approve the miracle.

It was Pope St. John Paul II who first used the phrase, “Eucharistic Face of Christ,” which was previously unknown in the Church.  Pope St. John Paul II, by dedicating the millennium to the Face of Christ, drew back the veil for us, so that like disciples on the road to Emmaus, who recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:30-32), we too, may seek, find and adore His Face present and hidden in the Eucharist where we may gaze on Him freely in faith.

“May, O Lord, the light of Thy Face shine upon us.”  These words were the inspiration for Pope St. John Paul II to place  the third Millennium under “the radiant sign of  the Face of Christ.” He emphasized the importance of contemplation of the Face of Christ by stating:  “And 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.”  One way to do so is by contemplating His Holy Face in His Presence in the Eucharist.

At the age eleven Ven. Carlo Acutis wrote, “The more we receive the Eucharist, the more we become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of Heaven.” A miracle has recently been approved in the cause for his sainthood, and it is a strong possibility that he will be beatified sometime this year, drawing our attention to the miracle of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  A Joyous Update!: It was just announced that Carlo Acutis will be beatified in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assissi (Where Carlo is buried), on Saturday October 10th, at 4 pm — In the presence of his parents and siblings. 

“Behold God’s Love for You!”

Hands holding a Chalice and Host viewed through the Face on Holy Veil of Manoppello in Italy. (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

 

“Behold God’s Love For You” – Part One

Venerable Carlo Acutis

Ven. Carlo Acutis had a profound love of the Eucharist at an early age. Being something of a computer genius, he used his passion and talents to catalog the Eucharistic miracles of the world.  Before he died of leukemia at the age of fifteen, Carlo had researched over 136 Eucharistic miracles that have occurred over the centuries in many countries in the world. He spent two and a half years creating a virtual museum website where others could discover and appreciate God’s greatest Gift of Himself to mankind.

Eucharistic miracles  are extraordinary manifestations of the Lord’s real presence which point to the reality of the Eucharist being the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist was prefigured by the the manna that God gave to Moses, “When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.'” (Exodus 16:15)The Eucharist was also prefigured by the mysterious “Bread of the Presence” also known as the “Bread of the Face of God”  mentioned in Exodus. The Hebrew word “panim” was commonly rendered as presence, but the literal translation is actually “face.” God commanded Moses to keep three sacred object in the Tabernacle: The Ark of the Covenant, the golden Lampstand, known as the Menorah, and the golden table of the Bread of the Presence — where bread and wine were offered to God. The holy “Bread of the Face” was the visible sign of God’s love for His people. “On special feasts, the golden table of the Bread of the Presence would be brought out for pilgrims to see, and the priests would declare, ‘Behold God’s love for you!'” (Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Dr. Brant PitreThe mystery of this offering of bread and wine was fulfilled in Jesus Christ as the perfect offering to God in the Eucharist:

St. Pio at the moment of Consecration, when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to them, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.” (John 6:32-39)

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6: 51)

Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, Italy

From then, up to the present, people have found this “a hard saying” (John 16:60) But God — who understands our weakness of faith — has performed  miracles of the Eucharist  that we may believe. One of the most spectacular and rigorously studied by scientists was the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano.  After conducting over 500 tests, the scientists were left baffled and published their amazing findings in 1976 declaring in conclusion that “science, aware of its limits, has come to a halt, face to face with the impossibility of giving an explanation.”  Many of the Eucharistic miracles that have undergone scientific examination have actually found the Host to be “the living tissue of a human heart”  as in the Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The astounding results of that investigation were presented in 2006 to Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis.

But as many miracles have pointed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, others have pointed to the Eucharistic Face of Christ, such as the one which occurred in 1902…

To be continued in “Behold God’s Love for You!” – Part Two

Excellent video of talk by Dr. Brant Pitre on Jesus & the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist — in which he explains the mysterious “Bread of the Face of God” in Exodus.

Mass of St. Gregory, Albrecht Durer, 1511

Detail Mass of St. Gregory the Great, Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Durer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of the Trinity in the Face of Jesus

“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, Holy Trinity Sunday, 2017

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

“The action of the Most Holy Trinity — a single plan of love that saves humanity.” –Pope Francis, Angelus 6/07/20

A Discalced Carmelite nun who lived in the mid-1800’s, Sr. Marie St. Pierre, 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.”

“For God so loved the world”

Our Lord told Sr. Marie St. Pierre that she could comfort and console Him by her praises, such as in 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 by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.

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

“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 

 

St. Elizabeth of The Trinity

Another Discalced Carmelite Nun, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, also directs our gaze to the Face of the Son 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.

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore

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

Radiant Transformation in Love

Holy Spirit Window in Loreto, Italy

The life of a Christian should be the faithful reproduction of Jesus in their soul — this radiant transformation is the work of love of the Holy Spirit. “Those whom He had foreknown He has also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” (Rom 8:29) He who loves will resemble the thing loved.

St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote:

After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit… He so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life.  

 St. Paul writes: “But we all with unveiled faces, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His very image from glory to glory.” (2 Cor 3:18)

Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit

In his beautiful work  The Sanctifier, Archbishop Luis M. Martinez wrote about how this transformation, or mystical reproduction, of Jesus is brought about in souls. Archbishop Martinez writes: “because God gives a wonderful mark of unity to all His works…a most perfect unity shines forth from them because they are the fruit of wisdom. This divine contrast of unity and variety stamps the works of God with sublime and unutterable beauty.” Jesus is reproduced in the soul of a Christian in the same way in which He was brought into the world — The way is founded in love, caused by love and leads to love. — “Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit… of the Virgin Mary. That is the way Jesus is always conceived. That is the way He is reproduced in souls. He is always the fruit of heaven and earth. Two artisans must concur in the work that is at once God’s masterpiece and humanity’s supreme product: the Holy Spirit and the most holy Virgin Mary. Two sanctifiers are necessary to souls, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, for they are the only ones who can reproduce Christ.”

Archbishop Martinez explains further – the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary each sanctify in different ways. The first Sanctifier sanctifies us by His essence because He is the love of God, who is infinite sanctity. And Mary’s part is her cooperation as the indispensable instrument in God’s design. “From Mary’s maternal relation to the human body of Christ is derived her relation to His Mystical Body, which is being formed through all the centuries until the end of time, when it will be lifted up in the heavens, beautiful, splendid, complete and glorious.” The action of the Holy Spirit and the cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is profound, necessary, and constant. Mary is the most perfect, pure, and faithful reflection of the Face of God, which makes her the most perfect disciple, and model of virtues to all Christians. The virtues are the means of sanctification; the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Mary, as our mother, has the most efficacious influence in obtaining the gifts and graces for our souls from her Spouse, the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit then perfects the soul with the first fruits of eternal glory: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity — so we may more closely resemble Jesus Christ.

Divine Guest of our souls
(photo: Patricia Enk)

This is the work of the Holy Spirit of Love– to sanctify our souls, shining upon us the radiance of His light, transforming us into the image of God. Holy Spirit wants to dwell in us and convert our bodies into His temple, as He did in the Virgin Mary to bring grace, mercy, and peace. “Love is not a passing visitor who pays us a call and then goes away. He establishes in us his permanent dwelling and lives in intimate union with our souls as their eternal Guest.”  (The Sanctifier) As Jesus promised on the last night of His mortal life: “And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you shall know Him because He will dwell with you and be in you.” (Jn 14: 16-17) 

 

To Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit

Daughter of the Most High, Mother of God, faithful Spouse of the Holy Spirit — yet also Mary of Nazareth, Joseph’s wife, my mother– hear my prayer for grace, O Full of Grace. Pray your Spouse the Holy Spirit to come upon me — to shelter from all ill, to strengthen me to do what is right, to teach me all truth. Pray him come to me, and abide with me, and be within me a fountain springing up unto eternal life. May he sustain me in sorrow, sanctify me in life, and receive me at the hour of my death. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, pray for us. 

Excellent EWTN Video of talk by Dr. Scott Hahn: “Hail Holy Queen: Scripture and the Mystery of Mary —

 

 

 

  

 

Annual Tradition Altered for Celebration of May Feast in Manoppello

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

 

Basilica of Il Volto Santo in Manoppello, Italy Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

This year the annual May feast of the Holy Face, commemorating the arrival of the Holy Veil in Manoppello, will alter the traditional  procession due to precautions taken for the virus.

Translated from an Italian news article by Walter Teti

The procession which traditionally took place in two phases between the first Sunday of May and the following Monday, will coincide this year with the reopening of the churches and celebrations, set by the Government in Italy for Monday. Until last year, the celebrations included two days: on Sunday the monstrance of the sacred icon was brought in procession from the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face to the parish church of San Nicola in the historic center of Manoppello where it would remain all night. The following day, always in procession, the relic was brought back to the church of the Holy Face.

On this occasion, however, a limited number of people may participate in religious services, with limited access to the Church, while the ban on processions remains. The mayor Giorgio De Luca and the parish priest of the Basilica of the Holy Face, Father Carmine Cucinelli, are organizing to adapt the rite to health and prevention standards, trying to keep the tradition.

The program, however, provides that the “Holy Face on Monday morning at 9:00”, explains the public relations officer Antonio Bini, “is brought by the rector Father Carmine, together with other confreres, on board an uncovered car, driven by a local young man who offered his availability to the church of San Nicola, tracing the tradition that says that the veil would have been delivered to Dr. Leonelli in the 16th century by by an anonymous pilgrim. The celebration of Mass will follow at 10 am presided over by the archbishop of the diocese Chieti-Vasto, Archbishop Bruno Forte.

Rose petals tossed before the Holy Face of Manoppello. photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

A very limited number of 68 devotees can access the church. The function can be followed through the piped music. At the end of the Mass, the Holy Face will be brought back to the Basilica through Corso Santarelli…the citizens will participate in the passage of the Holy Face …with the display of drapes and embroidered blankets on the balconies, from which rose petals are thrown…there will be only the usual blessing in all directions.

“They are saddened by the conditions to be observed for the celebration of the party,” explained the mayor, “but both for the extremely urgent situation and for the protection of public health, I urge citizens to avoid any form of assembly and to respect the provisions that will be indicated, ” for which the police will operate, with the collaboration of the volunteers of the Civil Protection.

For Father Carmine it is already a gift that “the rite of the feast can be maintained, in full compliance with the rules for containing the spread of the virus. “I thank the Archbishop for his presence, which once again demonstrates closeness to the Holy Face. He also assured that the celebration of the Mass could be followed, by those who wish, from Italy and from abroad; through the live streaming broadcast on the official Facebook page of the Basilica del Volto Santo. It is to be hoped that the feast of the transfiguration de Gesu, which falls annually on August 6 may be carried out with the return to normal.”

UPDATE:  Homily of Archbishop Bruno Forte – Translation by Raymond Frost

May 18, 2020

Eucharistic celebration in the Parish Church of Manoppello Before the Holy Face

Archbishop Bruno Forte’s homily

Today’s Eucharistic celebration is an act of praise to God for the gift of the precious sudarium of the crucified Lord, preserved in the Basilica of the Holy Face, present among us today on the occasion of the annual feast of the third Sunday of May, which commemorates the arrival of the relic in Manoppello. This thanksgiving, moreover, takes place on the centenary of the birth of Karol Wojtyla, St. John Paul II, who on this date in 1920 came into the world in Wadowice, Poland. The mystery proclaimed by the Word of God from the liturgy of Easter time is thus united to the double mystery we are celebrating, the luminous one linked to the Face of the Savior and the one depicted by the figure of this great Saint, who was a loving witness to the Redeemer, springing from a union with Him that I would not hesitate to define as mystical, whose depths I could perceive throughout the entire week that I spent with him, when I had the grace to preach the spiritual exercises for him in 2004, which he intensely and faithfully followed, and which were also the last of His earthly life.

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (16:11-15) demonstrates the exquisite attention that the Apostle Paul pays to human relations: in addition to his efforts to visit the communities he founded to see the brethren in person, the consideration he shows towards women, to whom he turns with great freedom to announce to them the good news, is striking,  not hesitating to accept the invitation of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, a believer in God, to go as a guest in her household. We could say that Paul’s attention to faces is revealed here,  that is, to people in their unique and concrete stories: if we were to ask ourselves from whom a fervent Hebrew such as Saul had learned to pay so much attention to faces, especially to female ones, traditionally neglected by the rather masculine culture of his time, we could only answer that he had learned it from his mystical contemplation of the One he had met on the way to Damascus and who, speaking to him one on one, had said to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). The vision became in the heart of the fervent persecutor a precise question: “Who are you, O Lord?”, to which he received the revealing answer: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!” (v. 5). The role of the Face of Jesus, expressed in appearance and in voice, is decisive for the vocation of the one who will become the great Apostle of the peoples, as Ananias will confirm to him, “the Lord sent me to you, that Jesus who appeared to you on the way you were traveling” (v. 17): from our personal encounter with  the  Face of  Christ, our lives are transformed, even transfigured, to become with the grace from on high lives of apostles, stories of humility, charity and holiness in the service of the Gospel.From the encounter with the Face of the Lord comes conversion and mission.

The text taken from the Gospel according to John (15:26-16:4), then, makes us understand who makes possible this meeting so personal and transformative with Christ, leaping over the chasm of the centuries that separate us from the days of His flesh: it is the Spirit, the Paraclete that Jesus sends from the Father, the Spirit of truth that testifies to Him and makes it possible for us to bear witness, if we abide with Himand remainunited to Him. Once again, the Face of the Savior reaches us with absolute concreteness in the strength of His Spirit, and looking at us and calling us makes us able to love as He asks and to become witnesses of this love at the cost of one’s life, as so often the persecutions of Christians have shown in the history of humanity. Not only, therefore, does the Face of the Beloved send forth the disciple, but it is also the source of the strength that reaches out to him and that makes possible the otherwise impossible ability to bear witness, completely and without fear, to Him who is risen, The Face that sends us forth by His voice is the same Face that looks at us, accompanies us, supports us and awaits us in the infinite beauty of the final encounter in beauty and joy, which will never know sunset.  From theHolyFace ofJesus, contemplated and loved, comes the strength of our missionary passion and fidelity stronger than any trial..

The Face of Jesus was also for St. John Paul II the source of his vocation and mission and the strength to bring these to completion in the absolute fidelity of his whole life: in the two long dialogues that I had with him during the exercises of 2004, the Pope recounted to me – among many other beautiful things  –  a phrase, which in my opinion shows in a tangible way the mystical union that He lived with Christ. Speaking of the challenges faced in serving the Church and bringing to the world the good news of salvation that does not disappoint, John Paul II paused for a moment, and then added with a particularly expressive face, as if marked by memories, these words: “The Pope must suffer”. He emphasized that “must” with a particular intensity, which instinctively reminded me of Jesus’ phrase addressed to the disciples of Emmaus: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Didn’t Christ have to undergo this suffering in order to enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:25-26). It is the law of love, the need to pay with one’s life the price of the gift of self for the sake of others, summed up, for example, in the words of Paul and Barnabas, reported by the Acts of the Apostles: “After preaching the gospel in that city and making a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples and urging them to remain steadfast in the faith because, they said, it is necessary to go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21-22) As with the Apostle, so for St. John Paul II, the strength to endure so many trials can only come from the Lord Jesus, from His Face radiating light, love, and courage: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

It is also the holy Pope himself who reveals to us this mystical secret of his life: he does so,  certainly,with the discretionand modesty of those who speak of the unspeakable, but also with the conviction of those who have had a true and profound experience of loving and dialoguing knowledge and contemplation of the Face of the Lord. In a prayer recited during his pastoral visit to the Archdiocese of Lucca (September 23-24, 1989), a city where a wooden crucifix revered as the Holy Face (Volto Santo) of Christ is preserved, St. John Paul II pronounced words which reveal profound depths of faith and mystical union, and which we can address with humility and love to the Holy Face imprinted on the sudarium, venerated in this place:  “Lord Jesus, crucified and risen, image of the glory of the Father, Holy Face who looks at us and scrutinizes us, merciful and meek, to call us to conversion and invite us to the fullness of love, we adore you and we thank you. In your luminous Face, we learn how we are loved and how we are to love; where freedom and reconciliation are found; how to become builders of the peace that radiates from you and leads to you. In your glorified Face we learn to overcome all forms of selfishness, to hope against all hope, to choose the works of life against the actions of death. Give us the grace to place you at the center of our lives; to remain faithful, amidst the perils and changes of the world, to our Christian vocation; to announce to the peoples the power of the Cross and the Word that saves; to be alert and hard working, attentive to the least of the brethren; to grasp the signs of true liberation, which has begun and will be fulfilled in you. Lord, grant your Church to stand, like the Virgin Mother, at your glorious Cross and at the crosses of all men to bring consolation, hope, and comfort to them. MaytheSpirit you have given us bring to maturity your work of salvation, so that all creatures, freed from the constraints of death, may contemplate in the glory of the Father your Holy Face, which luminously shines for ever and ever. Amen.

“The Rediscovered  Face of Jesus” — A beautiful Italian documentary on the history of the Holy Face Veil of Manoppello.

 

Click here for Video in Polish, English, Spanish and German

Website for the Basilica Shrine of Il Volto Santo click (here)

For religious articles from Il Volto Santo Shrine click (here)