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 3rd 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.”
“O my soul, you will always find in the Blessed Sacrament, great consolation and delight, and once you have begun to relish it, there will be no trials, persecutions, and difficulties which you cannot endure.”
“Let him who wills ask for ordinary bread. For my part, O Eternal Father, I ask to be permitted to receive the heavenly Bread with such dispositions that, if I have not the happiness of contemplating Jesus with the eyes of my body, I may at least contemplate Him with the eyes of my soul. This is Bread which contains all sweetness and delight, and sustains our life.” –St. Teresa of Jesus, “The Way of Perfection”
“He is always looking at you; can you not turn the eyes of your soul to look at Him?”–St. Teresa of Avila
St. Faustina Kowalska, “The Apostle of Mercy,” whose feast day is October 5th, was known as a mystic and visionary. Her diary Divine Mercy in My Soul is a record of the journey of her soul. Our Lord granted St. Faustina a deep understanding of the love and mercy of God which she was to share with the world. Because Pope Francis has declared a “Jubilee Year of Mercy” beginning December 8, 2015, it would be beneficial to read St. Faustina’s message of mercy to better understand the significance of the upcoming holy year.
Our Lord spoke strongly to St. Faustina about putting mercy into action:
“I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it.” (742)
Pope Francis exhorts us in the Jubilee Year “to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ.” Practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy will also enable us to fulfill the Lord’s command to let your light “shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, “The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”
“I have ever before my eyes His sorrowful Face, abused and disfigured. His divine Heart pierced by our sins and especially by the ingratitude of chosen souls.” (487) –St. Faustina
The Jubilee Year will also have a “door”—a “Door of Mercy”—a Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica and other designated churches through which “anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.” (The Face of Mercy) St. Faustina, in her diary, wrote of “a door of mercy”: “While there is yet time, let them have recourse to the fountain of my mercy.” (848) … He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice.” (1146)
I have often reflected on the meaning of this Holy Door and the Face of Mercy. I believe they are both one and the same: The Face of Jesus Christ, the face of the Church, who leads us to the Father. We enter this “door” through devotion to the Holy Face by discipleship, to see Jesus in the faces our neighbors, through prayer and contemplation of the wounded Face of Jesus and through contemplation of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. Our faces, too, are like a “door” to our hearts and souls, which can radiate the Face of Jesus, the Face of Mercy to others. When Pope Francis came to the United States he spoke to the homeless in St. Patrick’s Parish in Washington, D.C., “Jesus keeps knocking on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the faces of our neighbors, in the face of those at our side.”
“Write this: before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy.” — Our Lord to St. Faustina
The Jubilee Year will end on November 20, 2016, on the Sunday dedicated to “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe–and living Face of the Father’s Mercy.” (The Face of Mercy, Bull of Indiction)
St. Faustina’s Prayer for Divine Mercy
O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy — to Your compassion, O God, and it is with its mighty voice of misery that it cries out: Gracious God, do not reject the prayer of this earth’s exiles! O Lord, Goodness beyond our understanding, Who are acquainted with our misery through and through and know that by our own power we cannot ascend to You, we implore You, anticipate us with Your grace and keep on increasing Your mercy in us, that we may faithfully do Your holy will all through our life and at death’s hour. Let the omnipotence of Your mercy shield us from the darts of our salvation’s enemies, that we may with confidence, as Your children, await Your final coming — that day known to You alone. And we expect to obtain everything promised us by Jesus in spite of all our wretchedness. For Jesus is our Hope: Through His merciful Heart as through an open gate we pass through to heaven. (1570).
The Feast of St. Benedict on July 11th always reminds me of his Benedictine sons and daughters and their special devotion to the Face of Jesus. Certainly, all Benedictines make the Face of Christ in the Church shine through their beautiful liturgy. But, a few in particular come to mind when recalling the Holy Face. It was the Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, who through the influence of St. Gertrude the Great, gave the Carmelite Monastery in Tours, France reproductions of the Holy Face, in 1851 from the Basillica in Rome. This is the image most closely associated with Carmelite Sr. Marie St. Pierre, who received the revelation of Devotion to the Holy Face, the Holy Man of Tours, Leo Du Pont, who devoted his life to promoting the devotion and of course, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and The Holy Face.
St. Gertrude, one of the great mystics of the 13th century and the only female Saint to be called “the Great,” was known for her special devotion to the Face of Christ. It was written that she wept each time she recalled the sorrowful vision of Our Lord in which she saw Him so severely disfigured by the executioners that her heart was filled with bitter grief. “Tell me, O Lord,” exclaimed St. Gertrude, “the remedy that can soothe the sufferings of Thy Divine Face.” Jesus replied: “If anyone meditates upon My sufferings with tenderness and compassion, his heart will be to Me as a soothing balm for these wounds.”
St. Gertrude often saw the Face of Jesus, in meditation, resplendent as the sun, illuminating priests, inflaming the devout and converting sinners. When she asked why the Face of Our Lord shone like the sun, and Jesus explained: “Like the sun, My Countenance illuminates, warms and fructifies.”
On another occasion when St. Gertrude was making reparation to the Adorable Face, wounded and disfigured, she asked Jesus for a special grace for those who would practice devotion to His Holy Face. Jesus gave St. Gertrude this promise: “All those who meditate frequently on the vision of My Divine Face, attracted by the desires of love, shall receive within them, through My Humanity, a bright ray of My Divinity, which shall enlighten their inmost souls so that they shall reflect the light of My Countenance in a special manner throughout eternity.”
St. Mechtilde, a contemporary of St. Gertrude, was also devoted to the Holy Face. She once exclaimed to her sisters, “Let us all, full of holy desire, hasten to venerate the sweetest Countenance of Our Lord, which will in Heaven be our all – all that a glorified soul can desire.” St. Mechtilde had once asked Our Lord to grant that those who celebrate the memory of His sweet Face should never be deprived of His amiable company. Jesus replied, “Not one of them shall be separated from Me.” Jesus then pronounced this blessing: “The splendor of My Countenance will be their eternal rejoicing.”
The other day I “accidentally” picked up a book, by an Irish Benedictine, while looking for a something else on my bookcase: “Union With God”, Letters of Spiritual Direction by Blessed Columba Marmion.” Remembering this book as a treasure of wise counsel and never one to resist opening and re-reading “just a few pages,”which ended up being most of the book, my eyes fell these words of Bl. Marmion, reminding me of God’s gaze upon us, working wonders in our souls as we gaze at Him: “God’s mercy is infinite like God Himself. If we lay open our soul to Him with all its infirmities and sins. His Divine gaze goes into the most hidden recess and brings us strength and light.”
Bl. Marmion writes that our relationship with God hinge upon two things; our walking in the truth of our nature as creatures, who remain always in humble adoration before our Creator, and our dignity as children of God: “Our adoption as children supposes that we act always as loving children towards our Heavenly Father, constantly seeking his good pleasure: “Seek His Face evermore.” This Facies Dei, Face of God, is the smile of His loving approbation. If you always keep the truth of this twofold relation, you will be more and more fixed in truth and in peace.” “Look your Heavenly Father in the face, and show him your soul in bare truth,” Bl. Marmion advises, “…do not forget that He is God the Infinite! The love of the creature, in order to be true, must be the love of adoration; the Sacred Humanity of Jesus stands before the face of the Father in the reverence of infinite love: “He shall be FILLED with the spirit of fear of the Lord.” and he goes on, “If you keep the eye of your soul fixed upon God alone, you will receive many graces.”Bl. Marmion writes too, of gazing at God in faith; “It is good sometimes, when alone with God, to stretch out our hands to Him and look at Him in faith showing Him the depths of our soul that His eye may penetrate into those abysses that are hidden in the recesses of the heart. Then our prayer is pure and very powerful, for the child gazes into the Father’s face, seeking this face, that is to say His good pleasure: “Seek ye the Lord, seek His face EVERMORE.”
I cannot conclude this post without mentioning other blessed sons of St. Benedict, the monks of Silverstream Priory in County Meath, Ireland, who find their strength and inspiration for their mission in the Eucharistic Face of Christ. Dom Mark Kirby, OSB, the Prior writes an excellent blog dedicated to the Face of Jesus, which can also be found in the “links” – http://vultuschristi.org/
One of the important Apostolates of Silverstream is The Confraternity of Priest Adorers of The Eucharistic Face of Jesus, “responding to the need and desire of many priests, young and old, to unite among themselves specifically for the adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and to support one another in persevering in prayer.” Dom Kirby offers this beautiful prayer for priests, “May our priests, by the holiness of their lives, show to the world the adorable features of the Divine Countenance shining with the light of truth and of love, for the triumph of the Church and the spread of the Kingdom.”
I will end with these beautiful and inspired words of hope for the Feast of St. Benedict by Dom Mark Kirby of Silverstream Priory:
“The Sacred Name and Sacred Face of Jesus are fire and light in this world that is becoming colder and darker by the day. In the end, the darkness will be forever vanquished by the fire of His Name and by the light of His Face, and then there shall be peace in His Kingdom fully revealed, and in the company of His Saints who will sing praise to His Name and adore His Face, shining more brightly than a thousand suns, and this unto the ages of ages.” –Dom Mark Kirby, OSB
Happy Feast of St. Benedict! May His Face shine upon all Benedictines!
“Christ’s response, “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father, “lead us into the heart of Christological faith.” — Pope Benedict XVI
Act of Consecration
O Lord Jesus, we believe most firmly in You, we love You. You are the Eternal Son of God and the Son Incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You are the Lord and Absolute Ruler of all creation. We acknowledge You, therefore, as the Universal Sovereign of all creatures. You are the Lord and Supreme Ruler of all mankind, and we, in acknowledging this Your dominion, consecrate ourselves to You now and forever. Loving Jesus, we place our family under the protection of Your Holy Face, and of Your Virgin Mother Mary most sorrowful. We promise to be faithful to You for the rest of our lives and to observe with fidelity Your Holy Commandments. We will never deny before men, You and Your Divine rights over us and all mankind. Grant us the grace to never sin again; nevertheless, should we fail, O Divine Saviour, have mercy on us and restore us to Your grace. Radiate Your Divine Countenance upon us and bless us now and forever. Embrace us at the hour of our death in Your Kingdom for all eternity, through the intercession of Your Blessed Mother, of all Your Saints who behold You in Heaven, and the just who glorify You on earth. O Jesus, be mindful of us forever and never forsake us; protect our family. O Mother of Sorrows, by the eternal glory which you enjoy in Heaven, through the merits of your bitter anguish in the Sacred Passion of your Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for us the grace that the Precious Blood shed by Jesus for the redemption of our souls, be not shed for us in vain. We love you, O Mary. Embrace us and bless us, O Mother. Protect us in life and in death. Amen.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Happy Feast of The Holy Face of Jesus!
“It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine before the generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His FACE!” –St. Pope John Paul II
All are invited…
Tuesday, February 17th from 6pm to 9pm Benediction, St. Anselm Catholic Church, Madisonville, Louisiana
You are invited to an evening of prayer, sacred music, and Adoration of The Eucharistic Face of Christ in The Blessed Sacrament. The Sacrament of Confession will be available throughout the evening.
For those in the New Orleans, LA area, there will take place the Annual Holy Face Triduum February 14, 15 and 16 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Kenner. Each night begins with the Rosary at 6:00 pm, followed by Mass at 6:30 pm.
In addition, on February 16th, there will be the Mardi Gras Day of Prayer. Mass at 12:00 noon, 6:30 pm, and closing Midnight Mass for Ash Wednesday. In between Masses, the Church will be open for prayer and devotions.
“O Jesus, Whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy Divine Image and set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.” — St. Therese