“To live from love is to dry your Face, it is to obtain pardon for sinners.”
— St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
True love must be the care for the other, seeking only the good of the beloved. Love is renunciation, a willingness to sacrifice even unto death. What is this Divine madness that may be contemplated in His Face? In his book, “God is Love,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote:
“God’s passionate love for his people — for humanity — is that is turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God’s love for man that by becoming man he follows him even unto death and so reconciles justice and love.”
— Pope Benedict XVI
Pause a moment to contemplate the innocent, humiliated, and suffering Face of Jesus in order to grow in His love…
“Let us reflect a little. I am convinced that if we apply ourselves diligently to meditate on the soul of Jesus suffering, if we often cast our eyes upon His Countenance, we shall fall in love with His virtue, and that He will Himself gradually infuse it into us.”
— St. Claude La Colombiere
Silence in suffering can make the space for God’s grace to fill and transform our souls in love…
“When you experience something unpleasant, look at Jesus crucified and be silent.”
Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him.
Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart:I seek your face; your face, Lord, I desire.
Lord, my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you. Lord, if you are not here where shall I look for you in your absence? Yet if you are everywhere, why do I not see you when you are present? But surely you dwell in “light inaccessible.” And where is light inaccessible? How shall I approach light inaccessible? Or who will lead me and bring me into it that I may see you there? And then, by what signs and under what forms shall I seek you? I have never seen you, Lord my God; I do not know your face.
Lord, most high, what shall this exile do, so far from you? What shall your servant do, tormented by love of you and cast so far from your face? He yearns to see you, and your face is is too far from him. He desire to approach you, and your dwelling is inapproachable. He longs to find you, and does not know your dwelling place. He strives to look for you, and does not know your face.
Lord, you are my God and you are my Lord, and I have never seen you. You have made me and remade me, and you have given me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I was made in order to see you, and I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Lord, how long will it be? How long, Lord, will you forget us? How long will you turn your face away from us? When will you look upon us and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes and show us your face? When will you give your self back to us?
Look upon us, Lord, hear us and enlighten us, show us your very self. Restore yourself to us that it may go well with us whose life is so evil without you. Take pity on our efforts and our striving toward you, for we have no strength apart from you.
Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me. for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you.
Listen to my voice, Lord, when I call
... Your Face, Lord, do I seek!
Hide not Your Face from me!
-- Psalm 27
“Prepare to meet your Maker,” one cowboy said to the other. It was good advice. No one knows exactly when or how they will “meet their maker,” so we should always be prepared. It could be by illness, old age, or a garbage truck, but it is certain each person will one day come before the Just Judge. The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” C.S. Lewis once said, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” Would you be prepared at any moment to come before the Face of God? The Church aids us in this eventuality through the practices of Lent: fasting, penance, almsgiving, and taking advantage of the beautiful sacrament of mercy, Reconciliation.
C.S. Lewis once said, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.”
It is not a coincidence that Shrove Tuesday, the day that precedes Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, is also the Feast of the Holy Face. Most people think of Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) as a day of excess and indulgence in food and drink before facing the sacrifices of Lent. But the origin of the word “Shrove” is “to absolve.” Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday was a day to obtain absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation, to purify your soul and prepare yourself to stand before the Face of God. The first step of that preparation is “to look in the mirror” and examine our conscience.
Jesus makes Himself our mirror – “He who never meditates is like a person who never looks in the mirror, therefore, not knowing that he is untidy, he goes out looking disorderly. The person who meditates and directs his thoughts to God, Who is the mirror of his soul, tries to know his faults, attempts to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.” — St. Padre Pio
The “pure in heart” are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13: 12-13) Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God.
The Book of Job provides ample reflections for the purification and test of faith that a soul may undergo to be fit to stand before God. Few people will have crosses as heavy as Job’s. But despite his crushing physical and spiritual struggles, as well as his complaints to God, Job’s words in the end demonstrate the kind of repentance and the purity of heart needed to come into God’s presence and see Him face to face:
“I have heard of You by word of mouth, but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore, disown what I have said and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
A Blessed and Holy Lent to all
“Who shall climb the mountain of the LORD? Who shall stand in His holy place? The clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols, who have not sworn falsely. They will receive blessing from the LORD, and justice from their saving God. Such are the people that love the LORD, that seek the Face of the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 27: 3-6)
“Look at His adorable Face, His glazed and sunken eyes, His wounds. Look Jesus in the Face. There you will see how He loves us.”
–St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus
“There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” – Isaiah 53:2-5
“O Adorable Face of Jesus! Our souls understand Your language of love; we want to dry Your gentle Face and to console You for the forgetfulness of the wicked. In their eyes You are still as one hidden; they look upon You as an object of contempt…
O Face more beautiful than the lilies and roses of springtime! You are not hidden from our eyes…The Tears that veil Your divine look seem to us like precious Diamonds which we want to collect to buy the souls of our brothers and sisters with their infinite value.
From Your Adorable Mouth we have heard Your loving complaint. Since we know that the thirst which consumes You is a thirst for Love, we would wish to have an infinite Love to quench Your thirst…Beloved Bridegroom of our souls, if we had the love of all hearts, all that love would be for You! Then, heedless of our exile on the banks of Babylon, we will sing for your Ears the sweetest melodies. Since You are the true, the only Homeland of our hearts, we will not sing our songs in an alien land.
O Beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we will contemplate Your infinite Glory, our one desire is to charm Your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too so that here on earth no one can recognize us…O Jesus! Your Veiled Gaze is our Heaven!” –St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus
UPDATE: EWTN will be airing THE HUMAN FACE OF GOD IN THE HOLY VEIL OF MANOPPELLO 03/28 at 4:30 pm Central time,
03/29 at 5:30 am Central Time, Paul Badde goes on-location in Italy to explore the Veil of Manoppello and its relation to other images of the Holy Face of Christ.
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3: 14-16)
It’s the stuff that nightmares are made of: We find ourselves lost and wandering through the wilderness trying to find our way home, and suddenly slithering poisonous serpents are everywhere –striking, biting, causing death. Only it isn’t a nightmare; the “fiery serpents” of sin are a spiritual reality that surrounds us in this life. As we journey toward Heaven, our true home, we are wounded and weakened by original sin, the bites of venial sins can weaken us more, the bite of a mortal sin can be deadly. But there is an antidote for the venom: it is the contemplation of Face of Our Savior, Jesus Christ!
“Look at Jesus. Place before your eyes His most Holy Humanity, contemplate Him in the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, in the Way of the Cross, in the scenes that the Gospels narrate for us, or in the Tabernacle…We cannot turn our gaze away from God, because we see the havoc that the enemy wreaks around us everyday. By himself, nobody is immune. ‘Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram’: Thy Face, Lord, do I seek; hide not Thy Face from me.’ Psalm 26 (In Conversation with God, Francis Fernandez)
Graces flow from His Holy Face. A soul who contemplates the Face of Christ can, in charity, bring this healing remedy to others by encouraging them to look at Jesus’s Face, and by sharing this devotion many souls may be saved.
“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.” (John 12.32)
The sufferings of this world are as numerous as its sins. Each day brings more and more it seems; the weight of it crushing our souls. The greatest evil, and the most difficult suffering to bear, is the suffering of the innocent.
On April 5th, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley addressed the UN Security Council about the Assad regime’s chemical attacks against its own people in Syria. She said, “Yesterday we awoke to pictures of children; foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions, being carried in the arms of desperate parents. We saw rows and rows of lifeless bodies, some still in diapers, some with visible scars of a chemical weapons attack. Look at those pictures! We cannot close our eyes to those pictures.” A cry of helplessness rises in one’s heart, “How long, O Lord!”
“How long, O Lord, must I cry for help and you do not listen? Or cry out to you ‘Violence!” and you do not intervene? Why do you simply gaze at evil? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and discord.” (Hab. 1: 1-3)
The suffering endured by the innocent is utterly incomprehensible. We could harden our hearts and turn away our face from what is happening–numb our minds, and anesthetize our unpleasant thoughts with distractions. Or we may fall to our knees and ask God the same question that atheists mockingly ask of Christians; the same question the prophet Habbakkuk asked of God in faith:
“Are you not from of old, O LORD, the holy God, immortal? LORD, you have appointed them for judgment, O Rock, you have set them in place to punish! Your eyes are too pure to look upon wickedness, and the sight of evil you cannot endure. Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked devour those more just than themselves?” (Hab. 1:12-13)
“How long O Lord!” we will cry. And no answer is heard. The response will be, as it was from the Lamb of God on the Cross–silence. There are no other questions.
“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before Your Face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” –C.S. Lewis (Till We Have Faces)
“Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s face”; your face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me…” (Ps. 27:8-9)
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 strength. Because we are made in His image, we have a capacity to know God through the truth and beauty of the created world, through moral goodness and our human reason, but there are many things that stand in our way; we are in need of enlightenment. God has said everything in His Word, so we must “seek the Beloved” in the Scriptures. As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word: Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate. And there, in the Scriptures, we contemplate His Face. “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.” (CCC 97) The Word of God, which is Truth, acts as a mirror held before our gaze in which we may see our sins more clearly and feel the heartfelt sorrow of repentance, which can be the impetus for conversion or turning back to the Face of God.
Beginning in Genesis, the Sacred Scriptures reveal the pilgrimage: the struggles of nations and individuals in pilgrimage, as they turn toward or away from the Face of God–their battles, falls and triumphs. In “The Face of Mercy” Pope Francis speaks of the importance of the practice of pilgrimage, which has a special place in the Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy. He says “everyone, each according to his or her ability, will be asked to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice.” Through the Scriptures, “The Lord Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain our goal: ‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back’ (Lk 6:37-38)” —Face of MercyScripture guides us in our pilgrimage by keeping our eyes fixed on Christ…and NOT on the world.
In seeking the Face of Jesus in the Scripture we also experience His loving and powerful gaze. The power of the gaze of Jesus in this journey is illustrated unforgettably in chapter 22 of Luke’s gospel which tells of Peter’s denial of Christ. When Jesus is arrested, Peter was “following at a distance” then sat near a fire in a courtyard. When he is accused of being a follower of Jesus, Peter denies Him, through fear, choosing to be viewed as part of the crowd, and seeking instead the approval of the world. “Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord…He went out and wept bitterly.”(Lk. 22:60-62) From Jesus’s merciful gaze came Peter’s repentance and second conversion.
Interestingly, the next few lines of Luke’s gospel also demonstrate the attitude of those who refuse to look at the merciful gaze of the Face of Jesus: “The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and questioned Him, saying, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ And they reviled Him in saying many other things against Him.” (Lk. 22:63-65) These blasphemous men could not bear the gaze of Jesus, so they blindfolded Him, refusing to look in the mirror of Truth, which is the Face of Jesus. No one can receive mercy who refuses to acknowledge their sins.
When we seek the Face of God by reading and praying with the Scriptures, we discover the true Face of Jesus, our Beloved, the Innocent Lamb, who is meek and humble of heart. St. Paul wrote that “a veil” lies over our hearts, “but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed… All of us gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) His gaze transforms our hearts from darkness to light as we strive to mirror His life. “For God who has said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light knowledge of the glory of God on the Face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)
One of the greatest blessings of the internet, at least for me, is something called “FaceTime.” If you have ever been separated from loved ones who live in another part of the country, or on the other side of the world, you know what I mean. A letter, an email, a phone call are all good but not quite as good as seeing them face to face. We need to look in the face of a person in order to truly have a good relationship; to read their expression and discover what is in their heart; to see their emotions and, when they are mirrored in our own face, show to them our empathy and our love.
When it is death that separates us from a loved one, we long to see that face again, gaze at a photo of them, a face frozen at a moment in time and try to re-kindle memories of our relationship with them; the smile, crinkle of the eyes, expressions of love that we hope to see again in heaven one day.
The longing to see the Face of our Creator has been written in our hearts. All of mankind long for that one, particular face, the Face of God, even if they don’t know what that feeling of longing is for. Unfortunately, man, seeking the object of its longing, sometimes cannot bear the mystery of God’s hiddenness. Rather than wait for God to reveal Himself when He is ready, mankind seeks “the face which is NOT a face,” –that is, an idol, as described in the encyclical “Lumen Fidei,” (“The Light of Faith”). The opposite of faith (longing to see God’s face) is idolatry, trying to fill our longing for Him with something else, an idol, which is a dead end, a one-way street in which there is no relationship.
Lent is a time in which, by faith, we turn toward God in conversion, enter into relationship with Him and let ourselves be transformed and renewed by God’s call and reject idols. “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 other believers.” (Lumen Fidei sec. 22)
Without light or sound, there would be no Face Time. We would all be sitting silently in the dark. “Faith is hearing and seeing” (Lumen Fidei, sec. 37) God has shown us His Face in His Son, Jesus. We can now see His Face, we can hear His voice in the Scriptures, in our neighbor, in His images and in The Eucharistic Face of Jesus, in which He reveals to us all the love of His Most Sacred Heart. During Lent, by “turning away from idols” we turn toward the Face of God. When we open our hearts to God’s love, through this divine “Face Time” we hear his voice and receive his light, a gift which is so great we cannot keep it to ourselves but through word and light, invite others to “Face Time” with God and to believe.
“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) “God…has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ.” (2Cor 4:6)