“I will wait for the Lord who hath hid His Face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him.” (Isaiah 8)
Is there anyone who enjoys waiting? Our human nature rebels against all forms of it: there is the mundane waiting we must endure in lines, in traffic, at ball games, practices, and in doctor’s offices; the anxious waiting for phone calls, for results, or for the end of sufferings; the joyful waiting for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other celebrations. Then there is the heavy combination of all three types of waiting–which is of a mother waiting for the birth of her child. And of course, as every child knows, the long waiting for Christmas to finally come.
Our weak human nature does not like to wait. We want to “get there” right away, to “know” right away, for something to be “done” right away. Waiting requires patience and most of humanity has very little. But wait we must, and since everything in life is permitted by God solely for our good, waiting must be very good for us since we spend so much of our lives doing it.
If waiting is indeed good for us, then it is certain that the evil one will do everything possible to trip us up as he did with the children of Israel while they were waiting, waiting, waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. When God was telling Moses, “I am the Lord, thy God: thou shall not have strange Gods before me,” the devil was tempting them to pride; the Israelite’s did not want to endure waiting to see the Face of God so they fashioned an idol, the “work of their own hands.” Here lies the temptation for us all in what should be a grace-filled period of time: distraction in turning the eyes of our soul away from the Face of God and toward the false faces or idols of the world–bright, sparkly, enticing and all around us. How can we resist falling into the traps of idolatry?
The ultimate good is to see the Face of God and therefore Mary must have waited like no one has ever waited before! Mary, for the love of God, waited in patience, humility, faith, charity, in hope, and in supreme fortitude. She did this by fixing the eyes of her soul on Jesus, her Redeemer and God–Whose Face she could not yet see within her womb. Mary’s uncomplaining acceptance of God’s Will–to seek His Face and only His Face–bore the most sublime fruit in Mary’s soul of divine PEACE, which the world can never take away. So, this Advent and in all times of waiting, wait with Mary, and her reward will also be ours…to see the Face of her Son!
She was sent by God to defeat the culture of death at that time in Mexico. Like the “Woman” in Revelation, “clothed in the sun, with moon at her feet,” on December 9, 1531, she appeared to a poor man of no importance or influence, one of Mary’s “little ones,” Juan Diego. The beautiful young woman, whose clothing indicated that she was pregnant, called him by name as a mother would, “Juanito” – “little Juan.” She spoke to Juan:
“I want you to know for certain, my dear son, that I am the perfect and always Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of heaven and earth.”
Our Lady to Juan Diego
She is also our Mother — each of us is also her child. Mary says to Juan, “Am I not here, who am your Mother?” As great as was Mary’s longing and anticipation to see the face of her little Jesus, great too, is Mary’s longing to see the face of her Son Jesus reproduced in us. Through love, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s virginal womb, and this is also how Jesus is formed in us as members of His mystical body – by the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary — If we stay close to Mary, He will come and dwell in us, hidden, to be born in our hearts, to suffer, die, and one day rise to eternal life with Him. Come, Lord, Jesus!
“By the presence of Mary, you made the desert bloom with flowers, – may the Blessed Virgin Mary’s love transform us into the image of Christ, her Son. Amen.”
“Jesus has shown us the Face of God, One in substance and Triune in persons; God is all and only Love, in a subsisting relationship that creates, redeems, and sanctifies all: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
— Pope Francis
Sr. Marie St. Pierre was a Discalced Carmelite nun who lived in the mid 1800’s. She had had many interior visions regarding the Holy Face of Jesus — including a sublime conception of the The Holy Trinity and the Holy Face — which she tried to express in these words she received from Our Lord:
“Remember, O my soul, the instruction which thy celestial Spouse has given thee today on His adorable Face! Remember that this Divine Head represents the Father who is from all eternity, that the mouth of this Holy Face is a figure of the Divine Word, engendered by the Father, and that the eyes of this mysterious Face represent the reciprocal love of the Father and the Son; for these eyes have but one and the same light, the same knowledge, producing the same love, which is the Holy Spirit. In his beautiful silken hair contemplate the infinitude of the adorable perfections of the Most Holy Trinity in this majestic head, the most precious portion of the Sacred Humanity of thy Saviour; contemplate the image of the unity of God. This, then, is the adorable and mysterious Face of the Saviour, which blasphemers have the temerity to cover with opprobrium: thus they renew the sufferings of His Passion, by attacking the Divinity of which it is the image.”
— Sr. Marie St. Pierre
Our Lord told Sr. Marie St. Pierre that she could comfort and console Him for blasphemy against God by her praises, such as in the words of the “Golden Arrow Prayer:”
May the most holy, most sacred, most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified, in Heaven, on earth and in the hells, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.
— The Golden Arrow Prayer, praises in reparation for blasphemy.
“According to the diligence you will manifest in repairing my image disfigured by blasphemers, so will I have the same care in repairing your soul which has been disfigured by sin. I will imprint thereon my image, and I will render it as beautiful as when it came forth from the baptismal font… Oh! could you but behold the beauty of My Face!–But your eyes are yet too weak.”
— Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre
Another Discalced Carmelite Nun, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, also directs our gaze to the Face of Jesus in order to contemplate the beauty of the Holy Trinity:
“It is Your continual desire to associate Yourself with Your creatures…How can I better satisfy Your desire than by keeping myself simply and lovingly turned towards You, so that You can reflect Your own image in me, as the sun is reflected through pure crystal? …We will be glorified in the measure in which we will have been conformed to the image of His divine Son. So, let us contemplate this adored Image, let us remain unceasingly under it’s radiance so that it may imprint itself on us.” –Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, O.C.D.
“O My God, Trinity whom I adore, help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery. Give peace to my soul, make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place. May I never leave you there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative action. O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You…even unto death! But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to clothe me with Yourself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to posses me, to substitute Yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your life. Come to me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior, O Word Eternal, Word of my God. I want to spend my life listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You. Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that that I may not withdraw from your radiance. O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come upon me, and create in my soul a kind of Incarnation of the Word; that I may be another humanity for Him, in which He can renew His whole Mystery. And You, O Father, bend lovingly over your poor little creature; cover her with your shadow, seeing in her only the Beloved in whom You are well pleased. O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I love myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey. Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness. November 21, 1904”
“I never cease to implore blessings for you from Jesus, and to beg the Lord to transform you totally in Him. How beautiful His Face, how sweet His eyes and what a good thing it is to stay close to Him…”–St. Padre Pio O.F.M.Cap
At the Last Supper Jesus offers His deeply moving prayer to the Father for his disciples, the priests, which begins, “Father the hour has come…” (John 17) Jesus prays that the Father glorify Him and that He may be glorified in them (his priests) and that He keep them in His name that “they may become one as we are.” Jesus prays too, “for those who will believe in me through their word.”
“A priest is not a priest for himself,” St. John Vianney said, “he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments for himself. He is not for himself, he is for you.”
These men, like the first apostles, are fully human and share in the weakened condition of all of mankind since the fall of Adam. Yet they are called by God for the sanctification of God’s people. St. Paul writes:
“Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you;” just as he says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 5:1-10)
The faithful are entrusted to the priest’s care, who as a Good Shepherd, walks with them on the path which leads to Christ. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the priest brings the people to a true knowledge of the Father and the Son and “To the contemplation of the living and pulsating reality of the Trinity ‘faciem ad faciem’ (face to face).” (St. Pope John Paul II) “The Holy Spirit,” says St. Irenaeus, “the stairway of our ascent to God, draws the priest to the Father, stirring in his heart a burning desire to see God’s Face…the Paraclete illumines the priest about his own Person, that the priest may come to see the Spirit in his own heart and history.”
Whenever a priest administers the sacraments, says St. Pope John Paul II, “the priest lends Christ his own face and voice:” “Do this in memory of Me.” (Luke 22:19) “Priests are called to show forth the Face of the Good Shepherd and therefore to have the Heart of Christ Himself.” (St. Pope John Paul II) Therefore, let us pray for all priests and bishops, that the Holy Spirit will strengthen them in all their gifts. St. Teresa of Avila once said, “When you see a priest you should say, ‘There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by Holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul.’” St. Therese told her sister, Celine, “Let us live for souls, let us be apostles, let us save above all the souls of priests… let us pray and suffer for them and on the last day Jesus will be grateful!” [St. Therese of Lisieux, Letter 94]
The Priest is the Face of Christ to us!
Prayers for Priests
“Eternal Father, we offer Thee, with the hands of Mary, the Holy Face of Jesus, Thy Son, and the entire generous holocaust of all that we are, in reparation for so many sins that are committed, and, especially, for offenses against the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. We make this offering, in a particular way, so that Priests, by the holiness of their lives, may show the world the adorable features of the Divine Countenance shining with the light of truth and love, for the triumph of the Church, and for the spread of the Kingdom.” Bl. Mother Maria Pierina De Micheli
“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
Suffering– it is part of the human condition, and it also human nature to avoid it whenever possible. Even among those rare souls who “suffer well” by following Christ’s example, suffering can be a seemingly unending trial that wears one down. Illness and suffering “can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God.” (CCC 1501) In times of suffering people could turn to distractions, inward on themselves, or turn their eyes to the Face of Jesus Christ. It is He who suffers, and no one has suffered more than Him. When He took our human flesh at the Incarnation, He accepted all the suffering of humanity, though completely innocent, to redeem us from our sin.
How do we follow in Christ’s footsteps when we are faced with suffering?
“‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.’
When He was insulted, He returned no insult, when He suffered, He did not threaten; instead, He handed Himself over to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the Cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2: 22-25)
For many though, their suffering may not be a physical one. There is another terrible suffering, experienced worldwide: the separation from our loved ones. And even more painful, the suffering of being separated from “The Loved One,” Jesus, in the sacraments. Again, it is Christ who suffers most, in the Eucharist, isolated in every tabernacle throughout the world.
Perhaps this isolation from loved ones is a warning from Our Loving God of what happens when we turn away from the Face of God by unrepented mortal sin. The result is a painful separation from the love of God for all eternity, which is the suffering of Hell.
What can one do “to suffer with Christ” by staying alone at home? As a Discalced Carmelite nun, St. Edith Stein, contemplated a life of separation from the rest of the world in the cloister. She wrote, “Whoever enters Carmel is not lost to their own, but is theirs fully for the first time; It is our vocation to stand before God for all.” In quarantine each of us may suffer with Jesus by seeking His Christ’s Face with hearts of prayer, as the Blessed Virgin Mary did at the foot of the Cross – “to stand before God for all.”
“For whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil lips, from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears turned to their prayer, but the Face of the Lord is against evildoers.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)
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.
Our world is filled with amazing technology. Man can fly through the air, and communicate with anyone, anywhere, instantly throughout the globe. A person need never to suffer a moment’s boredom because we have instant gratification for our eyes and ears at our fingertips through our cell phones, computers, and television. Humanity has also never had so little peace, or silence necessary to hear the whisper of God’s voice, or so little desire to turn off the unrelenting images on screens in order to seek His Face.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “The world will never starve for want of wonders, only for want of wonder.” “When we are asked why eggs turn into birds, or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer that it is magic.” (Chesterton – “Ethics in Elfland”) In other words, they are miracles, willed by God, which we have mistaken for the ordinary. What could be more ordinary, more common than a man?… and what could be a greater wonder than the Incarnation: when God became man?
“While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe: all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human Face.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI
God knows our human weakness; we need to see, hear, taste and touch. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor to witness His Transfiguration in glory; so they would believe that He, Jesus Christ, was also God. He gives us His Word, His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, He gives us tangible proofs of His Life, Death, and Resurrection in ongoing wonders: The Shroud of Turin, the Sudarium of Oviedo, and the Veil of Manoppello. Scoffers abound; they always have. The cynics are ever ready to dismiss these wonders, without even taking the trouble to see them. They refuse to believe that God would leave His image on a shroud, or cloth, or veil.
What happens when mankind becomes blind to God’s wonders? Mankind then seeks substitutes for the real, but seemingly ordinary thing. The result is a deadly one, as Chesterton writes in The Everlasting Man:
“The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug taking and dram drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins and more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded senses. They seek mad oriental religions for the same reason. They try to stab their nerves to life, if it were with the knives of the priests of Baal. They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares.”
It is an apt description of the nightmare of evil that has descended upon this world; a world which has turned away from the Face of God.
But God exists, and in His infinite mercy, He continues to hold out His wonders to those with “eyes to see,” to behold, and give Him thanks. On the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus’s Face was “transfigured in glory,” pilgrims from all over the world, join the people of Manoppello as they go forth in procession to celebrate the wonderful relic of the Face of Jesus — the Veil of Manoppello — a sign of wonder and God’s love for His children.
“O Lord, You are my God, I will extol and praise Your Name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness.” (Isaiah 25:1)
Did you know that there exists, in this world, a self-portrait of Jesus? Yes, it is true. Pope St. John Paul II has written about this self-portrait 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.” On the mountain of the Beatitudes, Jesus painted in deep, rich hues, a self-portrait of crucified love for us to contemplate and imitate:
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, accompanying Him to the Cross.
“If you say, ‘show me your God,’ I should like to answer you, ‘show me the man who is in you’… For God is perceived by men who are capable of seeing Him, who have the eyes of their spirit open…Man’s soul must be as pure as a shining mirror.” –Theophilus of Antioch
“In Shusaku Endo’s Silence, Rodrigues’s devotion to the Face of Christ becomes the key to understanding his particular path to Calvary….”
While the release of Martin Scorsese’s film “Silence” stirred up much discussion and controversy about this story of Jesuit missionaries under persecution in Japan, very few have noted the deep significance of the Face of Christ in Shusaku Endo’s original novel. This article–The Face of Christ: Shusaka Endo’s Silence, by Lauren Enk Mann at Imaginative Conservativeexplains the pivotal role the Face of Christ plays in the spiritual journey of the central character. The novel “Silence” may also be a good Lenten reflection on suffering, the Passion and humility that we are each meant to share with Christ, as well as a path to self-knowledge, by reflecting upon our own weaknesses in the light of His Face.
“Behind his closed eyelids he would pass through every scene in the life of Christ. From childhood the face of Christ had been for him the fulfillment of his every dream and ideal.… Even in its moments of terrible torture this face had never lost its beauty. Those soft, clear eyes which pierced to the very core of a man’s being were now fixed upon him. The face that could do no wrong, utter no word of insult….” (full article here)
“Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.” –Pope Francis, Face of Mercy
The final stop of our pilgrimage was Rome and to enter the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of the Assumption. Most pilgrims to Italy begin their pilgrimage in Rome, but there was a reason that I chose St. Peter’s for the final destination of our pilgrimage and it had to do with the pope. Sometimes our motivation for doing things isn’t always clear, not even to ourselves. It was upon reflection, in hindsight, that I understood why the order of the pilgrimage and also why seeing the Holy Father last, was so important to me.
Looking back on our pilgrimage for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we began with the image of the Face of Jesus in the Veil of Manoppello. The bible tells us that there is only one mediator between God and man–Jesus Christ. (1 Tim 2:5) The Face of Jesus Christ is like a Door of Mercy–the face of the Church, through which we reach the Father. We enter this “door” through devotion to the Holy Face through prayers and contemplation of the wounded Face of Jesus; by discipleship, to see Jesus in the Face of our neighbors, in the poor, the sick and the suffering; and through the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, from which we draw the grace and strength needed for our journey. Then our faces, too, become like a “door” to our hearts and souls, and can radiate the Face of Jesus, the Face of Mercy to others. Therefore, the “door” of the Face of Jesus was the best place for us to begin, the start of the journey.
After the sanctuary of Manoppello there were other steps along our path to seek the Face of God. The next step was Loreto–entering the door of the Holy Home in Nazareth. God himself chose Mary as the ark of His dwelling place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in this home. Through Mary and the Holy Family we learn the examples of humility, obedience, and love. Here we saw the Face of Jesus in the Eucharist and in the sick and suffering.
Next was Assisi–a powerful reminder of the Communion of Saints. We are not alone in our quest to see the Face of God but have brothers and sisters in Heaven who have gone before us and are ready to help us if we only ask their help and guidance in trials and tribulations. Their example encourages us to be a consolation and help, or a “Veronica,” to Jesus in our brothers and sisters here on earth. Reminding us that “…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (Mt. 25:40)
And lastly, Rome. Every year millions upon millions of people go to Rome just to get even a little glimpse of the pope. Most people consider those who actually have met the pope very fortunate. Why? After all, he is just a man like any other man, isn’t he? Well, yes and no. Yes, Jorge Bergolio is a man, but as Pope Francis he is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and, whoever sees Jesus, sees the Father. (Jn. 14:9) In a way, by seeking out the face of the pope, his words, and his blessing, we are seeking the Face of Our Father in Heaven. All mankind has been created in the image and likeness of God and we have a natural longing, therefore, to see His Face; to enter into relationship with Him. When the Word of God became man in Jesus Christ, at the Incarnation, what was previously impossible (to see God) became possible. In God’s infinite mercy He has not left us orphans; in and through Jesus He has given us His Church, His ministers, and His sacraments, so that is possible for us here on earth, albeit in an imperfect way, to see His Face.
Our pilgrimage mirrored the journey of the Christian soul on earth: through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints toward the Face of the Father. Our pilgrimage did not end in Rome, but begins anew each day. We continue to seek His Face by taking up our cross and following Him in the hope that finally one day we will have the joy of truly seeing Him as He is in eternal glory.
In Gratitude to God
“The grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in Him for everlasting life. To the King of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever.” (1 Tim. 1:14-17)
Pt. 2: The Feast of the Transfiguration in Manoppello
“Jesus took Peter, James and John…and led them to a high mountain by themselves. And He transfigured before them; His Face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light…Lord, it is good to be here.” (Mt. 17:1-2,4)
There are several important feasts of the Holy Face–Shrove Tuesday (the day preceding Ash Wednesday) and Good Friday are two, each focused on reparation to the Face of Christ. In Manoppello, the day the Holy Veil arrived in the hands of a mysterious stranger is celebrated as a joyful feast in May, as well as a celebration on August 6th, the feast of the Transfiguration.
Being in Manoppello on the feast of the Transfiguration reminded me of an important event in the life of St. Therese. The day before the feast of the Transfiguration, a few weeks before her death, St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus lay dying. Her sisters brought her a picture of the Holy Face and placed it where she could see it, pinned to her bed curtains. St. Therese exclaimed, “Oh, how much good that Holy Face has done me in my life!” The Transfiguration was always celebrated in the Lisieux Carmelite convent by honoring the Holy Face. St. Therese had, on a previous feast of the Transfiguration, sprinkled the image with perfume and tossed rose petals before it. (I always wondered why Discalced Carmelite nuns had the perfume, but, after all, it was France!) It was on the Transfiguration that Therese, along with a few companions, made a solemn consecration to the Holy Face as an extension of their Oblation to His Merciful Love, desiring to be “Veronicas” by consoling Jesus in His Passion and offering souls to Him. The Transfiguration is always a preparation for the mystery of the Cross.
“O Beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we contemplate Your infinite Glory our one desire is to charm Your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too, so that here on earth no one can recognize us. O Jesus! Your veiled gaze is our heaven!”–St. Therese
When we visited Manoppello, the blessed day of the Transfiguration was to be celebrated at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face by bringing the Veil in procession from the reliquary high above the altar to another in front of the altar where it could be viewed and venerated on all sides by the faithful. Music and celebrations were planned in the piazza for the day and in the evening there was to be a solemn procession through the lighted streets culminating with Benediction.
I had planned my pilgrimage around the feast of the Transfiguration after seeing Paul Badde‘s beautiful photos of the procession in honor of the Holy Face on Pentecost, May 15th. I had such a great longing to honor His Holy Face in this way by participating in a jubilant procession such as the one on Pentecost! It was the whole impetus for my making the pilgrimage and I looked forward to the event with great joy and expectation. However, man’s plans are not God’s plans and “into every life a little rain must fall” and so it did. It rained, and it rained and it rained. Cats and dogs! The procession was cancelled, or rather post-poned till Sunday night when the weather was more favorable and when I would not be there.
Naturally, I was disappointed but, still, here He was before me in the church, so that is where I remained for the day. The previous day Sr. Petra-Maria had given me a tour of the beautiful museum and filled my mind and heart with the research, history, treasures, and mysteries of the Sacred Veil of Manoppello. I haven’t spoken much about the Holy Veil itself so far, for one reason: that it is too great to be expressed in words. But I will make a pitiful attempt, like the photographs, which–although some are quite beautiful–can never fully capture what is seen by the viewer. The Veil of Manoppello is an image “not made by human hands” it is a miracle of light and a reflection of Creation–ever changing, ever new. It is dark, it is brilliant, it is somber, joyful, always merciful, always peaceful. If you see nothing, stand at a different angle–and there He is! Sr. Petra-Maria told me that there is one angle from which you can always see the image–but “you must become like little children.” (Mt. 18:3)
I can attest to the truth of what Sr. Petra-Maria said, “you must become like little children.” Back in 2012, when I first climbed the stairs and stood high behind the altar to view the Veil, the Face of Jesus appeared, bruised, bloodied, swollen. I could see the marks from thorns, the torn beard, His eyes peaceful yet filled with tears. I then knelt down in prayer and sorrow. From this angle, the perspective of a little child, I saw the Holy Face anew, no longer bloodied and bruised, but as though a living reflection in a mirror, and once held in that Gaze my heart has been captivated by it ever since. It is the Face of Mercy!
Throughout the day, as I prayed, I was greatly edified by the reactions of the people who streamed in to pay their reverence and express their love. I stayed until evening when my husband arrived, umbrella in hand, and we made our way through the pouring rain back to the hotel. The next morning after Mass we would leave the Holy Face Sanctuary for the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto. (to be continued in Pt. 3)