It becomes more and more evident, to people of faith anyway, that a spiritual battle is raging in the world. Great or small, each Christian has a role in the decisive battle to be fought, through the Cross, and under the banner of the Face of Christ.
History records the existence of a miraculous veil with the Face of Jesus — not made by human hands. Down through the centuries it was called by many names, however, most commonly it was known as the Veronica (Vera-icon, Latin for “True Image”). But there was also another name by which the veil was known: Berenice, from the Ancient Greek Berenike (or pheronike). It was the same name as Veronica (Latin transliteration of Berenice), but with an another meaning — The Bearer of Victory.
The Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus, since 574, had been carried into battles as an imperial standard, used only when the Emperor Justin II was at the head of the army.
“The veil was taken out for military campaigns. Teofilaktos Simokattes wrote that during the Battle of Solachon in 586, the veil acted as divine inspiration for the Byzantine forces. Simokattes also wrote that the labarum was ‘created by God Himself and hadn’t been woven or painted by man.’ In 622, the standard played a pivotal role in the war against the Persians, inspiring Heraclius’ armies in battle against the armies of Khosrau II. The seventh century Greek poet George Pisida wrote an account of the campaign, in which he call the veil’s depiction a ‘master-Portrait created by God.’ The relic continued to act as the imperial standard until the end of the seventh century. ” (Witness to Mystery: Investigations into Christ’s Relics, Grzegorz Gorny, Janusz Rosikon)
Servant of God Marcel Van, known as the “Little brother of St. Therese and Apostle to little children,” was a Redemptorist brother who was martyred in Communist Vietnam. He was given a vision in which Marcel saw the banner of victory atop a cross:
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
“How much good the Holy Face has done me during my life! The just will recognize Him not only on the Cross — a symbol of salvation, which will precede His coming, but more exactly, by His Face, which will shine on the last day.” –St. Therese
What is the significance for today of the Veil of the “Master Portrait created by God” being carried as a standard in battle? Why has God gifted humanity with a miraculous veil bearing an image of His Face? Why did Pope St. John Paul II dedicate the millennium to the Face of Christ? I would propose one answer to these questions: God is directing our gaze to the Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus because He has given this great gift to us as the means to obtain victory in the battle against Satan — by the contemplation of the Face of Christ. And the most efficacious way to contemplate the Face of Jesus is through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary when we pray the Rosary!
“It is first of all necessary to let the Blessed Virigin Mary take us by the hand to contemplate the Face of Jesus. Mary gives us eyes and a heart that can contemplate her Son.” –Pope Benedict XVI
Pope St. John Paul II has written about a “self-portrait” of the Face Jesus in Veritatis Splendor, and so did Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus painted this masterpiece of Himself on a mountain, where He prayed “face-to-face with the Father.” The Face of Jesus may also be revealed, though in a veiled way, in the Word of God:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt. 5:1-12)
The Beatitudes, Pope St. John Paul II says in Veritatis Splendor, “are a sort of self- portrait of Christ, and for this very reason are invitations to discipleship and to communion of life with Christ.” In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI describes the Sermon on the Mount as a “hidden Christology.” He writes, “Anyone who reads Matthew’s text attentively will realize that the Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of His figure. He who had no place to lay his head (Mt. 8:20) is truly poor; he who can say, “Come to me…for I am meek and lowly of heart” (Mt. 11:28-29) is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God. He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God’s sake.
The brushstrokes of the Master are the Christian virtues by which He reveals His Face: Justice, Mercy, Humility, Meekness, Purity of Heart. Jesus painted this self-portrait as an invitation for those who seek His Face to follow Him as His disciples, calling us to communion with Him and accompanying Him to the Cross.
St. Jerome wrote: “The Face of Jesus will continue to save each time we have recourse to it, invoking His aid, ‘Lord, God of Hosts, bring us back, let Your Face shine on us and we shall be saved!‘“ (Psalm 80:7)
In order for the battle to be won, each Christian must also become a “Bearer of Victory” by reflecting the Face of Christ to others in our broken world — holding high the banner of the Holy Face, and the Cross of Christ!
— Pope St. John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization Mass of St. Faustina Kowalska, April 30, 2000