“Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.” (JN 1:34)
Christmas has passed, festivities done, the tree taken down and decorations put away. Ho hum. Back to everyday life? After having seen the face of the Christ Child, would the Shepherds and Magi have returned to their homes and gone about as usual? No. Seeking the Face of Jesus would have transformed their lives. To “seek the Face of God” in this life would mean seeking His Face through prayer, by reading the Scriptures, seeking Him in our neighbor, and in His Eucharistic Presence. It should transform our lives, moving our hearts to testify, and bear witness to the all the earth that Jesus is the Son of God.
The Second Sunday after Epiphany is also known as “Omnis Terra” Sunday, meaning “All the Earth.” From the words of Psalm 65, “Omnis terra adore te, Deus, et psallat tipi.”
“All the earth adore you; they sing of you, sing of your name!”
The beautiful tradition was renewed in Rome for the Year of Mercy to honor Jesus Christ who is the “Face of Mercy” by a procession on “Omnis Terra.” A replica was carried of the “Vera Icon” known as the “true image” of the Face of Christ. The original image remained at the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, at that time. The Holy Face of Manoppello is believed to be the cloth which covered the Face of Christ at his burial, and left a miraculous image at the Resurrection.
“Blessed the people who know you, Lord, who walk in the radiance of your Face.”
“As the Psalms say, we are all ‘seeking the Face of the Lord’. And this is also the meaning of my visit. Let us seek together to know the Face of the Lord ever better, and in the Face of the Lord let us find this impetus of love and peace which also reveals to us the path of our life.“(Link)
On January 19, 2020, after a pontifical ceremony, the cardinal will bless the entire earth (urbi et orbi) with the holy relic of the Face of Jesus while giving the Aaronic blessing:
“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)
More details on the Omnis Terra event may be found in this article by Antonio Bini on the Holy Face of Manoppello Blogspot.
Let all the earth worship and praise You, O God; may it sing in praise of Your Name, O Most High. Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth; sing a psalm in honor of His Name, praise Him with magnificence!
Today, in a small corner of the earth, a mountain village in Manoppello, Italy, the faithful gathered to represent “All the Earth” — to rejoice in God, who has revealed His Glory to all mankind — by the celebration of the Solemn Feast of Omnis Terra. “Omnis Terra” which is Latin meaning “All the Earth” is celebrated on the second Sunday following Epiphany.
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller of Germany, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, together with the Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, USA, and the Most Reverend Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy presided at the Holy Mass. At the conclusion of the Mass Cardinal Muller read the prayer of Pope Benedict XVI in honor of the Holy Face of Manoppello, then the Cardinal, together with the two Archbishops blessed the world with the sacred Veil of the Holy Face. The Holy Veil of the Face of Christ has been called by St. Padre Pio “The greatest relic of the Church.” Mankind’s greatest blessing is to have the Face of God turned towards them:
“May the LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let His face shine upon you, and be merciful to you! The LORD turn His Countenance towards you and give you peace!“–Num 6:22-27
The event was live-streamed on YouTube from the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, with commentary in both English and German and may be viewed again by clicking the video above.
Omnis Terra Homily by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller may be read below:
Manoppello, 20 January 2019
In Jesus’ farewell speeches before his Passion, Jesus provides the Apostle Philip with an answer that brings us to the very center of our Faith. After Jesus had said: “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7), Philip wonders how one might be able to see God, “who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). Jesus answers him: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
When we are thus face to face with Jesus, person to person, and gaze upon his human face, then we see in Jesus’ eyes the benevolent, discerning, judging and saving power of love, which is God in the unity and communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We see Jesus with our physical eyes and recognize his divine nature and power with the “the eyes of [our] hearts enlightened,” (Ephesians 1:18). In the divine person of the Son of the Father, Christ’s eternal divine nature and his adopted human nature are united. Only through Jesus do we come to the Father, because He alone bridges the infinite distance of the creature to the Creator. “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) He is the universal, divine plan of salvation made flesh, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus, in his human nature, is “the way” by which “the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) were brought into this world.
The Apostle Paul calls the human nature of Christ, through which we recognize God’s glory and from which we are fulfilled, the “likeness of God” – imago Dei (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is not an image of God conceived in a finite mind and made by man.
Even before the incarnation of the Word, the Son in the Triune God is the image of the being of God the Father, in the Greek words of the New Testament: “the character of his Hypostasis” (Heb 1:1). Christ is true God of true God. In the darkness of sin, which “blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4), God has let his light shine in the hearts of believers, “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
He, who through his word brought forth all creation, becomes a man like us, “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), which is what He came to deliver us from. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. (Hebrews 2:14f).
We recognize this when we look Jesus in the eye and offer ourselves to His look at us without malice. God surrounds us with his infinite mercy and in his love he goes so far as not only to die for us, but to die our death. He bore the debt of our sins until death on the cross and even took them to his grave. Death no longer has any power over Jesus and us, who form one body with Christ. And this is the creed of the Church, which Paul delivered to the Corinthians as he himself received it: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve”. (1 Cor 15:3-5).
The Gospel of John tells of the discovery of the empty tomb. When Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, she saw that the stone in front of the burial chamber had been taken away. And because she feared that the body had been taken away, she brought Peter and the other disciple there. Peter went first into the tomb and “he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself” (John 20:6f). Peter, then, is the first witness of the empty tomb. In the apparitions of the Risen One, it is Jesus who gives him and the other apostles proof that he lives with God and that he has returned to his Father. But he has not discarded his human nature, rather living with his glorified body forever as the Word made flesh in communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is the head of the body that is the Church. Through Him, as children of God, we have access to the Father and may expect the inheritance of eternal life. And the exalted Lord remains with us with his Gospels and encounters us in the sacraments of his grace. Especially in the Most Holy Eucharist he takes us into the mystery of his dedication to the Father. In Holy Communion we receive communion with Him in His flesh and blood as food and drink for eternal life.
St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine, in their comments on the Gospel of John, asked themselves why the evangelist, when discovering the empty tomb, described these trivialities, such as the linen bandages and the folded sudarium, in such detail. They were convinced, however, that the evangelist would not communicate anything in a manner so intricate if it were unimportant for our Faith.
When Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, the stone is rolled away from the outside of the burial cave. Jesus calls him out. When the deceased comes out, his feet and hands are still wrapped in bandages and his face is covered with a sudarium. But everything must be removed from him, because he cannot free himself from the bandages of death (John 11:44).
Jesus, who says of himself, “I am the life (John 14:6), rises from the dead with the power of God Himself. The stone before the tomb was taken away before the women came to the tomb. Jesus does not need to be freed from the bonds of death, because he has overcome his and our death by his own divine power.
St. Thomas Aquinas recognizes in his commentary on John a reference to the church in the relationship of the many bandages to the one sudarium “which had been on his head” (John 20:7), rolled up in a place by itself. In the Godhead united with his human nature, Christ is the head of the Church, for “the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
In Jesus Christ the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior has appeared and shone in this world (Titus 3:3f). In his face he looks at us and wants us to respond with the love within our heart. By believing we do not adopt a theory to explain the world. The Gospels are not abstract ideas or values clothed in beautiful stories. God really became man and stays with us. Jesus is an historic person. His resurrection from the dead really did happen. He has not risen into Faith, but is recognized in our faith as the living Christ, the Son at the right hand of the Father. For no one can say, “Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
If the historical, sacramental and ecclesial presence of the Son made man is decisive for our salvation, it is not unimportant that we also seek out His historical traces. They save us from the danger of a Gnostic and idealistic evaporation of God’s human presence in this world. Without entering into scientific debates, the encounter with Christ in the imprint of His face on the Manoppello Sudarium seems to me to be of great importance for the piety of today’s Christian. The uneven history of its rediscovery has come to a good end, arriving at the point of deep veneration and adoration of Jesus Christ, who as a man is the image of God, his Father and our Father in heaven.
Much remains hidden from the wise and prudent, that God however does reveal to lesser minds in the humility of Faith. Gazing into the most holy face of Jesus, as it was traced into the sudarium on his head, should give us new strength that our life may hold true in the eyes of God. For we believe and know that we will one day see God through and in Christ, the image of God, “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Below is the testimony, given to Make Hickson of LifeSite News, of the Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco on the occasion of his visit to the Holy Face of Manoppello:
“My visit to the Volto Santo of Manoppello was moving and profound. It took a very cherished idea and made it personal and real. I will always treasure the half-hour I had to pray privately before the holy image. It is alive; even the expression changes from different angles and with different lighting. It is like looking at a real human face, looking into the face of Jesus. The eyes, especially, are very alive and penetrating. My love for Jesus Christ has become much more personal now.
I will also always be thankful for the opportunity to concelebrate the Mass with Cardinal Muller, along with the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, the Most Reverend Bruno Forte, the next day – “Omnis Terra” Sunday. To participate with them in blessing the people with the Holy Face and then having the privilege to carry it in returning it to its place of safe keeping was a blessing I will never forget.
I encourage everyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ and love for him to cultivate a devotion to this holy image he has left us – a picture of the first instant of the Resurrection.”
Omnis Terra, Latin for “All the Earth, ” is the name given to the Second Sunday in Ordinary time, when the Gospel of the Wedding at Cana is read. In the midst of the wedding feast, Mary whispers to her son Jesus, “They have no wine.” At Mary’s words, Jesus then performed his first miracle: “the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee, and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him.” (John 2: 1-11) The revelation of His glory is the cause for all the earth rejoicing, giving praise to His Name at the wedding feast of the Lamb!
God has a face and a name. The expression “name of God” means God as He Who is present among men. “His name,” Pope Benedict XVI says, “is the concrete sign of His Existence.” When we praise His Name, we are rejoicing in the splendor of His Face. 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.”
That is certainly a reason for all the earth to rejoice, as though at a wedding feast!
Let all the earth worship and praise You, O God; may it sing in praise of Your Name, O Most High. Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth; sing a psalm in honor of His Name, praise Him with magnificence!
The beauty of the glory of the Face of God is reflected in the mountains surrounding the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello in the days leading up to the historic “Omnis Terra” feast and procession. (Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer took this breathtaking photo of the Sanctuary and hills covered in pure white snow and a beautiful rainbow.) On the second Sunday of Epiphany, January 15, 2017, the Basilica of the Holy Face established the first new feast and procession, making it the third on the calendar of the Sanctuary, since the year of 1712.
The “Omnis Terra” (All the Earth) procession in honor of the Holy Face had its beginning in 1208 when Pope Innocent III processed with the Veil of the Holy Face from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to Spirito Santo church and hospital, giving alms to the poor and the sick along the way. It was very fitting then that Our Lord’s Holy Face should be specially honored by a new feast and procession at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello on this same Sunday.
Journalist Paul Badde, who loves the Holy Face of Manoppello and has written so well about the rediscovery of this Holy Veil of the Face of Jesus, was present for the sacred occasion and related the following details of the day:
“It was as if the sky had opened a window over Manoppello for exactly that day. It had been snowing all the time before, then on Friday a rainbow appeared. On Saturday it was immaculately blue. On Sunday, Omnis Terra, the clouds had come back. And on Sunday night Manoppello was covered with snow again. Liturgy of the Eucharist and the procession with incense, candles and beautiful music by the choir of Maestro Cosantini was so noble and “degno” [worthy] that it couldn’t have been performed more nobly in Saint Peter`s in Rome.
The homily of Don Americo [Mons. Americo Ciani] was absolutely powerful and very clear with great parts he added by heart with great enthusiasm.
Before the procession and benediction a prayer by Padre Carmine [Capuchin Rector of the Sanctuary] for all the victims of the earthquakes was said, then a beautiful new litany of the Holy Face by the absent Sr. Petra Maria.”
Mons. Americo Ciani, Canon of the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter’s in the Vatican, was presider for the Liturgy of the Eucharist and gave the beautiful homily (translation of the homily by Mr. Raymond Frost below). Mons. Ciani was formerly a judge of the Roman Rota, the highest judicial office of the Church, from the year 2000 to 2009. As a canon, Mons. Ciani was also one of the very few persons to have displayed the famous reliquary of Pope Urban the VIII in St. Peter’s Basilica at the balcony over the Veronica altar during Passion Week.
(Some may also recall Monsignor Ciani from the Catholic New Agency article “Willy’s Story-the Homeless Man Buried at the Vatican” on Willy Hereteer, a pious homeless man who lived on the streets near St. Peter’s Basilica and was befriended by Mons. Ciani and Paul Badde.)
Manoppello Feast of the Holy Face January 15, 2017 Omnis Terra Sunday
(homily of) Monsignor Ciani
We are commemorating that most ancient procession which the great pontiff Innocent III desired in 1208 during which he had carried for the first time the Holy Sudarium of Christ from the Basilica of St. Peter to the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. It was a foretaste of the Holy Years, the first of which was decreed by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300. On that memorable occasion the numerous faithful would have been able to contemplate the Holy Face impressed on the mantilla [veil] of Saint Veronica. The Holy Relic, preserved in the patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, disappeared in 1527 during the Sack of Rome.
We have repeated the same solemn procession with the Holy Face, preserved here in Manoppello, from the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican to the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, in January 2016, where we celebrated the Holy Mass, presided by Archbishop Monsignor Georg Gänswein and a second one presided by Archbishop Monsignor Edmund Farhat, who just a few days ago has left us to return to the House of the Father.
Here we are gathered to contemplate the Face of God, who became man in His Son Jesus. This precious relic is “the human Face of God”, which since 1636 has been jealously cared for here at Manoppello and venerated by Pope Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006, a good 479 years later, when he knelt before that which had been the most precious treasure of the Popes.
From the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John, “No one has ever seen God,” the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known. On the Face of Christ shines the majesty of God, who in His turn God has shown Himself under the form of a man.
Let us fix then our gaze upon the Face of the Son of God made man.
The image belongs to our everyday life. We are immersed in the culture of images, in private and in public.
With how much care we display the photos of our loved ones! Go into the rooms of young people, the walls of which are an exposition of images of leaders, from the world of fashion, of sport, of singers, etc. Go silently into cemeteries, how many images to remember loved ones! The list would be too long, and it’s not necessary for us to go on about it.
The image speaks louder than the word, in fact the word passes but the image remains. The Church in addition to place, to gesture, to word, to song, has utilized the image, from the beginning she has created a treasury of images to communicate, to evangelize., it is the “Bible of the poor”.
The word passes, the image remains and can be admired, contemplated by everyone and in all kinds of circumstances. Word and image speak together in the Church.
We are gathered here to contemplate this Image, the Holy Face, which is the Face of God who died and is risen, Jesus Christ, Son of God, He who is Himself God.
The Holy Bible, especially in the Psalms, touches on the theme which today is for us so dear: “The Face of God”, the seeking of the Face of God, the desire to see the Face of God, and the invocation to see the Face of God.
From Psalm 27: Confidence in God in times of danger: “My heart repeats your exhortation: Seek my face! Your face, O Lord, do I seek. O Lord, do not hide your face from me.”
Psalm 31:16 “Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love”.
Psalm 88:15 “Why O Lord do you cast me off, why do you hide your face from me?”
Psalm 102:3 “Do not hide your face from me, in the day of my agony, turn your ear towards me. When I call upon you, respond to me quickly Lord.”
Psalm 105:3-4 “ Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice, Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.”
Psalm 119:135 “Make your face shine on your servant, and teach me your statutes”.
The problem which today torments us, is precisely fear and terrorism!
My beloved this sublime truth consoles us: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom should I be afraid?”
The psalm exhorts us to a solid hope: “Hope in the Lord, be strong, let your heart take courage, and hope in the Lord.”
All of us, whether small or great, need to cast out fear, to cast it far away from us, to succeed in controlling it and in conquering it.
The Face of God manifested itself in the Face of His Son Jesus Christ, born of Mary of Nazareth. God made Himself one of us, went about doing good, gave Himself for us and for our sins, and to make us His people.
Let our desire to see Jesus be as strong as those pagans who asked the Apostle Philip: “We want to see Jesus” and as Zacchaeus, the publican, who “wanted to see Jesus”, and climbing up a tree, because he was short of stature, precisely so that he could see Jesus. Jesus passed by, looked up and called him by name: “Zacchaeus, come down, today I wish to come to your house”. And from that encounter came the miracle of the conversion of Zacchaeus.
Our constant prayer is the commitment: “I want to see your Face”.
History is not ensnared in a blind alley, closed off from hope. Our society today is lost, suffers from nightmares, because it has lost “the Face of God”. It does not perceive the ways of God in history.
God the Father has sent His Son Jesus among us. He is the youthfulness and the freshness of history. Jesus is the Son of God, of the God that is the joy of our youth. For over 2000 years God has shown His face to the world by the Incarnation of His Son Jesus, from whom beauty and richness has poured out security, above all for those of us who need security: the poor, the oppressed, the “least ones”, because He “ will judge with justice the poor and with equity the oppressed”. So that humanity, turned toward the presence of Christ, will be able to breathe deeply.
To judge how things are going, today, one might think that Christ is pretty much just a dream. Christ renews us and make us true. We need purity and to be purified. Jesus has come to accompany us, to put Himself at our disposition. He comes. Jesus in us and we breathe liberty.
In Jesus we know where we come from, who we are and where we are going: we who can accompany him, we who have listened to him, we have the power to become sons of God, we are a “new race”, created by God and by Him regenerated in Christ the Lord, Wisdom of the Most High, Word of God, is “the true light which enlightens every man”. He is the Wisdom of God that became love and the love became light.
Here is the tragedy of yesterday and today: “He came into the world but the world did not recognize Him. He came to his own but his own did not receive Him.”
And our struggle continues: It is the mess in which we find ourselves still caught up in (“How long, O Lord? When will you return and finally liberate us?”) Let us repeat with faith “Come Lord, do not delay”. Today we cling to Jesus and tomorrow we run away from Him.
We need to enter more vividly into the mystery of Christ.
All of us, fragile and sinners, we can take a deep breath, a liberating breath, and even a cry of liberty and hope. Slaves of sin, we can resist sin, we can defeat it, because Jesus has come and will always remain with us, He who “opens the eyes of the blind, sets prisoners free and delivers those living in darkness.”
Thus, holiness is possible, even for those who must rise from the depths, because Jesus has come “to do good and to heal all those who are under the power of the devil”. Before, we were under the power of the devil, now no more; the chains on our feet have been broken and we can walk towards the heights.
Hope is rekindled in us, “God will return soon and will show his face to the world and shake the foundations with his all-powerful voice”.
Just as the Apostle John who entered the Tomb after the Resurrection, “saw and believed”, so it happens for each us today, we see and contemplate the Face of God and we firmly believe.
Holy Father, accept with benevolence our prayers and guide us to the seeking of Your Face, which you have revealed in fullness in Jesus, Your Son.
O Lord, make Your Face to shine on us so that we might enjoy your goodness in the peace we are protected by your powerful hand, freed from every sin by the strength of your outstretched arm, and saved from those who hate us unjustly.
Grant harmony and peace to us and to all the inhabitants of the earth, as you have granted to our fathers, when they invoked you devoutly in faith and in truth, you alone, O Lord, can grant us these good things. (Translation by Raymond Frost)
(Bishop Farhat, on left, died December 17, 2016-May he gaze on God’s Face!)