“In the world of the internet, which enables billions of images to appear on millions of screens throughout the world, the face of Christ needs to be seen and his voice heard, for “if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man”. –Pope Benecict XVI, Verbum Domini
Pope Benedict XVI has written more about the Holy Face, I believe, than any other Pope. (More can be read in the first post on the blog.) Below is his very moving prayer to The Holy Face which he wrote in 2007, in memory of his visit to “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello, Italy.
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. 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 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. Pope Benedict XVI Sept. 1, 2007, written in memory of his pilgrimage to the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, the year before, on Sept. 1, 2006.
Divine Mercy, the Holy Face and Peace
“The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s mercy.”
–Pope Benedict XVI
Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, although differing in personality and charism, all have something in common, if we connect the pontifical dots… and the dots are: Mercy, the Face of God and Peace.
Beginning with Pope St. John Paul II, who established Divine Mercy Sunday, canonized St. Faustina, the Saint of Divine Mercy and wrote in an encyclical: “The Message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me… which I took with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense, forms the image of this Pontificate.”
The message of Divine Mercy to the world began in 1931, when Our Lord appeared to a Polish nun, St. Faustina, in a vision. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left was touching His garment in the area of His Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. Jesus said to her:
Paint an image according to the pattern you see with the signature: Jesus I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory. (Diary, 47, 48) I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You” (327) I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world.
At the request of her spiritual director, St. Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays in the Image. She heard these words in reply:
The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when my agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. …Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (299).
The image represents the graces of Divine Mercy poured out upon the world, especially through Baptism and the Eucharist.
Good Friday, the day on which Jesus died and “Blood and Water poured forth for souls” begins the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena, which ends on Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday in Easter. (The novena can be found here: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena.php)
Pope St. John Paul II died on April 2nd, the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2002. Pope Benedict XVI recalled the words of Pope St. John Paul II at the dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, Poland: “Outside the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for human beings.” Pope Benedict said, “His message, like St. Faustina’s, leads back to the face of Christ, the supreme revelation of God’s mercy. Constantly contemplating that face: This is the legacy that he has left us, which we welcome with joy and make our own.”
Pope Benedict XVI did indeed make the message of Divine Mercy his own, connecting it to devotion to the Holy Face. He spoke again and again of the Holy Face of Jesus, “that mirror, mystery-laden of God’s infinite Mercy.”
Continuing to “connect the dots,” Pope Francis, on Divine Mercy Sunday 2013 said:
“Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being The Face of The Lord, who in human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations or in the developed societies. Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the Face of Jesus Christ, bear the Face of The Lord, who even before he was born, and then soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person and – I spoke of the child, let us speak of the elderly, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the Face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the “culture of waste proposes! They cannot be discarded!”
Pope Francis recently made the joyful announcement of a special Holy Year of Mercy, again relating the message of Mercy to the Face of God:
“Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (cf. Lk 6:36)
This Holy Year will begin on this coming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will end on November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe — and living face of the Father’s mercy.”
When the world turns to the merciful and glorious Face of God there will be peace, as Pope St. John Paul said in his prayer to the Holy Face:
“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 Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on the World Day of Peace in 2013, he said that peace is “His [God’s] most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”
Let us pray that the fruit of the upcoming “Holy Year of Mercy” announced by Pope Francis will be peace, not as the world gives, but by the gift of The Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.” This, Pope Benedict XVI said, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing can take from us.”
“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His countenance toward you and grant you His PEACE!”