On Sunday, January 17, at 11 am, the Holy Face Basilica in Manoppello, Italy will have the Eucharistic Celebration and solemn blessing on the occasion of the feast Omnis Terra. In honor of the procession that Pope Innocent III began in 1208, processing the Sacred Veil of the Holy Face in Rome, from Saint Peter’s Basilica to that of Santo Spirito of Sassia.
Omnis Terra, Latin for “All the Earth,” is the name given to the Second Sunday in Ordinary time, when the Gospel of the Wedding at Cana is read. In the midst of the wedding feast, Mary whispers to her son Jesus, “They have no wine.” She then directs the servants to her Son saying, “Do whatever He tells you.” At Mary’s words, Jesus then performed His first miracle: “the beginning of His signs at Cana in Galilee, and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him.” (John 2: 1-11) The revelation of His glory is the cause for all the earth rejoicing, giving praise to His Name at the wedding feast of the Lamb!
The essence of the devotion to the Holy Face is to give honor and glory to God’s Holy Name, and make reparation to God for blasphemy, atheism, idolatry, and the profanation of the Holy Name and the Holy Day of Sunday. Jesus said, “I am in my Father, and my Father is in Me” (John 14:11). The merit of a person lies in his character, but the glory of his reputation rests on his good name. The Holy Name of God expresses the Divinity, and contains all the perfections of the Creator. Those who blaspheme and reject God’s love insult God directly. Because Jesus became man at the Incarnation, it is He who has suffered in His Holy Face all the outrages committed by blasphemers in the name of His Father. God has chosen the most universally understood realities to reach our souls, the most simple and human symbols — the heart and the face. The only perfect offering that can be made to God to atone for these terrible insults and rejection of God is the Holy Face of His Son Jesus, which reflects all the love of His Eucharistic Heart.
We have seen great crowds fill the streets this year for various protests and political demonstrations to honor this cause or that with the religious-like fervor of pagan cults. But few have filled the streets in procession for the honor and glory of Our God and Creator.
A choice is set before us: The false faces of idol worship or seeking the Face of the one true God. For those who choose idols, we have the warning of the prophets:
“One day they will invoke the Lord, but He will not answer them, and on that day He will hide His Face from them because of the evil of their conduct.”
But those who choose to contemplate the Face of Christ will be transformed into His Image:
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
(2 Cor 3:18)
God has a face and a name. The expression “name of God” means God as He Who is present among men. “His name,” Pope Benedict XVI says, “is the concrete sign of His Existence.” When we praise His Name, we are rejoicing in the splendor of His Face. 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.”
Those who choose God have a reason for all the earth to rejoice!
If you would like to participate remotely in this beautiful procession. The celebration on Sunday, January 17 at 11 am in the Basilica Minor of the Holy Face of Manoppello will be live streamed live on the Sanctuary Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/basilicavoltosanto
Let all the earth worship and praise You, O God; may it sing in praise of Your Name, O Most High. Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth; sing a psalm in honor of His Name, praise Him with magnificence!
May God have pity on us and bless us; may He let his Face shine upon us. So may Your way be known upon earth; among all nations, Your salvation. (Ps. 67:1)
“Our Lady, in whose face – more than any other creature – we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” –Pope Benedict XVI
The Feast of Mary, Mother of God
In God’s beautiful design, the Christmas liturgy continues at the beginning of the New Year by drawing us to the Face of Christ with three holy feast days. All three are tied together by a common, yet golden thread–A mother, sharing her precious Son with us, so we may see His Face.
We begin on January 1, with the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, who teaches us how to contemplate the Face of her Son by seeing the reflection of His beauty and goodness in her face. On the Solemnity of the Mother of God, Pope Francis said, “Begin the year recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary.” We see Jesus more clearly through His Mother’s eyes, especially when we pray the Rosary.
The first reading for this feast day is the priestly blessing on God’s chosen people from the book of Numbers:
The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.” (Num 6:22-27)
May Our Lord grant us His blessing in the New Year through intercession the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. As the Incarnation of the Son of God came into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, at Mary’s “Fiat,” through her prayers, may we obtain the grace to contemplate His Holy Face, andreceive God’s greatest gift of peace.
The next holy feast, on January 3 is…
The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
In sacred scripture the Angel Gabriel revealed the Holy Name of the Savior of mankind to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “You shall call His name Jesus.”
When Jesus was named, Satan was disarmed!
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI teaches us, The expression “name of God” means God as He Who is present among men. His name, is the concrete sign of His Existence. The Hebrew term, “panim”, which means “face” means to see The Face of God, or the presence of God. “Panim” is a term that describes relationships. The Hebrew word “shem” meaning “name” is also a term of relationship. “Panim” is also the Hebrew word for “Face of God” and the same word is used for “Bread of the Presence” or “Bread of the Face.” (Exodus 25:30) The “Bread of Presence” mentioned in Exodus was not the actual Face of God, but the earthly sign of His Face. The Eucharist, instituted by Christ, however, is the actual Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. When we are gazing at the Eucharist, the sign of God’s love for us, in Adoration, we see His Holy Face veiled in the appearance of bread, and in doing so, we give honor to His Holy Name.
Who had a more tender relationship of love with Jesus than his mother Mary? Who spoke His name more lovingly? God has a Face and a Name — It is Jesus Christ, our Redeemer! The Blessed Mother invites us to rejoice in the splendor of His Face, and contemplate the mystery of His Holy Name by entering into a relationship with her Son Jesus, especially in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
“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,is the foundation of our peace, which nothing can take from us.” –Pope Benedict XVI
Blessed the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within thee bless His Holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all He hath done for thee. (Ps. ci. i,2)
And the third great holy day drawing us to adore the Holy Face is…
The Feast of the Epiphany
The Epiphany is closely linked to the Holy Face, as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen and mother, presents her Son, the King of Kings, to the Magi–because the Epiphany is the feast on which Jesus Christ first shows Himself to the world represented by the Magi–and He shows Himself through a human face, the face of an infant. On the feast of the Epiphany, we ask God to shine His Face upon us, to reveal His Face to us once more as we come before Him in adoration, so that, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may also reflect the light of His Face to the world.
“May the Lord grant that in the new millennium, the Church will grow ever more in holiness, that she may become in history a true epiphany of the merciful and glorious Face of Christ the Lord.” — Pope St. John Paul II at the Closing of the Holy Door, January 6, 2001
The world may seem cold and dark in many ways this year. It has been colder and darker before. Yet, this is the world that the Incarnate Word has chosen to be born into; with a burning love for humanity, He offers us His eternal love. But how cold is the human heart! And how few want to accept and return the love of the Divine Child. One look at His Face can convert the hardest heart. Let us welcome Him, so that the flames ofHis love may spread and grow throughout the world.
St. Robert Southwell was a young convert to the Catholic Church. Educated in Italy, he became a Catholic priest at a time of persecution in Protestant England. He travelled secretly to England, and there served the underground Church for six years before being captured, tortured, and held in the Tower of London. While he was imprisoned in the Tower he wrote one of the most beautiful Christmas poems ever written, “The Burning Babe.” His trial took place in 1595, and he was executed by being drawn and quartered. St. Robert Southwell was canonized in 1960 by Pope Paul VI.
The Burning Babe
by St. Robert Southwell, SJ, Martyr
As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris'd I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
"Alas!" quoth he, "but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood."
With this he vanish'd out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.
Few people know that St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face wrote plays for “pious recreation” in the Carmel of Lisieux. During Christmas of 1896, a little less than a year before St. Therese died, she wrote a charming little play in the form of verse for her sisters in Carmel entitled “The Little Divine Beggar of Christmas.” In the play an angel comes bearing the little Christ Child in swaddling clothes, and pleading for the Incarnate Word who cannot yet speak. The holy angel invites the sisters to offer little Jesus not only their love, but also their “cares and sufferings,” which the angels, being pure spirits, cannot give Him. After placing the Infant Jesus in the crib, the angel offers to the Mother Prioress, and then to all the Carmelites, a basket of little notes. “Each takes one, haphazard, and without opening it gives it to the angel, who then sings the petition therein contained, — the gift which the Divine Child asks from each in turn.”
Each simple gift with spiritual significance is offered to the Christ Child to show their love: A gold throne…of your pure hearts’ holy fires, A star…the love and light of virtues — shedding welcoming radiance near and far, or Roses of penitence… tears for sinners, and so on. The particular gift for the Child Jesus that St. Therese took for herself was “The Reapers …to gather the harvest [of souls]…with fires of unquenchable love, and glad to suffer or to die for Him Who reigns above.”
There are twenty-six gifts in all, but my own favorite is the gift that encapsulates the two greatest devotions of St. Therese: the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
Children like to have you place them, near a mirror clear and fair; Then they greet with childish rapture The bright face that they see there.
Come, then, to the favored stable, Let your soul like crystal glow. Let the Word, become an Infant, In your heart His likeness know!
Sister, be the living image, of your Spouse, — His mirror clear; All the beauty of your Jesus He would Love in you appear. (The Little Divine Beggar of Christmas Part II – 6, translation by S.L. Emory)
St. Therese’ sister Celine (Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face), also wrote about the “mirror” that is the Face of Christ: “Devotion to the Holy Face was, for Therese, the crown and complement of her love for the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord. The Blessed Face was the mirror wherein she beheld the Heart and Soul of her Well-Beloved. Just as the picture of a loved one serves to bring the whole person before us, so in the Holy Face of Christ Therese beheld the entire Humanity of Jesus. We can say unequivocally that this devotion was the burning inspiration of the Saint’s life… Her devotion to the Holy Face transcended, or more accurately, embraced, all the other attractions of her spiritual life.”
St. John of the Cross writes that the soul “can only be satisfied with God’s Face.” So gaze on the Face of the Child Jesus this Advent, contemplate Him as a poor little beggar of your love, and allow Him to gaze on you, with all your imperfections. Because, as St. John of the Cross says, “When God looks He grants favors… virtues, perfections, and other spiritual riches.” Jesus said, “Let the little children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke18:16). When a soul comes to Jesus in child-like confidence and trust in His mercy — by contemplating “the Word, become an Infant” — His image will be reflected in our souls “as in a mirror,” and we may become His “living image” reflected back to Him. What gift will you give “The Divine Beggar” this Christmas?
The United States elections have made it clear; evil, revolutionary men are ready to destroy anything that is good to achieve their wicked will. This is a call, a plea, to take up arms and PRAY as never before — specifically, with devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. (This is not just a matter of merely saying some proscribed prayers, but is a devotion in every aspect of our lives.)
Crisis Magazine has a fine piece by James Barasel on the necessity of the devotion to the Holy Face in order to spiritually “take up arms” against the evils of revolution and communism. Please read and share it. The fate of the world hangs in the balance. Humanity is at a tipping point of good against evil. Let’s tip the scale on the side of good, asking God, our protector, not to look upon the sins of humanity, but upon the Holy Face of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ!
Crisis article A devotion to defend against ‘Revolutionary Men:
“Regardless of who wins the presidency, the more “centrist” wing of the Democratic Party has taken a substantial hit in the third Congressional election year in a row. Against all media expectations, Republicans picked up congressional seats. So did the Democrats’ radical, socialistic wing that is now trying to push Joe Biden to the left of his already extreme positions under the leadership of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the latter’s accomplices in the so-called Squad. This after a summer of protests, riots, and calls to abolish police departments and even the prison system by a Marxist-led movement whose adherents marched through the streets giving the clenched fist communist salute and chant, “This is revolution.”
Revolution. That’s exactly what they want. It’s no longer a question of contracting or expanding welfare programs but of class warfare. Debate over whether law enforcement agencies have positive value has replaced that over whether racism is a marginal or a widespread problem within them. Gone are the days when the Left supported the Defense of Marriage Act, content with legal tolerance of homosexual behavior. Promises to reduce abortion while keeping it “safe, legal, and rare” have been replaced by calls for “abortion on demand and without apology.” It’s a complete inversion of reality. Good is treated as evil, and evil as good.
If calls for revolution now provoke fairly limited concern, their gravity is severe enough for them to have been the subject of heavenly warnings as long ago as the 1840s, when the private revelations that made the devotion to the Holy Face known to the Servant of God Sister Mary of Saint Peter called attention to the threat posed by “revolutionary men,” including communists, whom she called by name—this, before The Communist Manifesto was published…
“I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put into the deep, …so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world ‘the glory of God on the Face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim.”
~Pope St. John Paul II
The Splendor of the Truth is Found on The Face of Christ
Obedience is not always easy. 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. This is eloquently proved by man’s tireless search for knowledge in all fields. It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life. The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience…
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 (1993)
Prayer to the Holy Face by Pope John Paul II
Lord Jesus, Crucified and Risen; the image of the glory of the Father, Holy Face, which looks at us and searches for us, kind and merciful, You who call us to conversion and invite us for the fullness of love, we adore and bless you. In your luminous Face, we learn to love and to be loved, to find freedom and reconciliation, to promote peace, which radiates from you and leads to you.
In your glorified Face we learn to overcome every form of egoism, to hope against every hope, to choose works of life against the actions of death. Give us grace to place you at the centre of our life, to remain faithful amidst dangers and the changes of the world, to our Christian vocation; to announce to all people the power of the Cross and the Word which saves; to be watchful and active, to attend the needs of the little ones; to understand the need of true liberation, which had its beginning in you and will have its end in you.
Lord, grant to your Church to stand like your Virgin Mother, at the glorious Cross, and at the crosses of all people to bring about consolation, hope and comfort.
May the Holy Spirit which you have granted, bring to maturation your work of salvation, through your Holy Face, which shines forever and ever. Amen.
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the Face of Christ.”
These are dark times — Please pray the Chaplet of the Holy Face “for the triumph of the Church and the downfall of it’s enemies.”
The Chaplet of the Holy Face
There are many “Rosaries” or “Chaplets” in addition to the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Little Chaplet of the Holy Face is a gem, which is not only very short, but also very powerful. The words of the Chaplet derive from Psalm 67 (68 in some Bibles). St. Athanasius relates that the devils, on being asked what verse in the whole Scripture they feared most, they replied, ‘That Psalm which begins: “Arise, O Lord, and let Thy enemies be scattered. Let those that hate Him flee before His Face!’ Then they are compelled to take flight.”
The Chaplet of the Holy Face honors the five senses by which Our Lord Jesus suffered in His Holy Face. It is also offered in reparation for blasphemy, sacrilege and indifference by which God is offended, and to entreat God for the triumph of His Church and conversion of its enemies.
The Symbolism of the Holy Face Chaplet: The Chaplet consists of 39 beads. The Cross reminds us of the mystery of Our Redemption. The 33 (“Hail Mary”, or small) beads represent the years of Our Lord’s mortal life on earth. *The three beads near the Cross represent the public years of Jesus’s Life. The remaining 30 (small) beads represent His hidden life. Chaplet is divided into five groups of six in honor of His five senses. The seven “Glory Be’s” which are said within the Chaplet represent the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
How to say the Chaplet of the Holy Face:
(The wordsoftheHoly Face ChapletderivefromPsalm 67(68) – St. Athanasiusrelatesthatthedevils, onbeingaskedwhatverseinthewholeScripturetheyfearedmost, replied: “ThatPsalm which begins: ‘LetGodarise, andHisenemiesbescattered. Let thosethathateHimfleefrombeforeHisFace.’ “Thentheyarecompelledtotakeflight.” The seven “Glory Be’s” which are recited within the Chaplet are in honor of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.)
TheChapletoftheHolyFacehonors the five senses by which Our Lord Jesus suffered in His HolyFace.It is also offered inreparationforblasphemy, sacrilegeandindifferencebywhichGodisoffended, andto entreatGodforthetriumphofHisChurch and conversion of its enemies.
R: And let those that hate Thee, flee from before Thy Face!
Leader: OGod, ourprotector, lookuponus.
R: And look upon the Face of Thy Christ.
Glory Be to the Father…
Additional prayers that may be said at the end of the Chaplet. We ask the Blessed Mother to place in the midst of the Church’s enemies all the instruments of the passion. A kingdom dividedagainst itself will fall, so may the enemies of the Church be divided.
May God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and let those that hate Thee, flee from before Thy Face!
May the thrice holy name of God overcome 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 stamp out all their godlessness.
And because God wills not the death of a sinner, but that they may be converted and live, we pray — Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.
Vocal prayer… must be accompanied by reflection. A prayer in which a person is not aware of Whom he is speaking to, what he is asking, who it is who is asking and of Whom, I don’t call prayer — however much the lips may move.
St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa of Avila was well aware of our human frailty. She experienced it herself in many years of empty prayer before her conversion experience which was before an image of the suffering Face of Jesus.
We are not angels. We cannot see the Face of God in this life, so we need help to remember to whom we are speaking when we pray. St. Teresa wrote, “When we pray we must be careful never to set aside the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, following her example, it is good to have an image of the Face of Christ before us when we pray as she did, to see with our eyes what Jesus suffered for our sake.
Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things. Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; he is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please him and receive his great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom he takes his delight.
The Majesty! How victorious! How joyful! Indeed, like one coming forth from a battle where He has gained a great kingdom! And all of that, plus Himself, He desires for you. Well, is it such a big thing that from time to time you turn your eyes to look upon one who gives you so much?
~ St. Teresa of Avila, feast day October 15th
This is also a reminder of why images of the Face of Jesus are so precious, and to be treated with so much reverence and love. In particular, the image “not made by human hands” — the Holy Face of Manoppello — is a great gift from God to all of humanity, so we may fix our eyes upon Him and be filled with His blessings.
In the photo above, hiding behind the Holy Face Veil, is a priest who has been the custodian of the Face of Christ for sixteen years, the rector of the Shrine, Padre Carmine Cucinelli. It is no little thing to be its custodian, like St. Joseph, as portrayed holding the relic of the Face of Jesus in the beautiful icon at the foot of the altar. The icon, a parting gift to Padre Cucinelli, was written by Sr. Blandina Schloemer, whose life’s work and devotion has been the Holy Face. Padre Cucinelli will be taking up a new post at the Capuchin Monastery of Giulianova — on the road which leads to the Holy House of Loreto, north of Manoppello, along the Adriatic. The Capuchins there take care of a sanctuary, where the Madonna dello Splendore appeared over 450 years ago. May God bless and reward him for his kindness to the pilgrims, who travelled to see the Holy Veil of Manoppello, and for making the “Il Volto Santo” known and loved throughout the world.
“Sadness is looking at oneself, happiness is looking at God. Conversion is nothing but a movement of the eyes.” ~ Blessed Carlo Acutis
Sin is ugly. It reared is ugly head last week in our diocese when two priests were removed from ministry. Both were priests I had known, that had given the sacraments to our family, and “high-fives” to my children and grandchildren. By outward appearance, they seemed pious. It was all a lie. The reasons for their removal have caused deep pain and sorrow to those already feeling beaten down by the betrayals and failures of members of the Church. They have spit on and disfigured the Face of Christ.
There are endless questions among the faithful: Why? How did this happen? Why didn’t we see the signs that something had gone grievously wrong? The answer to the questions are true for all who fall into sin. The answer is that at some point they turned away from the Face of God — either gradually, by venial sins, or by a deadly, deliberate decision — they chose to look away.
It has been said that if we are not moving toward God, by constantly striving to grow in faith and love of Him, we will fall away and more than likely, drag others down as well. There is no standing still in the spiritual life. Any one of us can fall miserably because we forget we are in the presence of God.
“We need only to realize that God is close to us and to turn to Him at every moment.”
Judas caused the deepest wound to the Sacred Heart, which is reflected on the Face of Jesus, by the sin of betrayal. He chose perdition rather than look in the Savior’s Face and ask forgiveness. Peter, however, after having denied our Lord three times, turned back to look at the Face of Christ, and in one glance received the grace of repentance. God is merciful. There is always hope. We need to continually be aware of being in the presence of God, which is turning to look at His Face. He is always looking at you with love. Please don’t look away. Don’t ever look away.
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 prostrate ourselves in adoration.
The intensity of the episode of the agony in the Garden of Olives passes before our eyes. Oppressed by foreknowledge of the trials that await Him, and alone before the Father, Jesus cries out to him in his habitual and affectionate expression of trust: “Abba, Father.” He asks him to take away, if possible, the cup of suffering (cf. Mk 14:36). But the Father seems not to want to heed the Son’s cry. In order to bring man back to the Father’s face, Jesus not only had to take of the face of man, but he 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 For 5:21).
Is there anyone who doubts that a spiritual battle between light and darkness is raging in the Church and in the world? The last words of G.K. Chesterton as he lay dying come to mind: “The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.” The weapon of choice for the saints of the Church is, of course, the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary
When he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ” Pope St. John Paul II wrote:
“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.”
The Rosary is a traditional Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s Face. “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul,” says Pope St. John Paul II, “and runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ.”
Contemplation is a gift, a grace, from God. It is a communion in which God transforms a soul into His likeness. To put it more simply, as St. Teresa of Jesus says, contemplation is “a close sharing between friends…taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” Contemplation is not something beyond our reach however–we have an incomparable model in Mary; the eyes of her heart were always turned toward His Face. To dispose our souls to receive this great gift of God we need only reach for a Rosary and pray it with humility, listening attentively in the Spirit together with Mary, in silent love–that veil of mystery–to the Father’s voice. When we contemplate the scenes or mysteries of the Rosary in union with Mary, the Rosary becomes an unceasing praise of God; a way to learn from her about her son, Jesus, to discover His secrets and understand His message for us.
To recite the Rosary, which can be called a compendium of the Gospel, Pope St. John Paul II says, “is to contemplate the Face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, His Most Holy Mother…Against the background of the words of the Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, [luminous,] sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through–we might say through the heart of his Mother…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation…To look upon the Face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of His human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ’s Face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s words can then be applied to us ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae)
The entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary and October 7th is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast, originally named for Our Lady of Victory, commemorated the stunning victory, against all odds, obtained by Our Lady in the Battle of Lepanto through the prayer of the Rosary–which saved Christendom on October 7th, in 1571. By keeping our eyes fixed on the Face of Jesus as we pray the Rosary, together with Mary, through her maternal intercession, we too may obtain great victories through the heart of her Son Jesus, who obtained for all mankind the greatest victory over sin and death by His Resurrection.
“I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put into the deep…so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world ‘the glory of God on the Face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim.” ~Pope St. John Paul II