“So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face.” –Pope Francis
The desire to see the Face of God has been the deep longing of all humanity “since the world began to be.” Yet deeper still is God’s desire to show His Face to us…
God’s love for mankind is so great that He desired to become visible to men. In the fullness of time, when earth was covered in darkness, the bright dawn of the Word made flesh descended to the womb of a Virgin, so that, for the first time in the history of the world, on the day of His birth, God’s Face could be seen. He could be looked upon without fear and trembling because in the supreme manifestation of His merciful love He allowed us to gaze upon Him as a tiny baby, who is the redemption and light of all mankind.
The darkness of sin and death is overcome by the light emanating from the Face of the Infant Jesus, shining first upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, then St. Joseph, the humble shepherds and kings and on and on. The divine light extends to all peoples, down through the centuries to each of us. As we contemplate and adore Jesus, we in turn, must make the light of His Face shine to others, to all we meet, until finally the darkness is dispelled forever by the Glory of His Face… “evermore and evermore.”
Below is the beautiful Christmas Hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” sung by the Benedictine Sisters of Mary. Enjoy!
Of the Father’s love begotten, Ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He, Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see, Evermore and evermore!
O that birth forever blessèd, When the virgin, full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bore the Savior of our race; And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!
O ye heights of heaven adore Him; Angel hosts, His praises sing; Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King! Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert sing, Evermore and evermore!
Christ, to Thee with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee, Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, And unwearied praises be: Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory, Evermore and evermore!
Merry Christmas! May His Face shine upon you today and always!
Every expectant mother shares something with the Blessed Virgin Mary — the longing to see the face of her child. The mother cannot yet kiss or caress her baby, she cannot hear the sound of a cry, or smell that baby-sweetness, so she waits in loving attentiveness for the stirring of the babe beneath her heart, that fills her with joy and knowledge of the baby’s presence within.
During the 3rd week of Advent, on December 18th, in some places in the world the Church celebrates a beautifully contemplative feast which is called the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast has it’s origin in the year 656 in Spain and spread throughout the Middle Ages. Because the ancient law of the Church prohibited the celebration of feasts during Lent, the Church transferred the Feast of the Annunciation from March 25th to the season of Advent. The Tenth Council of Toledo assigned the feast to the 18th of December. It was kept as a solemn octave, eight days leading to Christmas. When the ancient laws regarding fasts were changed, the Annunciation was celebrated twice, on March 25th and December 18th.
On this day and 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:
“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.
This prayer may be prayed as a Triduum from December 15th to the Feast Day on December 18th, or continue to be prayed on the days leading up to Christmas.
The West is experiencing a severe drought; just how bad it was, was brought home to me when I visited the Los Angeles area this past week, after an absence of six years. I had always been surprised by the lush greenery, flowers, flowering trees and palms that lined the freeways of “Tinsel Town.” That is all gone. Streets, highways, homes and gardens now display signs that read “Brown is the new green.” What was once lush, verdant and colorful is now dry as dust, brown, and dead. The West is suffering from a great thirst for water. It is emblematic of its thirst for God.
“O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting, My body pines for you like dry, weary land without water…
It is no secret that Los Angeles is mecca of images, idolatry and false faces. But on September 8th, the feast of the birth of the Blessed Mother, a replica of a miraculous image arrived in California, bearing the Face of Jesus Christ. It had traveled all the way from a shrine in a small mountain village in Italy called Manoppello, accompanied by the rector of the Holy Face Sanctuary, Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, OFM Capuchin and Mr. Paul Badde, journalist and author of several books about the Holy Face of Manoppello, who were there to give talks about the Holy Face. The first stop was the Carmelite Chapel of St. Joseph in Duarte, and the second stop, Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles.
“… So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.” Ps. 63:1
It is significant, that this holy image should come to this place, at this time. Images have great
impact on human beings, for good or evil, as everyone in Hollywood knows. When God became Man at the Incarnation, He made His Face known to us. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, the Face of Christ is “the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.” Pope Francis, has declared an “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy,” in a Bull of Indiction – THE FACE OF MERCY from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015 to the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe and Face of the Father’s Mercy” November 20th, 2016. The primary task of the Church, Pope Francis urges us, is to be “a herald of mercy,” “especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction… to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplation of the Face of Christ.”
As I departed Los Angeles, a rain shower fell. It made all the news programs, it was so rare. It seemed to me that the arrival of His Holy Face to Los Angeles was bringing blessings and showering grace on the City of Angels. The Face of Jesus is the antidote to the poison of sin and evil in the world. He comes to give us “Living Water.” Nothing less will quench our thirst.
Let us follow Pope Francis’ exhortation to contemplate the Face of Christ through discipleship, images of the Face of Christ and in the Eucharist, and be true “heralds of mercy” by spreading devotion to the Face of Christ.
A special thanks to Mr. Paul Badde for allowing me to use his beautiful photos of The Holy Face of Manoppello!
We Christians are in the midst of a battle raging all around us. We are assailed on every side by terrorism, violence, murder, racism, human slavery, trafficking, degradation of the family and by the most deplorable evil of all, abortion. Videos that reveal horrors surpassing Nazi death camps, show babies ripped from the wombs of mothers, crushed, dissected and their parts sold off to the highest bidder. We pray and pray as it seems the battle has been lost. Battle-weary Christians are in danger of despair.
If Christians are indeed soldiers in Christ, then I would say at this point in the battle, we need a chaplain. I recommend one to you, my hero: Fr. Willie Doyle S.J. It may seem rather incongruous that a mother, grandmother and by all accounts a church-mouse, should have for her hero a WWI Irish Military Chaplain who traversed the bloody, muddy, battlefields of Ypres in 1917. Fr. Doyle ministered to exhausted soldiers of all faiths or none, with little or no sleep himself, little food, no relief, suffering from the cold, waist-deep mud in flooded, stagnant trenches, gas-attacks and all the horrors of war. Risking his own life at each moment, he administered absolution, anointing with oil faces smashed by shells, and then amid bursting shells buried the dead. Once, he even laid face down in the mud of a trench, in order that a sick doctor could get a little sleep by lying on his back. He died on August 16th, 1917, his body never found, he was last seen running back and forth across the battle fields giving absolution to dying men. But that is not why he is my hero.
Fr. Doyle’s life had a profound influence on the lives of a young Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as recounted in “Come Be My Light,” and on St. Josemaria Escriva and many others, not for what he did in the battlefields of Ypres, but in the battlefield of his own soul. Fr. Doyle’s great love of the Sacred Heart and the Holy Face of Jesus was made manifest in small sacrifices, born of a heartfelt desire to console Jesus, hated and outraged, blasphemed and spit upon. Like St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, to whom he had a great devotion, he followed her “Little Way” of abandonment and trust, practicing hidden works of virtue, accepting each little cross or small sacrifice. He wrote,
“Kneeling at the grave of the Little Flower, I gave myself into her hands to guide and to make me a saint. I promised her to make it a rule of my whole life, every day without exception, to seek in all things my greater mortification, to give all and refuse nothing. I have made this resolution with great confidence, because I realize how utterly it is beyond my strength; but I feel the Little Flower will get me the grace to keep it perfectly.”
“How many deceive themselves in thinking sanctity consists in the ‘holy follies’ of the saints! How many look upon holiness as something beyond their reach or capability, and think that it is to be found only in the performance of extraordinary actions. Satisfied that they have not the strength for great austerities, the time for much prayer, or the courage for painful humiliations, they silence their conscience with the thought that great sanctity is not for them, that they have not been called to be saints. With their eyes fixed on the heroic deeds of the few, they miss the daily little sacrifices God asks them to make; and while waiting for something great to prove their love, they lose the countless little opportunities of sanctification each day bears within its bosom.”
Fr. Doyle made daily sacrifices that even I could handle, such as the first battle of getting out of bed when the alarm goes off. “Self-love,” Fr. Doyle has said, “is our own greatest enemy.” Yet we are all capable of “little things.” This is why he is my hero. St. Josemaria Escriva wrote to a friend of an example that set him on the road to sainthood. It was known as “The Butter Battle.”
“We were reading — you and I — the heroically ordinary life of that man of God. [Fr. Doyle] And we saw him fight whole months and years at breakfast time: today he won, tomorrow he was beaten… He noted: ‘Didn’t take butter…; did take butter!’ I have read quickly the life of Fr. Doyle: how well I understand the butter tragedy.” [For St. Josemaria, his own battle was not reading newspapers.] “Not reading newspapers, is for me no small mortification. Nevertheless, with God’s grace, I stayed faithful to it… What battles these struggles of mine were! These epics can be understood only by those who have gone through similar ones. Sometimes conquering; more often, being conquered.”
Inspired by the mortification of Carmelite Nuns to whom Fr. Doyle had given a retreat, he begged God earnestly for the grace to give up butter, sugar in his coffee, salt and so on. Little things are of great importance to God. It was by being “faithful in little things” those small sacrifices, that he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice “to lay down ones life for ones friends.” Let us pray, like Fr. Doyle, “to be faithful in little things.” Fr. Doyle knew better than anyone the value of making those small sacrifices of love that become mighty weapons in the hand of the Living God – and He will win the war!
Below is a passage from Fr. Doyle’s writing showing his devotion to the Face of Christ, and possibly the passage which most inspired Bl. Mother Teresa.
“The greatest thirst of Jesus on the Cross was His thirst for souls. He saw then the graces and inspirations He would give me to save souls for Him.
In what way shall I correspond and console my Savior? I went on
to________and once more had an opportunity of a quiet prayer before the life-size crucifix in the church which I love so much. I could not remain at His feet but I climbed up until both my arms were around His neck. The figure seemed almost to live, and I think I loved Him then, for it was borne in upon me how abandoned and suffering and broken-hearted He was. It seemed to console Him when I kissed His eyes and pallid cheeks and swollen lips, and as I clung to Him I knew He has won the victory, and I gave Him all He asked.” ~Fr. William Doyle, S.J.
If you would like to read more about Fr. Doyle’s extraordinary life, please visit “Remembering Fr. William Doyle, S.J.” at http://fatherdoyle.com/
“How fair you are, O Virgin Mary. Your face is resplendent with grace.” –Carmelite Proper
Seeking the Face of God through Mary
In the icon of “Queen Beauty and Mother of Carmel,” the Infant Jesus tenderly invites us to look at the face of His Mother, “resplendent with grace.” What makes the Virgin Mary’s face “resplendent with grace?” It is the light of the Face of Christ – just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, the face of Mary reflects the light of the true sun, Jesus Christ.
Mary is “The glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the highest honor of our race,” (Judith 15:9) because she sought the face of God, His holy will and pleasure, in all things. Just as it is possible for the moon to shine even in the brightness of day, Mary gives more beauty to the heavens, more glory to God than any other creature on earth. And when the dark night of faith is upon us and the sun is hidden from our view, Mary is there to enlighten our path and show us the way to her Son, until “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 78-79)
At the present moment, although the world is filled with darkness, we can turn to her for help in seeking His Face and leading souls to Him. Even pebbles on a path on the ground can reflect the light of the moon at night; and so the children of Mary by following her example, “to seek the Face of God in all things,” can guide others through the darkness by reflecting the light of the Face of Christ as does Mary.
It is Jesus Himself who desires that we turn to the face of His Mother. He created her with all the perfection and beauty that would be fitting for the Mother of God. Her soul, holy, immaculate and unstained by sin, is the perfect mirror in which He reflects His Face. He holds her up to us as the model for all His disciples as He did in Luke’s Gospel: “While He was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.'” This singular praise of Mary from the woman in the crowd was not enough for her Son. And so Jesus replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:27) Mary is thus thrice blessed, first, in being chosen to be the Mother of God, second, in that Mary heard the word of God and third, because she kept His word in her heart.
Mary holds out to us her Scapular, a sacramental sign of being clothed in her own garment, to place over our shoulders, so that we may imitate her in faith, hope, charity and all the virtues that adorn her soul. By contemplating the Face of Jesus always, together with Mary, we can do our part in making His Face shine upon our world as well.
composed by St. Simon Stock
Most Holy Virgin! Beauty of Carmel! Virgin flower forever in bloom! Bright ornament of Heaven! Thou Virgin Mother of the Man-God! Mother of holy love! Mother of mercy and meekness! Mother honored above all Mothers! Star of the Sea! be thou propitious to thy dear children of Carmel, and to all who have the happiness of wearing your holy Scapular. Amen.
“Our Lady in whose face – more than in any other creature – we can recognize the features of The Incarnate Word.” –Pope Benedict XVI