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
During Advent the Church celebrates the longing to see God’s Face, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a Triduum (three days of prayer beginning on December 15) and a Feast (on December 18th)–It is called The Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Longing to See His Face. (a bit of the history may be found here.) The prayer may also be continued until Christmas.
On the days leading up to Christmas we are invited to contemplate, together with Mary, the Divine Child within her womb, who is Our Savior. We too, through sanctifying grace, bear the supernatural image of God within us. Like Mary, we desire to become a peaceful sanctuary for the living God. We are called to be attentive, in prayer, to the faint stirrings of His presence in our hearts, which will fill us with a deep longing to see His Face as we pray:
Prayer for the Triduum and Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Longing to See His Face
“Mary, your life with Jesus was one of the purest, most fervent, most perfect emotions of longing and most eager expectation of the Birth of the Divine Child! How great must have been that longing! You were longing to see the Face of God and to be happy in the vision. You were soon really to see the Face of God, the created image of divine perfection, the sight of which rejoices heaven and earth, from which all being derive life and joy; the Face whose features enraptured God from all eternity, the Face for which all ages expectantly yearned. You were to see this Face unveiled, in all the beauty and grace as the face of your own child.
Most just indeed it is, O Holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire which you had to see Him, who had been concealed for nine months in your chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the heavenly Father, who is also your own; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will. Yes, dear Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy your desires and ours. Make us re-double our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by your powerful prayers for us, so that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts. Amen.” (Prayer by Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D.)
I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith's walled place,
with hope's expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
Bur only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth's most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in the dark with me.
~Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD
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.
Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:
“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years. The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers which was for the priests and 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. 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.”
This is the great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:
“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His Countenance toward you and give you His Peace!” (Num. 6:22-27)
*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…”)
“Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him” (Rev. 12)
The center of this battle raging between Angels and demons — heaven and earth — is the Incarnate Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who is rejected, reviled and persecuted. The devil wants to obliterate the Face of God, not only in churches that have vandalized and desecrated, but in the souls of human beings. The battle lines have been drawn between the culture of life and the culture of death. The devil’s particular object of hatred is the woman and the unborn. Some can no longer recognize that a child in the womb is a human being. Many persons reject their God-given identity as male and female. Racial hatred is causing deeper and deeper division, and human trafficking increases as humanity is blinded to the Face of God in their neighbor made in His image and likeness.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, the reign of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who night and day accused then before our God.
They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death.
So rejoice, you heavens, and you the dwell therein! But woe to you, earth and sea, for the devil has come down upon you! His fury knows no limits, for he knows his time is short” (Rev 12).
This battle has been fought since the beginning of Creation; between Christ’s Angels and the fallen angels or demons, with humanity at the center of the struggle. St. Michael and the Holy Angels have been given the authority from God by the power of His Holy Name to protect and defend God’s people against both human and diabolical enemies.
Devotion to the Face of Jesus is meant to repair mankind’s broken relationship with God, manifested in the world by the evil of blasphemy, sacrilege, and indifference. This work of reparation honoring His Holy Face and His Name–which is the concrete sign of God’s existence and our relationship with Him–has been given the protection and help of the Holy Angels.
Sr. Marie St. Pierre was a French Discalced Carmelite nun to whom Our Lord gave revelations of the devotion to His Holy Face. She wrote on November 18, 1843:
“One day during prayer, our Lord warned me in advance about the fury of Satan against the holy devotion, but He also consoled me, saying: ‘I give you My Name to be your light in the darkness and your strength in battle. Satan will do all in his power to crush this Work at its roots. But I assure you that the Holy Name of God will triumph, and it will be the Holy Angels who will gain the victory in the conflict.”
The victory will be won with devotion to the Holy Face
Prayer to Our Lady of the Angels, who in her humility, crushed the head of Satan:
Sublime Queen of Heaven, exalted Lady of the Angels, you have the power and commission given by God to crush the head of Satan. Therefore, we humbly beseech you to send to our aid your heavenly legions, so that, under your command and by your power, they may pursue the hellish spirits, fight them everywhere, ward off their impudent attacks, and fling them back into the abyss.
Who is like God? You holy angels and archangels, defend and protect us.
Good, kind mother, you remain always our love and our hope! Mother of God, send us the holy angels to defend us and keep the evil one far from us. Amen.
“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:
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
“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 MarcelVan, 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)
“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
“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:
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, 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
“Prepare to meet your Maker,” one cowboy said to the other. It was good advice. No one knows exactly when or how they will “meet their maker,” so we should always be prepared. It could be by illness, old age, or a garbage truck, but it is certain each person will one day come before the Just Judge. The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” C.S. Lewis once said, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” Would you be prepared at any moment to come before the Face of God? The Church aids us in this eventuality through the practices of Lent: fasting, penance, almsgiving, and taking advantage of the beautiful sacrament of mercy, Reconciliation.
C.S. Lewis once said, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.”
It is not a coincidence that Shrove Tuesday, the day that precedes Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, is also the Feast of the Holy Face. Most people think of Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) as a day of excess and indulgence in food and drink before facing the sacrifices of Lent. But the origin of the word “Shrove” is “to absolve.” Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday was a day to obtain absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation, to purify your soul and prepare yourself to stand before the Face of God. The first step of that preparation is “to look in the mirror” and examine our conscience.
Jesus makes Himself our mirror – “He who never meditates is like a person who never looks in the mirror, therefore, not knowing that he is untidy, he goes out looking disorderly. The person who meditates and directs his thoughts to God, Who is the mirror of his soul, tries to know his faults, attempts to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.” — St. Padre Pio
The “pure in heart” are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13: 12-13) Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God.
The Book of Job provides ample reflections for the purification and test of faith that a soul may undergo to be fit to stand before God. Few people will have crosses as heavy as Job’s. But despite his crushing physical and spiritual struggles, as well as his complaints to God, Job’s words in the end demonstrate the kind of repentance and the purity of heart needed to come into God’s presence and see Him face to face:
“I have heard of You by word of mouth, but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore, disown what I have said and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
A Blessed and Holy Lent to all
“Who shall climb the mountain of the LORD? Who shall stand in His holy place? The clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols, who have not sworn falsely. They will receive blessing from the LORD, and justice from their saving God. Such are the people that love the LORD, that seek the Face of the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 27: 3-6)