Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Mt. 5:8)
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!
As those who see light are in the light sharing its brilliance, so those who see God are in God sharing his glory, and the glory gives them life. To see God is to share in life.” ~St. Ireneaus
“In Thee God will manifest the splendor of His presence, for the whole world to see”~Baruch 4
Merry Christmas! May His Face shine upon you and your loved ones, today and always!
by St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus
At the Holy Sepulcher, Mary Magdalene,
Searching for her Jesus, stooped down in tears.
The angels wanted to console her sorrow,
But nothing could calm her grief.
Bright angels, it was not you
Whom this fervent soul came searching for.
She wanted to see the Lord of the Angels,
To take him in her arms, to carry him far away.
Close by the tomb, the last one to stay,
She had come well before dawn.
Her God also came, veiling his light.
Mary could not vanquish him in love!
Showing her at first his Blessed Face,
Soon just one word sprang from his Heart.
Whispering the sweet name of: Mary,
Jesus gave back her peace, her happiness.
O my God, one day, like Mary Magdalene,
I wanted to see you and come close to you.
I looked down over the immense plain
Where I sought the Master and King,
And I cried, seeing the pure wave,
The starry azure, the flower, and the bird:
“Bright nature, if I do not see God,
You are nothing to me but a vast tomb.
“I need a heart burning with tenderness,
Who will be my support forever,
Who loves everything in me, even my weakness…
And who never leaves me day or night. ”
I could find no creature
Who could always love me and never die.
I must have a God who takes on my nature
And becomes my brother and is able to suffer!
Your heard me, only Friend whom I love.
To ravish my heart, you became man.
You shed your blood, what a supreme mystery!..
And you still live for me on the Altar.
If I cannot see the brilliance of your Face
Or hear your sweet voice,
O my God, I can live by your grace,
I can rest on your Sacred Heart!
O Heart of Jesus, treasure of tenderness,
You Yourself are my happiness, my only hope.
You who knew how to charm my tender youth,
Stay near me till the last night.
Lord, to you alone I’ve given my life,
And all my desires are well-known to you.
It’s in your ever-infinite goodness
That I want to lose myself, O Heart of Jesus!
Ah! I know well, all our righteousness
Is worthless in your sight.
To give value to my sacrifices,
I want to cast them into your Divine Heart.
You did not find your angels without blemish.
In the midst of lightning you gave your law!…
I hide myself in your Sacred Heart, Jesus.
I do not fear, my virtue is You!…
To be able to gaze on your glory,
I know we have to pass through fire.
So I, for my purgatory,
Choose your burning love, O heart of my God!
On leaving this life, my exiled soul
Would like to make an act of pure love,
And then, flying away to Heaven, its Homeland,
Enter straightaway into your Heart.
In God’s beautiful design, the Christmas liturgy continues at the beginning of the New Year by drawing us toward the Face of Christ with three holy feast days. We begin on January 1, with the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, who teaches us how to contemplate the Face of her Son. The first reading for this feast day is the priestly blessing on God’s chosen people from the book of Numbers.
The Feast of Mary, Mother of God
The LORD said to Moses: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Num 6:22-27)
In celebrating the centenary of Fatima, Pope Francis gave this reflection of that scripture passage: “This blessing was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. No other creature ever basked in the light of God’s Face as did Mary; she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father. Now we can contemplate her in the succession of joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious moments of her life, which we revisit in our recitation of the rosary…With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true Face of Jesus the Saviour.”
At the last New Year Pope Francis said,
“Begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers…”
The next holy feast, on January 3 is…
The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI teaches us, The expression “name of God” means God as He Who is present among men. His name, is the concrete sign of His Existence. The Hebrew term, “panim”, which means “face” means to see The Face of God, or the presence of God. “Panim” is a term that describes relationships. The Hebrew word “shem” meaning “name” is also a term of relationship. God has a Face and a Name!
“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,is the foundation of our Peace, which nothing can take from us.”
And the third great holy day drawing us to adore the Holy Face is…
The Feast of the Epiphany
The Epiphany is 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 as we come before Him in adoration.
On the occasion of the Closing of the Holy Door, January 6, 2001, Pope St. 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.”
May Our Lord grant us, in this New Year, through intercession the Blessed Virgin Mary, the grace to contemplate always His Holy Face.
The communication of the Most Holy Trinity is a communication of Persons– Father, Son and Holy Spirit — their communication is love. God also communicates His love to all mankind so that we may know Him and love Him. We learn about God not only from His creation, but through other human beings. We are all made in His image and likeness, after all, reflecting God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. As is written in the Book of Wisdom, “for from greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of the Creator.”(Wis. 13:5)
We have the capacity to know God because we are created in His image and likeness; however, we also learn, from ourselves and those around us, how unlike God we are. St. Thomas Aquinas says, “concerning God, we cannot grasp what He is, but only what He is not, and how other beings stand in relation to Him.”The internet has a great potential for real communication; that is, to convey information exchanged between persons, that could really help us learn about the love of God. Unfortunately, mass communication, such as the internet, communicates more about what God is not, than what God is.
“In the world of the internet, which enables billions of images to appear on millions of screens throughout the world, the Face of Christ needs to be seen and his voice heard, for ‘if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man’.” –Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini
Those who love God, therefore, would naturally desire to communicate His love to other human beings through the Face of Christ–using the means which God Himself has chosen to communicate His love to us. The Face of Christ needs to “be seen and His voice heard” on the internet. But where do we see the Face of Christ on the internet? Where do we hear His voice?
Sadly, even some Christians on the internet present “a face and voice” more like the evil one, than that of Jesus Christ. Most often Jesus’s Face is hidden in a nauseating ocean of hatred, anger, banality, and filth. But He is still present there in our internet “neighbors” whose faces pass by as we scroll down our screens each day: The innocent children in danger, victims of natural disasters, violence, terrorism, addiction, human trafficking, the spiritually blind and lame — all manner of human suffering, together with perpetrators of crime equally in need of our prayers. Though we are separated from them by a computer screen, the suffering Face of Jesus is present in all their faces and voices.
The first element of Devotion to the Holy Face, says Pope Benedict XVI, is “discipleship and orientation of one’s life towards an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the face of those in need.” We need to begin by seeking out the Divine Image in them, and also by becoming the “face and voice of Christ” to them. In order to do this, “believers first need to become better acquainted with Jesus through the Eucharist,” allowing ourselves first to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into His image, thereby reflecting the Face of Christ to other souls made in His image–to be communicators of His love.
The Divine Image
To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love All pray in their distress; And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love Is God, our Father dear, And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love Is man, His child and care.
For Mercy has a human heart, Pity a human face, And Love, the human form divine, And Peace, the human dress.
Then every man, of every clime, That prays in his distress, Prays in the human for divine, Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.
And all must love the human form, In heathen Turk, or Jew; Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell There God is dwelling too.
Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:
“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years. The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers:
“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. 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.”
This is the same, great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:
“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His Countenance toward you and give you His Peace!” (Num. 6:22-27)
*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…”)
“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being a viator, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination…each according to his or her ability will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion; by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” –Pope Francis from The Face of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus
Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and so our souls have a yearning, a natural longing for the infinite. We are called to communion with God, to see Him “face to face.” He is calling us to seek Him, to know Him, and love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. The history of salvation can be described as a gradual discovery of the Face of God by nations and individuals, marked by their battles, falls and triumphs, as they turn toward or away from the Face of God, on a pilgrimage–a journey which will only end when each person comes “face to face” with God.
The Year of Mercy cannot be complete until we have made some sort of pilgrimage toward God. Although I had made a local pilgrimage to the Door of Mercy at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, I had felt a very strong tug in my heart to return to Italy and re-visit places of pilgrimage that were especially meaningful to me. Together with my husband, I made the necessary preparations, but, the most important “packing” for the journey was to remember on our pilgrimage all those God has given us to love, and their intentions, people that we would like to have with us, but could not make the journey. We especially carried within our hearts those who were too sick, or too old, as well as those who have lost their faith, the deceased, and people in our country and in the world in need of someone’s prayers, placing all in our hearts so that we could carry them, in spirit, through the Doors of Mercy.
We began with the place in which I encountered the Face of Mercy in a very profound way in October of 2012: the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in the small mountain village of Manoppello. This humble, beautiful village has hidden in its heart, for centuries, what St. Pio of Pietrelcina called “The greatest relic of the Church”–a gossamer-thin byssus veil, bearing, in a miraculous way, an image of the human Face of Jesus.
We arrived very late at night after 28 hours of travel to a hotel in the village very near the Sanctuary. The next morning we walked to the Basilica for Mass, entering the beautiful dedicated Holy Door, engraved with depictions of events in the history of the Veil. My favorite was the panel recalling the visit of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the Shrine in September of 2006. It was a year later, that he wrote his moving prayer to the Holy Face in honor of that occasion and elevated the Shrine to the status of a Basilica.
The day after we arrived was a special occasion as well, as the next day, August 6th, was a Feast of the Holy Face, the Transfiguration. The Veil, normally kept in a special reliquary high above the back of the altar (but accessible by a stairway from behind) was to be brought down after the Mass and placed in another movable reliquary, used in processions, near the front of the altar. The Veil would remain there throughout the day for prayers and veneration of the faithful, then be returned to its place behind the altar for the night.
Earlier in the day, on the steps leading up to the relic, I bumped into journalist Paul Badde, who has taken more photos perhaps than anyone of the Holy Veil and written so much about its amazing re-discovery. I couldn’t have been more surprised than if I had bumped into Lazarus emerging from the tomb! Paul has been making an amazing recovery from heart surgery, stroke, and a coma which lasted for more than
three weeks during Lent of 2016. Paul later introduced me to Sr. Petra-Maria, who, I soon discovered, shares with pilgrims her extensive knowledge and love for “Il Volto Santo.” Like two other nuns, who shared similar names–Sr. Marie St. Pierre, a Discalced Carmelite nun associated with the Holy Face in Tours, and Bl. Mother Maria Pierina, an Immaculate Conception nun associated with the Holy Face Medal–Sr. Petra-Maria is a true apostle of the Holy Face of Manoppello. The Holy Face draws her like a magnet; she never tires of gazing at His Face or drawing others to His peaceful, merciful countenance and telling and re-telling the incredible details of the features, the history, and especially, the spiritual significance of the miraculous image. (I’ll have to save those details for a special post.)
Celebrations and entertainment were held in honor the Holy Face in the piazza in front of the Basilica in the evening by local musicians and very talented young people of the community, who gave a very enjoyable musical performance of the life of St. Francis. I’ll never forget the line of young “Franciscan monks” on the stage singing “Andiamo! Andiamo!…” “We go! We go! For the Blessed Mother!” The next day the Holy Veil was brought out after Mass on the Feast of the Transfiguration for the day and in the evening there was planned a solemn procession with the Veil and benediction. But, as in all things in life, plans change… (To be continued in Pt.2)
It was Pope St. John Paul II who first used the phrase, “Eucharistic Face of Christ,” which was previously unknown in the Church. Pope St. John Paul II, by dedicating the millennium to the Face of Christ, drew back the veil for us, so that like disciples on the road to Emmaus, who recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread,” (Luke 24:30-32) we too, may seek, find and adore His Face present and hidden in the Eucharist where we may gaze on Him freely in faith.
“May, O Lord, the light of Thy Face shine upon us.” These words were the inspiration for Pope St. John Paul II to place the 3rd Millennium under “the radiant sign of the Face of Christ.” He emphasized the importance of contemplation of the Face of Christ by stating: “And it is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His face shine also before the generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His face.”
“O my soul, you will always find in the Blessed Sacrament, great consolation and delight, and once you have begun to relish it, there will be no trials, persecutions, and difficulties which you cannot endure.”
“Let him who wills ask for ordinary bread. For my part, O Eternal Father, I ask to be permitted to receive the heavenly Bread with such dispositions that, if I have not the happiness of contemplating Jesus with the eyes of my body, I may at least contemplate Him with the eyes of my soul. This is Bread which contains all sweetness and delight, and sustains our life.” –St. Teresa of Jesus, “The Way of Perfection”
“He is always looking at you; can you not turn the eyes of your soul to look at Him?”–St. Teresa of Avila
On this infamous anniversary of the legalization of abortion in The United States, we reflect on the millions of faces which we will never see and the blindness of those who deny the humanity of unborn babies.
Unborn babies are not material to be used or blobs of tissue to be dissected and sold. We must recognize the humanity of the baby in the womb; we must look at their faces and see there the Face of Christ. Pope Francis has emphasized this truth, “Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted bears the Face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the culture of waste proposes! They cannot be discarded!”
Science and technology has made it possible to see this reality in an undeniable way, as shown in the ultrasound picture of the smiling baby in the photo above. They have a face and unique identity; he or she is created in the image and likeness of God! God has a plan and a mission for each unborn child. They are the hope of this broken world – if only the innocent unborn are able to live and grow to fulfill their part in His divine plan.
May they gaze on the Face of God and intercede for us before the throne of God that the horrors of abortion may finally be at an end. May Jesus, in His infinite mercy, remove the blindness from the eyes of those who support abortion so that, they, together with the millions of babies who have been killed in abortions, may one day together see God face to Face.
O Jesus, whose adorable human Face was formed and hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary for nine months — have mercy on us!
“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.