Relationship with someone begins with a particular face and name. Through our faces we can communicate to another what is hidden deep within our souls. Names have meaning, giving a clue to shed light on the mystery of the person. Our names, connected with our face become the basis of our relationship with others. When we give our own name, and turn our face to others, we are giving something of ourselves. How our name is used by others, with respect and love, or with disrespect and hatred, will be reflected in our face.
“The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it. The name one receives is a name for eternity. God calls each one by name. Everyone’s name is sacred.”
Therefore, St. Joseph’s name is an icon of his person, and the meaning of his name is a key to the treasures that are unveiled to those who are blessed to enter into a relationship with this great saint. The mysterious meaning of the name of Joseph is “He will increase.”
But, to little Jesus, St. Joseph’s name was “Abba” – Father, Daddy. His was the first man’s face that the Christ Child saw, with all the virtues reflected there – humility, patience, obedience, faith, hope, charity… St. Joseph’s face was the mirror of the image of God the Father, and his name was the echo of the Holy Name of God.
When we go to St. Joseph, as our model, in prayer and contemplation, “he will increase” grace, virtues, and God’s mercy in us. And Jesus will look on us, with eyes of love, as He looked upon the face of His father on earth, the glorious St. Joseph. What a tremendous blessing is this “Year of St. Joseph” for the Church and the world!
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.
Any mother-to-be, poring over lists of baby names, knows the importance of choosing a name. She knows this is serious business. The name should have meaning, giving a clue to shed light on the mystery of the person. Our names, connected with our face become the basis of our relationship with others. When we give our own name, and turn our face to others, we are giving something of ourselves. So too, it is with God.
The Hebrew term for name is “shem” and for face, it is “panim.” These are both terms which describe relationships. In fact, “panim” means to see the face of God or the presence of God. God has a face and a name! 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 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has taught. As fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ gave us a human face that revealed the face of God. He says, “While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe: all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human face!” The Son of God was made man He is given a Name, Jesus. The one who “saves His people from sin.” Through His Face and His Name, He gives us Himself.
There is a direct connection between the Holy Face and the Name of God. Jesus shows us the face of the Father, as He told His disciples: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” 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.
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 Jesus 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 sins against our personal relationship with God revealed in His Face? The manifestation of our sins on His Countenance come 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. By prayers and act of reparations we are performing the office of Veronica, the model of reparation to the Holy Face, in wiping the Face of Jesus and restoring dignity to His Holy Name and in a small way repairing mankind’s relationship with God.