The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

The meditation below is taken from the meditations “God is Mercy” by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti for the Way of the Cross led by His Holiness Pope Francis on Good Friday.  The full text for this Way of the Cross may be found by clicking (here).

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Sixth Station
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

V.  Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.

R.  Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (53:2-3)

He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Amidst the confusion of the crowd following Jesus to Calvary, Veronica appears, a woman whose face and life is unknown.  And yet she is a courageous woman, ready to listen to the Spirit and to follow his inspirations.  She is able to recognize the glory of the Son of God in the marred face of Jesus, and to perceive his invitation to her: “All you who pass by, look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow” (Lam 1:12).

Love, which this woman incarnates, leaves us speechless.  Love renders her strong enough to challenge the guards, to overcome the crowd, to draw close to the Lord and perform an act of compassion and faith: stopping the blood from his wounds, drying his tears of pain, contemplating his disfigured face, behind which hides the face of God.

We instinctively try to run away from suffering, because suffering is repugnant to us.  We come across so many faces disfigured by the afflictions of life and too often we turn away.  How can we not see the face of the Lord in the face of the millions of exiles, refugees, and displaced persons who are fleeing in desperation from the horror of war, persecution and dictatorship?  For every one of them, each with a unique face, God reveals himself always as the one who courageously comes to our aid.  Like Veronica, the woman whose face is unknown to us, who lovingly wiped Jesus’ face.

“Your face, o Lord, do I seek” (Ps 27:8).
Help me to see your face in my brothers and sisters
who walk the way of pain and humiliation.
Teach me to dry the tears and blood of those trodden down in every age,
of all those ruthlessly cast aside by a rich and careless society.
Help me to glimpse your face of infinite beauty behind every human face,
even the most abandoned.

All:

Pater noster, qui es in caelis:
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum;
fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a malo.

Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?  

For more about St. Veronica – “What does it mean to be a Veronica?”

Historic Procession of Holy Face in Rome

Rev. Daren J. Zehnie in Roman Pilgrimage of Holy Face photo: Edward Pentin
Rev. Daren J. Zehnle in Roman Pilgrimage of Holy Face photo: Edward Pentin

A historic pilgrimage of the Holy Face has taken place  in Rome, though few were aware of its importance or of the great spiritual significance of the quiet procession by devoted pilgrims carrying a replica of the Holy Face of Manoppello this weekend.

Rev. Daren J. Zehnle of the United States was present for the joyous event and has posted wonderful photos and a moving, first-hand description of the procession through the Door of Mercy in St. Peter’s Basilica to the Pieta, altar of St. Veronica and to the Church of the Holy Spirit for veneration of the Holy Face and the Rosary.  Mass was offered by His Excellency the Most Reverend Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household and Secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  (Fr. Zehnle’s excellent post may be found here.)

"Show us...Your Face, that mirror mystery-laden, of God's infinite mercy."--Pope Benedict XVI
“Show us…Your Face, that mirror mystery-laden, of God’s infinite mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI

Archbishop Georg Ganswain’s spoke these words in his homily at Spirito Santo Church.  “808 years ago, for the first time, Pope Innocent III  carried in procession the Holy Sudarium of Christ from St. Peter’s to Santo Spirito. It was the holy veil that shows ‘the human Face of God’, which Pope Benedict XVI will never get tired of speaking about; and ‘the living face of the Father’s mercy’ to which Pope Francis has dedicated this Jubilee Year. And also back then, in January of 1208, the Divine Face of God here in this church, was connected to the concrete mercy of men; this church which much later, in 1994, St. John Paul II dedicated to the ‘Divine Mercy,’ in honor of Saint Faustina Kowalska, whose relics we venerate here. The Polish Pope was also a visionary and once more we experience that here today.”

(His homily may be found in its entirety below.  Additional photos and description of the event may also be found here – thanks to Raymond Frost at the Manoppello blogspot. )

Devotion to the Holy Face is the antidote for the ever-increasing evil in the world. The greatest sins are those against God Himself: atheism, blasphemy, the profanation of the Holy Name and the Holy Day of Sunday. The importance of Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy cannot be over stressed.  “Lord, God of Hosts, bring us back.  Let Your Face shine on us and we shall be saved!”  (Psalm 80)

Holy Face of Manoppello Photo by Paul Badde "Jesus Christ is the FACE of the Father's Mercy." --Pope Francis
Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo by Paul Badde
“Jesus Christ is the FACE of the Father’s Mercy.”
–Pope Francis

Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!” (“Let all the earth adore you, O God and sing psalms to you”) (Psalm 65)

Homily of Archbishop Georg Ganswain at Spirito Santo

Archbishop Ganswain with Holy Face of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome.
Archbishop Ganswain with Holy Face of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome. photo:Paul Badde

Dear sisters and brothers!

Sunday today is called “Omnis Terra” in the words of Psalm 65 that we heard at the beginning of the Mass: “Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!” (“Let all the earth adore you, O God and sing psalms to you”). This Sunday was also called this eight hundred years ago ; and even then, as now, in all Catholic churches the Gospel of the wedding at Cana was proclaimed. Since then empires have fallen, swept away like autumn leaves; the Church has seen the succession of ninety popes; violent revolutions and wars have shaken Europe; fatal divisions have torn Christianity. So it seems almost a miracle the tranquility with which, in this Sunday’s liturgy, we sing today as then: Praise the Lord, all you nations!

With this praise, however, today we also remember the fact that here 808 years ago, for the first time, Pope Innocent III  carried in procession the Holy Sudarium of Christ from St. Peter’s to Santo Spirito. It was the holy veil that shows “the human Face of God”, which Pope Benedict XVI will never get tired of speaking about; and “the living Face of the Father’s mercy” to which Pope Francis has dedicated this Jubilee Year. And also back then, in January of 1208, the Divine Face of God here in this church, was connected to the concrete mercy of men; this church which much later, in 1994, St. John Paul II dedicated to the “Divine Mercy”, in honor of Saint Faustina Kowalska, whose relics we venerate here. The Polish Pope was also a visionary and once more we experience that here today.

In fact, 808 years ago, in that very first procession, Pope Innocent III decreed that the holy image was not brought to the nobles of Rome, but to the sick pilgrims and the poor of the city, whose most important abode back then  was this hospital of  Santo Spirito. He also ordered that the papal chaplain, drawing from Peter’s Pence, should distribute three coins to each of the three hundred sick and the thousand poor who were invited to attend the ceremony and who came from all over the city: one for bread, one for wine and the third for  meat. He also connected substantial indulgences to visiting the “true image” and for participating in its procession.

In fact it was an anticipation of the Holy Year, which only later, in 1300, was introduced to Rome by Boniface VIII. This all began right here!

From that time to the present modern age processions and expositions of the Holy veil have never ended. Soon there were countless pilgrims to Rome who wanted to contemplate the Face of God. Later, it was in one of these processions that Dante learned to know the Face of God. It is the Face before which he ends the “cosmic excursion” of his Divine Comedy, as Pope Benedict XVI said ten years ago, when he presented his encyclical Deus Caritas Est. It is the Face of the love that “moves the sun and the other stars”, as Dante wrote in the best known passage in Italian literature.

It is the love of God who rejoices in us as “the bridegroom to the bride,” as we have just heard in the words from the prophet Isaiah; and the strength of the Holy Spirit of whose various gifts St. Paul has once again made us aware in this church of Santo Spirito. And yet, nowhere else does this Spirit speaks more clearly and with more evidence as in the silent Face of Christ, before whom we are gathered here today.

Because “this is the vocation and the joy of every baptized person: to bring and give Jesus to others”, as Pope Francis said on January 3. And this is exactly what today is given to us – to become witnesses, in the moment when the good Capuchin friars of Manoppello here “bring and give Jesus”, in whose Face God himself shows his Face.

In conclusion I would add just one thing on the Gospel of the wedding at Cana, about which so many instructive things have been said: who, in fact, could still wonder that Jesus worked his first public miracle exactly in favor of marriage and the family which are in such danger today that Pope Francis has dedicated synods to each of these! Indeed, in this time of Christmas in which we are still, we can understand perfectly that first miracle as a necessary extension of the mystery of the incarnation of God. For it is only within a family that we become human! With a mother and a father and – if we are lucky – with brothers and sisters. For this reason Christian artists have always portrayed the Face of Jesus referring to his mother’s, and vice versa. Because if God is the Father of Jesus, His Face should  and can only look like hers. And it is this most ancient Face that today in an almost miraculous way has returned to  Santo Spirito in Sassia, that Face which seems to be almost identical to the Face of the Divine Mercy which has been venerated here for more than two decades.

It is a copy of that ancient original that Pope Innocent III showed the pilgrims and which for four hundred years was kept in Abruzzo, on the Adriatic, in an outlying area of Italy, which today for the first time has been brought back to where its public worship began. From here, countless copies brought all over the world the true Face of God that Christians knew. Precisely in this lies the deeper meaning of this moment. Before coming to Rome, the Holy Veil was kept in Constantinople, earlier in Edessa and even before in Jerusalem. It is not possible, in fact, that this Face could be the property, could be the treasure of anyone, not even of the Pope. It is the signature of Christians. Only we know that God has a Face – how and who He is. For this reason, the Face of Christ is the first, the most noble and most precious treasure of all Christendom, even more: of all the earth. Omnis Terra! Before this Face we ought to open ourselves again and again. Always as pilgrims; always to the outlying areas; and always having before our eyes one goal: that moment when we will be before him face to Face.

translated from the original Italian 

 

St. Teresa of Avila – A gaze of faith fixed on Jesus

St. Teresa of Avila Icon by Patricia Enk
St. Teresa of Avila, Feast Day Oct. 15th Icon by Patricia Enk

“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.”

–Pope St. John Paul II

Contemplation is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus in silent, loving, attentiveness. It is a gift and a grace from God. Theologians have written volumes about what has been called by the Catechism of the Catholic Church “the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer,” yet when the Catholic Church wants to teach anyone about contemplative prayer it invariably directs them to St. Teresa de Jesus, Doctor of the Church and Foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Order.  St. Teresa is a “down-to-earth” sort of saint who can explain prayer to us in the most understandable terms.  “Contemplative prayer” says Teresa, “in my opinion is nothing more than a close sharing between friends, it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”

Image of the Holy Face of Jesus that captivated St. Teresa
Image of the Holy Face of Jesus that captivated St. Teresa

St. Teresa suffered for years as a religious from an inability to pray, so she gives some solid advice to those who struggle as they seek the Face of God in prayer: “Never set aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ.” We cannot come to the Father except through Him.  Intimacy with Jesus draws us into the life of the Trinity. “If we can, we should occupy ourselves in looking at Him Who is looking at us; keep Him company; talk with Him; pray to Him; humble ourselves before Him; have our delight in Him.”  St. Teresa complained that she didn’t have much of an imagination, so she found it helpful to have an image of Christ to look at as she prayed, especially an image of Jesus in His Passion. “Speak with Him as with a Father, a Brother, a Lord and a Spouse–and, sometimes in one way and sometimes in another.  He will teach you what you must do to please Him… Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth–that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.”

He is only waiting for us to look at Him!

St. Teresa's statue of Jesus scourged
St. Teresa’s statue of Jesus scourged

 

Feb. 9th, Day 2 – Holy Face Novena

image-13“All those who attracted by my love, and venerating my countenance, shall receive, by virtue  of my humanity, a brilliant and vivid impression of my divinity.  This splendor shall enlighten the depths of their souls, so that in eternal glory the celestial court shall marvel at the marked likeness of their features with my divine countenance.” (Our Lord to St. Gertrude)

 Alpha-Omega Holy Face of Jesus Novena Prayers and Consecration – Day 2

Daily Preparatory Prayer

(to be said each day as you console the Holy Face)

O Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, through the intercession of Holy Mary, whose soul was pierced through by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of her Divine Son, we ask your help in making a perfect Novena of reparation with Jesus, united with His sorrows, love and total abandonment.

We now implore all the Angels and Saints to intercede for us as we pray this Holy Novena to the Most Holy Face of Jesus and for the glory of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Second Day

Psalm 51: 5-6

My offenses truly I know them; My sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; What is evil in your sight I have done.

Most Holy Face of Jesus, we are truly sorry that we have hurt you so much by constantly doing what is wrong; and for all the good works we have failed to do.  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint Joseph, intercede for us, help us to console the Most Holy Face of Jesus.  Pray that we may share in the tremendous love Thou hast for one another, and for the most Holy and Blessed Trinity.  Amen.

Through the merits of your precious blood and your Holy Face, O Jesus, grant us our petition, …Pardon and mercy.

Prayer to The Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, Sanctifier, all powerful God of love, Thou who didst fill the Virgin Mary with grace, Thou who didst wonderfully transform the hearts of the apostles, Thou who didst endow all Thy martyrs with a miraculous heroism, come and sanctify us, illumine our minds, strengthen our wills, purify our consciences, rectify our judgments, set our hearts on fire and preserve us from the misfortune of resisting Thine inspirations.  We consecrate to Thee our understanding, our heart and our will, our whole being for time and for eternity.  May our understanding be always submissive to Thy heavenly inspirations and to the teachings of Thy Holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible guide; may our heart be ever inflamed with love of God and neighbor; may our will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may our whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory forever.  Amen.

Pray one (1) Our Father, three (3) Hail Mary’s, one (1) Glory Be.

O Bleeding Face, O Face Divine, be every adoration Thine. (3 times)

“O God, Who did constitute Your only begotten Son the Savior of mankind, and did command that He should be called JESUS; grant in Your kindness that our heart’s joy in Heaven may be the Face of Him Whose Holy Name we venerate on earth.” Amen. — Blessed Mother Pierina De Michelli

Day 1 Holy Face Novena

Holy Face Novena Alpha-Omega Prayer

Shroud of Turin
Shroud of Turin

Day 1

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Blessed Mother Pierina De Michelli

The Holy Face Novena begins on Sunday, February 8th, and will end on Tuesday, February 17th (Mardi Gras Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). Below is the “Alpha-Omega” prayer recited by Bl. Mother Pierina De Michelli and The Immaculate Conception Nuns, with all the love and reverence they could offer to The Holy Face of Jesus.

So many are suffering in the world and do not know God, we lift them up before the Holy Face of Jesus together with all those God has given us to love and those for whom we pray,  and all the intentions of the Church throughout the world.  Have confidence that God our Father will look upon the Face of His Son and hear our prayers.

Daily Preparatory Prayer

(to be said each day as you console the Holy Face)

O Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, through the intercession of Holy Mary, whose soul was pierced through by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of her Divine Son, we ask your help in making a perfect Novena of reparation with Jesus, united with His sorrows, love and total abandonment.

Our Lady of Sorrows c.1670

We now implore all the Angels and Saints to intercede for us as we pray this Holy Novena to the Most Holy Face of Jesus and for the glory of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

First Day

Psalm 51: 3-4

Have mercy on me, O God in your goodness, in your great tenderness wipe away my faults; wash me clean of my guilt, purify me from my sin.

O most Holy Face of Jesus, look with tenderness on us who are sinners.  You are a merciful God, full of love and compassion.  Keep us pure of heart, so that we may see Thee always.  Mary, our mother, intercede for us.  Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Through the merits of your precious blood and your Holy Face, O Jesus, grant us our petition, …Pardon and mercy.

Prayer to Our Almighty Father

Almighty Father, come into our hearts, and so fill us with your love that forsaking all evil desires, we may embrace you, our only good.  Show us, O Lord our God, what you are to us.  Say to our souls, I am your salvation, speak so that we may hear.  Our hearts are before you; open our ears; let us hasten after your voice.  Hide not your Face from us, we beseech you, O Lord.  Open our hearts so that you may enter in.  Repair our ruined mansions, that you may dwell therein.  Hear us, O Heavenly Father, for the sake of your only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (St. Augustine)

Pray one (1) Our Father, three (3) Hail Mary’s, one (1) Glory Be.

O Bleeding Face, O Face Divine, be every adoration Thine. (3 times)

St. Veronica, model of reparation to The Holy Face
St. Veronica, model of reparation to The Holy Face

“Behold, O God, our protector, and look upon the Face of Thy Christ!”

Advent: Longing to see His Face – The Expectation of The Blessed Virgin Mary

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Mary and Joseph, longing to see the Face of the Infant Jesus.

Although two weeks of Advent have already gone by, now is the perfect time to intensify our efforts not to give in to the constant noise and flashing images that the world sets before our eyes, but direct our gaze, together with Mary, in anticipation, toward Bethlehem.

You may not know that there is a little known Feast Day coming up on December 18th, which begins the octave leading up to Christmas. It is called the Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (longing to see His Face). The Feast has it’s origin in the year 656 in Spain and spread throughout the Middle Ages. Because of an ancient law of the Church which prohibited the celebration of feasts during Lent, the Church in Spain transferred the Feast of the Annunciation from March 25th to the season of Advent.  The Tenth Council of Toledo in 656 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 feasts were changed, the Annunciation was celebrated twice, on March 25th and December 18th.  In some places in Spain it is still celebrated on both days.

The following is  a portion of a meditation, which Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D., offers for this feast, in a book called Our Lady’s Feast Days:

“Mary, Your life with Jesus was one of the purest, most fervent, most perfect emotions of love to God, whom you sheltered within yourself. How can I ever imagine the 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 beings derive life and joy; the Face whose features enraptured God from all eternity, the Face for which all ages had expectantly yearned. You were to see this Face unveiled, in all the beauty and grace of childhood as the face of your own child.”

The Triduum begins Dec. 15 – 17th and may be continued until Christmas.  The prayer for this beautiful Feast Day is as follows:

“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.”

There are two important aspects of Advent mentioned in this prayer that are necessary for us to prepare our hearts for Jesus on Christmas Day: preparation and penance (that Jesus may “find no obstacle in our hearts.”) Sometimes the greatest obstacle to Jesus entering our hearts is our own self-love.  Let us have confidence in Mary’s intercession to help us overcome this self-love, removing all obstacles to her Son, so that our hearts will be prepared to receive Him Christmas morning and experience with joy the redemptive love shining of the Face of the Infant Jesus.

Let me see your face! Terrorism and The Holy Face

“A human being instinctively senses that there is something about evil that seeks to hide its face.”

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Masked Boko Haram Terrorists

“Let Me See Your Face!” ~ Song of Solomon 2:14

What is the basis of a relationship? For a human person, it is recognizing a face and knowing a person’s name. The heart of every human being has an inexpressible longing to see the Face of God and a desire to enter into relationship with Him, to know His Name.

This is so integral to our Faith as to be indispensable. That is why Pope St. John Paul II dedicated the millennium to The Holy Face of Christ. That is why Pope Benedict has written so extensively on The Face of Christ throughout his pontificate, including in Lumen Fidei where he speaks of the light of the Face of Christ shining upon the faces of Christians and spreading as “the paschal candle lights countless other candles,” passing faith from one person to another. That is why Pope Francis directs us again and again to recognizing the Face of Jesus in one another. “Every sick and fragile person can see in your face the Face of Jesus, and you also can recognize in the suffering person the Face of Christ.”

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The Beheading of John the Baptist by Caravaggio (1608)

Watching the many world crises unfold, a particularly terrifying image sends a chill through viewers of the nightly news programs as it recurs again and again. This image, with which most people are now sadly familiar, has several forms: ISIS terrorists, “Russian separatist soldiers” invading the Ukraine,  Boko Haram, and rioters in Ferguson. The first instance, the ISIS terrorist, is cloaked in black from head to toe, posed like a hunter with its prey, preparing to behead a man.  The second image, “Russian separatists,” if  that is what they are, most often appear with black stocking caps or hoods that conceal their identities. Next, Boko Haram in black masks and assault weapons are pictured with the young helpless girls they have kidnapped. Then there are the images of rioters in Ferguson, Missouri, with bare chests and t-shirts wrapped around their heads to hide their faces as they smash and pillage.

A human being instinctively senses that there is something about evil that seeks to hide its face. Evil, that nameless, faceless entity manifesting itself in the world, is not content with cloaking the individual identity of its own slaves, but, above all, evil seeks to mar, disfigure, destroy, and even violently behead, the image and likeness of God found in the pinnacle of His creation: man. It is present in the evil of abortion, refusing to recognize the face of a human baby in the unborn, or in the evil of euthanasia in disposing of inconveniently elderly or sick persons. It is present in the evil of pornography, with the hidden viewer  lusting after nameless human beings, thereby deforming the image of God in both.

The wicked facelessness of violence, hatred, and evil is the inversion of the Christian call to holiness, which is seeking the Face of God. Climbing the mountain of the spiritual life toward God, the Christian abandons selfishness and vice, and then sacrifices even little attachments that hold him back, to grow closer to the summit of the mountain: unity with God, to reflect more perfectly His image in one’s heart. St. Paul said it best: “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image” (2 Cor 3:18). This journey requires self-denial, courage, determination and zeal.

Evil, however, goes the opposite direction. In pride, in hatred, in violence, men who devote themselves to the destruction of the image of God in other men scale the upside-down mountain of pride toward the faceless evil that absorbs their identity and destroys their souls, like the fallen angels in G.K. Chesterton’s poem Gloria in Profundis:

For fear of such falling and failing,
the fallen angels fell,
Inverted in insolence, scaling,
the hanging mountain of hell.

We are not helpless, however, against the faceless foe. St. Pope John Paul II has stated, “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.”

Pope Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to the Holy Face as having three separate components: “1) Discipleship—an orientation of one’s life towards an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the face of those in need; 2) the Passion of Jesus, expressed by images of the wounded Face of Jesus. 3) the Eucharist—which is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His Face in the Eucharist.”

This is not merely a pious devotion, but a powerful weapon against the enemy. Its power does not, however, result in destruction. In his prayer to the Holy Face, St. John Paul II asks that The Holy Face, through The Holy Spirit, “bring to maturation your work of salvation.” The fruit of using this mighty weapon is peace. “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, peace,” writes Pope Benedict XVI. As we are gazing at God, in the scriptures, in His images, in our neighbor and in the Eucharist, God is gazing at us. By this mutual gaze of love between the Face of God and the soul of man, God restores His Image in our souls. Moreover, Pope Benedict wrote, “To rejoice in the splendor or 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, as Benedict says, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing—not even nameless, faceless evil—can ever take from us.

“The Most Beautiful Work Under the Sun”

I Seek Your Face

Deep in his heart, man has an inexpressible longing to see the face of God. As Pope Benedict XVI writes beautifully in his homilies and in his book, On the Way to Jesus Christ, “The desire to know God truly, that is, to see the Face of God is inherent in every human being, even atheists.” This yearning for God has been expressed from antiquity in the Old Testament:

Listen to my voice, Lord, when I call
. . . Your Face, Lord, do I seek!
Hide not Your Face from me!
-Psalm 27

In fact, the Hebrew term, “panim”, which means “face” means to see the Face of God or the presence of God, occurs 400 times in the Old Testament, and 100 of these refer to God. The same word “panim”, Pope Benedict explains, is a term that describes relationships. The word “shem” meaning “name” is also a term of relationship. God has a face and a name!

How do we seek His Face?

Pope Benedict XVI tells us that we learn in the Psalms the attitude for seeing the Face of God: “Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually.” (Ps. 105:3-4) and in Psalm 24, the prerequisites of “clean hands and a pure heart” “Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” “Seeking the face of God”, says Pope Benedict XVI, “is an attitude that embraces all of life; in order for a man to see God’s face at last, he must himself be illuminated entirely by God.” “Let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Ps 80:3,7,19)

God turns His Face to Us

This deep longing of man to see the Face of God arises because of man’s desire for a personal relationship with His Creator. “God has a Face,” writes Benedict XVI, that is, He is a “You” who can enter into a relationship.” As the story of the people of Israel in the Old Testament reveals, God sees us, hears us, speaks to us, He makes covenants. He loves us. Throughout the Old Testament, He progressively reveals Himself to man, to allow mankind to see His Face Exodus tell us that “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex 33:11) Although Moses begs to see God’s face in his glory (Ex 33:11) he is only able to see God’s back as he passes. (Ex33:18-23) It is only by following Jesus (seeing his back) that we will be able to see in his face the glory of God made visible. (2 Cor 4:6)

God shows us His Face in The Incarnation

The revelation of the face of God took on a new and beautiful manifestation when God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. As fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ gave us a human face that revealed the face of God. “While we too seek other signs, other wonders,” Benedict XVI explains, “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!” Something new happens at The Incarnation, because now God’s Face can be seen: The Son of God was made man and He is given a Name, Jesus.

The Face and The Name

In fact, the Incarnation also reveals a direct connection between the Holy Face and the Name of God. Jesus shows us the Face of the Father, for as He told His disciples: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” But Jesus also makes known to us the Name of God: as He said at the Last Supper when praying to His Father, “I have made Your Name known to them.”

The expression “Name of God” means God as He who is present among men. His Name is a concrete sign of His Existence.

Need for Reparation to The Holy Face and The Holy Name

Because of the profound connection between our relationship with God and His Name and Face, sins committed against this relationship with Him are reflected in the Face of Christ. When a man’s name is slandered or reviled, those insults are reflected on his face. So too, in the Passion, the Face of Our Lord was beaten, bloodied, bruised, spit upon.

How are our sins against our personal relationship with God revealed in His face? The manifestation of our sins on His Countenance come about through blasphemy, atheism, disrespect of God in Sacred Things, the profanation of Sunday, hatred of God’s Church. These indignities suffered by Our Lord in His Face represent the most serious sins, because they are against God Himself.

The damage done by our sins to our relationship with God are reflected in the Face of Jesus Christ. For this reason, devotion and reparation to the Holy Face is fitting in order to make amends for what we have done to Him.

History of the Devotion

Devotion to the Holy Face has existed since the beginning of the Christianity. For instance, the “Veil of Veronica” and other images, such as the Shroud of Turin and icons in the East, have been particular objects of devotion to the Face of Christ.

However, a change occurred in mid-1800’s, when Our Lord appeared to a Cloistered Carmelite nun, Sr. Marie St. Pierre, in Tours, France, at a time when the seeds of atheistic communism and revolution were being planted across Europe. Our Lord asked her for greater devotion to His Holy Face and acts of Reparation. Jesus said to her:

“Rejoice, My Daughter, because the hour approaches when the most beautiful work under the Sun will be here.”

The “Beautiful Work” referred to by Our Lord in this apparition is devotion to the Holy Face. This “Most Beautiful Work under the Sun,” spoken of by Our Lord, has dawned at the New Millennium. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, begun by St.. Pope John Paul II in his last days, devotion to the Holy Face is spreading, and the Face of “The True Sun, Jesus Christ” is beginning to “Shine” in the world.

St. Pope John Paul II and “The Most Beautiful Work under the Sun”

In 1997, St. Pope John Paul II asked for an International Congress for studying the words on the Holy Face Medal and Devotion to The Holy Face as a preparation for the Millenium, which he later placed under “The Radiant sign of The Face of Christ.” The medal of the Holy Face of Jesus was made by Bl.Mother Marie Pierina De Micheli, following the request of Jesus and The Blessed Mother in 1936. One side the medal bears a replica of the Holy Face image and an inscription based on Psalm 66:2: “Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos”, that is: “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us.”  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” or “Stay with us, O Lord.”

In Novo Millenio Ineunte, St. Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of contemplation of the Face of Christ by stating:

“To contemplate The Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “program” which I have set before The Church at the dawn of the third millennium…To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all, in the living Sacrament of His Body and Blood.”

“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.”

God gazes at us
While we are gazing at God, He is gazing at us. St. John of the Cross says the gaze of God is active, “for God’s Gaze is to love and to work favors. His Gaze is love and love does things. God’s Gaze works four blessing in the soul: it cleanses her, makes her beautiful, enriches her and enlightens her . . . making her like Himself.” By this mutual gaze of love between the Face of God and the soul of man, God restores His Image in our souls.

We enter into this mystery, not by our own efforts, but by faith, grace, and by contemplating Him in silence and prayer, and by anchoring ourselves firmly in the Scriptures, contemplating His Face hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on through His Life, Death and Resurrection.

St. Pope John Paul II called such acts of reparation to The Holy Face the “unceasing effort to stand beside the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified.”

Which Image of the Face of Jesus?

There are many images of the Face of Jesus, but the image of the Face of God is not confined merely to images of Him beaten and bloodied by his passion. St. Pope John Paul II states, “We cannot stop at the image of The Crucified One. He is the Risen One! As St. Paul remarks, the Resurrection is fundamental to the Christian’s relationship with God: if God were not risen, “our preaching would be in vain and our faith empty.” (cf. 1 Cor 15:14) During different seasons of the Church and moments in our faith journey we may feel drawn to contemplate the various aspects of The Holy Face of Jesus from his Incarnation in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, through His Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The Secrets of The Holy Face taught by Pope Benedict XVI

Carrying out St. Pope John Paul II’s “program” at the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict made a pilgrimage to the little mountain village of Manoppello, Italy, to venerate a veil with a miraculous image of The Face of The Risen Christ. The veil, which has been described as a “living image” due to its changing appearance, also known as “Il Volto Santo,” has been recently “re-discovered”: research reveals it to be the prototype of ancient images of Christ in both the Eastern and Western Church.

The face on veil forensically matches the Face on The Shroud of Turin. It is believed to be the “Veil of Veronica” which most likely disappeared or was stolen from the Vatican in the 1500’s.

Benedict later composed a prayer, in 2007, in commemoration of his visit to the Veil of Manoppello on September 1, 2006. Below is a portion of that prayer:

“Show us O Lord, we pray you, Your Face, ever new; that mirror, mystery-laden, of God’s Infinite Mercy. Grant that we may contemplate it with the eyes of our minds and our hearts: The Son’s Face, radiance of The Father’s Glory and the imprint of His nature. The human Face of God, suffering and risen, when loved and accepted, changes the heart and life, “Your Face, Lord, do I seek, do not hide Your Face from me!” (Psalm 27)

“To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In His Face we truly see who God is and what He looks like!”

Benedict XVI, The Pope of the Face of God

The Face of God is a recurring motif in Benedict’s homilies (most recently on Jan. 1st on World Day of Peace, and on Jan. 16th Wed. audience). On January 1, 2013, Benedict spoke on the blessing of the priests of 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: “May The Lord bless and keep you, may He make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you: May the Lord turn His Face toward you and give you His PEACE.” 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.”

These words of Benedict echo the words of St. Pope John Paul II, that “in The Eucharist, the Face of Christ is turned toward us.”

Moreover, Pope Benedict wrote, “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, the Pope says, is the foundation of our Peace, which nothing can take from us.

Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to The Holy Face as having three separate components:
1. Discipleship – an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the Face of those in need.
2. The Passion of Jesus, and suffering expressed by images of the wounded Face of Jesus.
3. The Eucharist, “the great school in which we learn to see The Face of God”, which is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His Face hidden in The Eucharist.

“Our whole life should be directed toward encountering Him,” writes Benedict, “toward loving Him; and in it, a central place must be given to love of one’s neighbor, that love that in the light of The Crucified One, enables us to recognize the Face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering.” The pope goes on to explain the fruits of this contemplation: “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, PEACE”

Indicating that he is truly the Pope of the Face of God, Pope Benedict’s last action as Pope was to request the Ostentation of the Shroud of Turin on Holy Saturday.

Pope Francis: Seeing the Face of Christ in Our Neighbor

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has followed in the footsteps of Benedict XVI and St. Pope John Paul II by speaking often of the importance of the Face of God. Before all, Pope Francis seems to be imitating his patron St. Francis, in letting his actions speak, by demonstrating “Discipleship” seeking out the Face of Christ in the poor, the sick, and the weak and by BEING The Face of Christ to the poor, the sick and the weak.

In Pope Francis’ first homily he tells us, “The Face of God is like that of a merciful Father that always has patience and is willing to forgive.” “All of us have felt joy, sadness and sorrow in our lives,” Pope Francis reflected. “Have we wept during the darkest moment? Have we had that gift of tears that prepare the eyes to look, to see the Lord?” Here we see the need for repentance.

Francis’ message at the Ostentation of the Shroud reflected further on the Face of God and the gaze of love we exchange with Him. “We do not merely ‘look,’ but rather we venerate by a prayerful gaze,” he said, adding, “I would go further: we are looked at ourselves. This Face has eyes that are closed, it is the Face of the One Who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence He speaks to us…. This disfigured Face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest… And yet, at the same time, the Face in The Shroud conveys a great Peace…”

The new pope continued this theme when on his Wednesday audience on April 3, 2013, he drew a particular connection between the Face of God and the role of women: “Women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord,” he said, “ in following Him and communicating His Face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love.” In fact, said Pope Francis, “The first witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection were women. “

The Face of God has, in fact, become a theme, which Francis has returned to again and again in his preaching.

On Divine Mercy Sunday (April 7th, 2013),“this Mercy of God which has a concrete face, the Face of Jesus, the Risen Christ.” “How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus – How much tenderness is there!” Francis added. “I have so often seen God’s merciful Countenance, His patience!”

On Trinity Sunday 2013, Pope Francis explained the Holy Trinity is not the product of human reasoning, but the Face with which God has revealed himself, walking with humanity.

Speaking to pilgrims June 13, World Refugee Day, “May people and institutions around the world never fail to assist them: their face, is the Face of Christ!”

The Holy Face in the work of Two Popes: The Encyclical Lumen Fidei

Popes Benedict XVI and Francis make clear the necessity of devotion to the Face of Christ in their encyclical Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith, that “Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call and rejecting idols. An idol is “The face which is NOT a face.”
“Those who believe come to see themselves in the light of the faith which they profess: Christ is the mirror in which they find their own image fully realized. And just as Christ gathers to himself all those who believe and makes them his body, so the Christian comes to see himself as a member of this body, in an essential relationship with all other believers.” Lumen Fidei sec.22

Reflected, as in a Mirror and Transformed into His Image

Section 37 of Lumen Fidei speaks of the effect of contemplating The Face of God and how by it, we are transformed into His Image.
“Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light. Addressing the Corinthians, Saint Paul used these two very images. On the one hand he says: “But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture — ‘I believed, and so I spoke’ — we also believe, and so we speak” (2 Cor 4:13). The word, once accepted, becomes a response, a confession of faith, which spreads to others and invites them to believe.
Paul also uses the image of light: “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image” (2 Cor 3:18). It is a light reflected from one face to another, even as Moses himself bore a reflection of God’s glory after having spoken with him: “God… has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians; as it spreads, it comes down to us, so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others, in the same way that, in the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles. Faith is passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit.” ~ Lumen Fidei

A Great gift to the Church – The Most Beautiful Work under the Sun!

The Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus is great gift to the Church; as Jesus said, “The Most Beautiful work under the Sun”; the “program” set before the whole Church to follow for this millennium by Bl. John Paul II, continued by Pope Benedict XVI and now being carried out by Pope Francis: to contemplate the Face of Christ, with Mary, by grace, in Faith, silence and prayer. To seek Him everywhere: in the Scriptures, our neighbor by Discipleship, and most importantly in contemplating His Holy Face in the Eucharist. By carrying out our part of “the program” we hope to obtain the “most sublime gift of God”: His peace. This is “the beautiful work” which will bring about the Transformation of the Church, restoring the Splendor of the Face of Christ to His Mystical Body.

May The Lord bless us and keep us, may He make His Face shine upon us and be gracious to us: May the Lord turn His Face toward us and give us His PEACE!