Webster’s Dictionary gives these definitions for “epiphany”: 1. January 6th observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the three wise men to Jesus in Bethlehem or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of Jesus’ baptism. 2. an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being 3. an intuitive discovery or realization [derived from Late Latin epiphania, from late Greek, plural, probably Greek epihaneia “appearance, manifestation,” from epi + phanein “to show.”
The feast of the Epiphany is thus closely linked to the Holy Face–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.
The words inscribed on the Holy Face Medal, which bears a replica of the Holy Face image from the Shroud of Turin, and which inspired St. Pope John Paul II to dedicate the millennium to the Holy Face, are based on Psalm 66:2: “Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos,” which means, “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us,” or as it has also been interpreted, “Show us Thy Face, O Lord.” On the other side of the medal, there is an image of a radiant Sacred Host, the monogram of the Holy Name (“IHS”), and the inscription “Mane nobiscum, Domine,” that is, “Stay with us, O Lord,” which recalls the words of the disciples to Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35). “So he went in to stay with them and it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, and said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”
On the occasion of the Closing of the Holy Door, January 6, 2001, St. Pope John Paul II prayed for the Church, “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.” Amen!