“A Window Into His Love”

Angelus Magazine cover, April 12, 2019

“Kept in a village church in the mountains of Italy is a veil bearing what some believe to be the image of the face of Jesus….”

 

 

 

 

 

Kathryn Jean Lopez, contributing editor to Angelus Magazine, and editor-at-large of National Review Online has written a fine article about the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello, and how devotion to the face of Jesus can make all the difference in our lives.  With permission, it has been re-printed here:

A Window Into His Love

by Kathryn Jean Lopez/Angelus

There’s an altar dedicated to the Holy Face of Jesus at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, New York, where I find myself many days for Mass and prayer. It is one of the spots I am always drawn to. It has a cloth with an image of our Lord.

Despite being in the middle of everything — and maybe it’s all the more powerful because it is — there can be great quiet there, right on Fifth Avenue in one of the busiest cities in the world, and opportunities for deep prayer. I’m forever seeing piety from daily visitors, joggers, and tourists who appear to be seeking the face of God whenever the doors of the church are open.

This particular altar is definitely no exception. I’ll often see flowers left behind, a man kneeling, a woman lighting a candle. And I always feel like I am being drawn deeper into a love story — God’s love for us.

From the Holy Face, my route is largely the same every time I’m there on my way to the Blessed Sacrament chapel dedicated to Our Lady. I always stop at the sixth station on the wall and look at the depiction of the face of Jesus there.

I always try to get into the line of sight, between Jesus and Veronica. Veronica is so moved by the suffering of Christ in his passion that she walks up and gives him her veil to wipe his sweat and blood on, to give him a moment’s relief.

Sometimes I see someone working on the frontlines of love — whether it be family life, or supporting struggling families, or another more hidden or thankless ministry; sometimes it’s the priesthood, and I want to do the same.

Whatever church I’m in, truth be told, it does not have to be as grand as the cathedral in Manhattan or anywhere else — I’m always drawn to this station. I imagine myself looking at Jesus in his passion. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I can see him looking at me.

We make him suffer and he knows our suffering. We’re together every day. These two profound realities are how we can more consciously live our lives with God.

Lent is about remembering that, returning to him in love, knowing his presence. Seeing his face — most importantly in the Eucharist, especially after a good Confession — makes all the difference.

It often doesn’t take very long after leaving a church in a city to encounter his face again in the faces of others.

The other day it was the counterterrorism officer who was checking the outside of the cathedral with a dog who was sniffing everything that could be a potential hidden threat (the dirt and grass by the handicap ramp; the box that keeps the traffic light on the corner sidewalk running).

If I’m at St. Patrick’s, frequently the first people I see there are tourists taking selfies. “May they see Christ’s image in them!” I whisper in prayer — sometimes as a plea, because God would appear furthest from their minds, on the surface between Victoria’s Secret and NBA store bags (such is the neighborhood).

Most especially, Jesus’ face can be — and must be, for the sake of our souls and for the love of every man and woman and child on earth, which is how we love God in this mess of a world — seen in a man nesting on concrete, asking for spare change or a meal, desperate to be noticed, never mind loved.

In so many of the artistic depictions of the Holy Face of Jesus, both his love and our need are laid bare. (If you were to Google now, you will find plenty of them. I’m partial to El Greco, but I always am.) There’s something about artistic renditions of his face that always seem to capture the depths of love.

The human imagination captures something both of the truth of God and our longing for him. And as beautiful as so many of them are, they only begin to tell the story. They flow from the love of Jesus on the cross, a love that most of us have not even begun to fully truly appreciate.

There’s no requirement to believe the Shroud of Turin or the Veil of Manoppello are, in fact, evidence of the Lord’s death and resurrection. But they do seem yet more windows into his love for us, not just in the images themselves but in the possible physical evidence for the skeptical and notes of love for the faithful they so many pilgrims believe them to be.

As German journalist Paul Badde has laid out, the two of them, when brought together, show the exact same face — one a man who has died, and one of the same man with his eyes opened — and healed.

Paul Badde pondering the Holy Veil of Manoppello Photo: Alan Holdren

Badde has literally written the book on the Holy Face, which is preserved at a shrine in the mountain village of Manoppello, Italy. Ask him to talk about the face of Christ, and he will immediately be making plans to show you things.

If you can’t plan a day trip to Manoppello with the Holy Face, he will show you a replica in his apartment, and likely hand you a card with its image before you part ways.

He says it was the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe who first brought the Holy Face of Jesus to his attention — because she always brings you to her Son. He’s since written of the Veil of Manoppello as an adventurous investigation.

He’s convinced this is the face of Jesus and that it is about the most important relic there is because of the deeper knowledge it draws us into, the reality of Jesus in our lives and in our world. God “didn’t become a book, he became a person. God became a person. Man.”

Badde is not the only evangelist for Manoppello. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI took a pilgrimage to the shrine where it resides in the Abruzzo mountains.

He said at the time: “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.”

The “Volto Santo” (“Holy Face”) has very much become a ministry for Badde. He believes it is critical in this age of disbelief to stop and look and consider the implications of a God who would live and die and be resurrected for love of us and to redeem us for our sins for eternity.

He fears that so many — even at high levels in the Church — don’t actually believe in the Resurrection. The Holy Face can change this, he believes. And he’s not only talking about people in the pews, but theologians and bishops, too.

Maybe that explains how scandals can happen — the weakness of belief, the rise of unbelief and outright hostility to real religious faith, even where it would be expected to be most solid. They think resurrection is “good preaching or … a living community.

“No, resurrection is real. Jesus was dead and he resurrected from the dead. He’s alive. From the dead to alive. … That’s so important. It’s so important against all the heresies about it, because all the heresies … at the foundation … are about not believing in the Resurrection anymore.”

Pope Benedict XVI gazes at the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

He believes the veil bears witness to the reality of the Resurrection, which is why he is somewhat tenderly relentless about telling its story.

In his own reflection on the relic, Cardinal Robert Sarah says: “In Manoppello we encounter God face-to-face. It is such a moving place. One is so touched by the gentleness of Christ’s eyes, with their extraordinary penetrating and calming power. And when we let ourselves be seen by him, his gaze purifies and heals us. We can really sense how much Jesus has loved us — so much as to die for us. For true love is dying for the one you love.”

It’s hard to miss that when I ask Badde about the veil, his morning routine, and how he spends his days. All he can talk about is the love of God and the love he draws us into in the Eucharist and the eyes we see on the face on the veil.

When meditating on the Holy Face of Jesus, whether the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello, your parish’s sixth station of the cross, or whatever image your Google search seeking his face lands you on, be drawn in to the truth of what we celebrate as “Good” on that last Friday before Easter year after year.

There’s no guarantee any one of us will live to see another Paschal Triduum — so don’t let Holy Week be reduced to a series of mere obligations and traditions.

Gaze at the Lord in his passion, walk with him even to the gates of hell on Holy Saturday. Go to the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene in prayer. Make his love story for us the story of your life, because this is what he wants, this is our identity as Christians.

Look at him with love and let him look at you with just a touch of a taste of the enormity of his love for you. And you will see this more and more as everything. And you will see his face more and more in the world, just as others will be able to see his face in yours by how you look at them with love.

Manoppello is worth reading more about. But even if you don’t, remember the love with which the Lord looks down at you from the cross, remember the love with which he forgives and heals and makes you new again. Keep seeking his face.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is a contributing editor to Angelus, and editor-at-large of National Review Online.

Editor’s note: Journalist Paul Badde’s book “The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus” (Ignatius, $17.95) tells the story of the historical and scientific evidence behind the belief that the Veil of Manoppello is the face cloth laid over the face of Jesus in the tomb.

Holy Veil of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

A Miracle of Light

The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the temple is a feast of light, signifying by the lighting of the candles that Christ our radiant Light shines in the world.  Mary carried the Christ Child, the true Light of the World, to present Him in the Temple, but so few recognized Him, because the world had been eclipsed in darkness. It was only the prophetess Anna, “who spent night and day praying in the Temple,” and the aged Simeon, who longed to see the Messiah before  he died, who saw the light on the face of the Child Jesus and recognized their Lord.

The transparent veil on which, by a “miracle of light” the Face of Christ is visible. Hand of Cardinal Koch Photo: Paul Badde

The world today is also eclipsed in darkness, but a glimmer of light still shines, bringing hope and peace to souls. If you are prayerful, like Anna, if you long to see His Face, like Simeon the high priest, you too will recognize your Lord — in the Scripture, in the faces of those around you, and in the Most Holy Eucharist.

There is yet another “miracle of light,” a means by which the Face of Jesus shines: It is called the Veil of Manoppello.  It is a sign to a darkened world that God became man for our salvation.  As was true at the Presentation in the Temple, there are few that recognize this great sign for what it is: An *”Iconic Turn,” a gift from God to draw mankind back “to seek His Face.”

Paul Badde has written a wonderful article for Vatican Magazine, on the Omnis Terra celebration honoring the “miracle of light,” the Face of Christ on the Veil of Manoppello, and the humble men who recognized their Lord there. Thank you, Paul, for the permission to post this article, and thanks too, to Raymond Frost for your translation in English from the original German.

*”An Iconic turn…a new picture that is essentially true: with the sun in the center! –Paul Badde”

Veil of Manoppello, photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Omnis terra in Manoppello

A Copernican turn in the fog of Abruzzo

BY PAUL BADDE

“Omnis terra adorate, Deus, et psallat tibi”

(Let all the world adore you, O God and sing psalms to you).

Psalm 100

Cardinal Muller, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

On the feast day of St. Agnes the Virgin, martyred for Christ in the third century in Rome, there appeared in the New York Magazine a glossy cover story about the “gay church” by the avowed gay writer Andrew Sullivan.  That was to be expected sooner rather than later.  What was wholly unexpected was that, a day before, Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, the prefect of the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017, arrived in Manoppello to come together with the archbishops Bruno Forte from Chieti-Vasto in Abruzzo and Salvatore Cordileone from San Francisco, California, to bless the city, the world and the Church with the face of Christ on his sudarium.

The Aaronic Blessing

In Hebrew, kohanim birkat םיִנֲהֹּכ תַּכְרִּב, by which God is entreated that his face might shine upon us, is the oldest recorded blessing of the whole entire Bible. But this blessing is not given to be received from the outstretched hands of the priests, but with the “true Icon “of the human face of God- from the hands of three bishops from Germany, Italy and America –

This was unheard of and has never been this way before. The American news outlet Catholic News Service CNS had beforehand pointed to the event and could not guess what was about to happen.

Pope Benedict XVI gazes at the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

Because as Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006, as the first Pope after four hundred years for the first time who again had bent his knee and bowed to the true facecloth of Christ,

Nevertheless, the circumstances and much resistance had allowed him little more time before the precious icon than would any Japanese tourist be allowed.  Neither the local bishop nor the guardian of the shrine could not then dare to ask the Pontiff to bless the world with the true icon. So this Sunday it was no less than a theological turning point, as Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller with two chief shepherds from the Old and the New Worlds, blessed the city of Manoppello, the world and the church with the face of Christ.

Omnis Terra Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

It was an unprecedented celebration dating back to 1208 when Pope Innocent III first made known in Rome the face of God to the Latin world of the West on the second Sunday after the feast of the apparition to the peoples (Epiphany), bearing in his hands the hitherto unknown Sanctissimo Sudarium in a solemn procession from St. Peter’s Basilica to the nearby Hospital Church of Sancto Spirito in Sassia.

This Sunday bears the name “Omnis Terra” after the Latin entrance psalm for the day. This tradition was renewed again in the same churches three years ago by the archbishops Georg Gänswein and Edmond Farhat from Lebanon with pilgrims from Manoppello. It was in the “Year of Mercy ” which Pope Francis had proclaimed. And it borders on a miracle that the spark only three years later jumped to California where the brave archbishop, whose diocese adjoins the Silicon Valley and includes the headquarters of YouTube and Facebook, on the same evening sent the following statement on the internet:

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

“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.

Archbishop Bruno Forte and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

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.”

. – Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, California,

– Manoppello, on January 20, 2019 ”

L-R: Archbishop Bruno Forte, Cardinal Gerhard Muller holding the Veil of the Holy Face, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The American archbishop “Lionheart” from San Francisco and his Italian brother and Manoppello’s local bishop Bruno Forte, fellow celebrities at the side of the German cardinal, could not be more different from each other. The savvy Monsignor Forte had already fourteen years prior laconically stated that the enigmatic veil icon “sorrow and Light are brought so close together, as only love can do “. Since then – and especially after the visit of Pope Benedict XVI -numerous Cardinals have streamed here and are so very enthusiastic in their homage to the image, as the evangelist Matthew related of the biblical wise men from the East in front of the child in Bethlehem.

Kurt Cardinal Koch observes the transparency of the Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde
Cardinal Tagle delivers homily at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
Robert Cardinal Sarah (photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

Most recently it was the Cardinals Kurt Koch from Switzerland, Robert Sarah from Africa and Antonio Tagle from Asia. Who knows the portrait, knows: the power of silence rests in it.   It has been scientifically proven for decades that it is not painted and contains no imaging color or blood traces. Nevertheless, there is a decades long conspiracy of professors and experts (who have for the most part never seen it) against the spiderwebs sheath made of mussel silk, since it was first identified in the seventies of the last century by the Capuchin Domenico da Cese as the hagion soudarion, which the evangelist John prominently mentioned next to other cloths in the empty tomb of Christ in his report on the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  The dispute should be no surprise. Already in the first millennium the Soudarion led to the extremely violent wars and dislocations of the “iconoclast controversy”. In fact, the issue raised today is not about images but about the question of God: “You, who do you think I am?”.  The spectacular response of Cardinal Muller, is even more of a breakthrough than the visit of Pope Benedict to Manoppello, in which one of the most prominent Church theologians at the end of the Gutenberg Age (dominated by Dr. Luther’s maxim “Sola scriptura”) in front of this great icon and mother of the images not made by human hands, but still, so to speak,  before the book of evidence has been closed, and without even speaking in his homily of the day’s Gospel (the wedding of Cana), but said the following:  link to homily

“Il Volto Santo” the Holy Face of Manoppello, Photo: Paul Badde

Thus the words of Cardinal Muller’s sermon. Even more telling, however, were the photos taken at the end of the solemn pontifical Mass with his brothers in their common blessing gesture with the facecloth.. It was a Copernican revolution, and yes, it really was a breakthrough that in its meaning must be compared with the book “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” of Nicolaus Copernicus of 1543. The analogy is neither reckless nor indiscriminate. A lot of the facts of Copernicus were wrong and almost all the details.  Nevertheless, we honor him for being one who has drawn a new picture that is essentially true: with the sun in the center!

Archbishop Bruno Forte (L), Cardinal Gerhard Muller (Center), Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (R) Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

And now the three bishops raised like hardly ever before in the liturgy this new blessing with the human face –God’s return of the visible Jesus Christ to the center of the world and the Church– and made it clearer than ever that the Creator of the Heaven and the earth has not become a book at the end of days, but man, and with it also picture. It was an unprecedented translation of all theology into the new and universal imagery that has become the digital revolution of the world in its entirety

“Iconic Turn” as a new means of communication.

Now it was suddenly as if the time of the eclipse haunting the earth, the world and the church finally ends in the misty Abruzzo with the look into the merciful eyes of Christ by the three shepherds

Venice, Illustration for the Divine Comedy of Dante, 13th Century”

There was no further dispute on the overwhelming, sometimes almost suffocating, problems and capital sins that the Church of our day poses, but with the holy facecloth Christ has steered a whole new look towards his face, as the head of the church and the face of love, “that moves the sun and the other stars” as Dante, the prince among poets, still formulated at the goal of the cosmic pilgrimage in his Divine Comedy. Ω

Miraculous Veil of the”Holy Face of Manoppello” in Italy Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN
The Holy Sudarium: the Veil of Manoppello, Italy Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Seeking Mary, Our Mother’s Face

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee

Advocata Nostra sul Monte Mario – Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Why is it that Catholics travel great distances to shrines of Our Lady collecting holy cards, statues, or medals with her images? Non-Catholics will scratch their heads, or frown on what they believe is misplaced devotion meant only for God. But just as it is only natural for a child to seek and long for the faces of their mother and father whom they love, we too seek and long for the Face of the Father, being made in His image and likeness, and also search for the loving face of Our Mother, given to us by Jesus from the Cross, so that she may help form us into the image of her Son Jesus Christ.

Every image of Our Lady comes with a title that reveals a particular aspect of her love and intercession for her children in need: Our Lady of the Rosary, Mother of Perpetual Help, Mother of Divine Grace, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, etc. A list of her images and titles gathered from all over the world may number in the thousands, but the oldest known image is said to date back to the first century, originating from the Holy Land or Syria. It is an icon that, tradition tells us, was painted by St. Luke himself in encaustic, an ancient painting technique with hot wax and resin. Brought to Rome to save it from destruction during the iconoclasm of the Eastern Church, it is a treasure that has been hidden away for centuries. Although the fragile linden wood icon is now worm-eaten and crumbling, the face of the Blessed Mother remains, and it is exquisite! She is known by a very unusual name — the “Advocata Nostra,” Our Lawyer.

Our Lawyer? It may seem an odd title; however, the name “Advocata” or lawyer is most fitting. Mary, as Spouse of the Holy Spirit the Advocate, undoubtedly received even greater gifts of the Holy Spirit as she prayed in the midst of the Apostles at Pentecost, she herself becoming an advocate for the children of God.

The rich history of the icon includes Pope Sergius III moving the beloved image from a small chapel known as Santa Maria in Tempuli in Italy, only to have the icon miraculously return to its original place. In 1221, when the nuns of the monastery were to be moved to another community at San Sisto, they hesitated to leave, and would only go on the condition that the icon of Our Lady go with them. There was great concern that the image would again return on its own to Santa Maria in Tempuli. However, the famous St. Dominic, who we have to thank for the traditional Rosary to Our Lady, solved the difficulty by carrying the image in his arms in procession to its new home where it remained until 1575. It was later relocated again, always remaining under the care of the Dominicans. The chronicle of Sr. Salomona, recorded, in 1656, that the image had been painted in the Upper Room by St. Luke, following the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. She now intercedes for us as Mother of the Church before the throne of God in an unprecedented way as “Advocata” — the one who defends or pleads the cause of another — their champion.

This beautiful icon of the Blessed Mother “Advocata” was first brought to my attention by the German journalist Paul Badde. Paul is not only a journalist but also an art historian — and a bit of a detective — diligently sifting through ancient clues to discover anew precious treasures that have been hidden for centuries, sometimes under our very noses, such as the Veil of Manoppello. Ever since Paul sent me a photo of the “Advocata Nostra,” I have been captivated by her beauty, strength, and loving maternal gaze. There are many copies of the painting in the churches and museums of Europe, but only one original, which exceeds all others in beauty, and like all precious treasures, it was not easy to find. Paul’s search actually began when he was a correspondent in Jerusalem, when a monk from Mount Zion recommended that he look in Rome for the image of Our Lady painted by St. Luke. Paul’s account of his own search for this hidden jewel of an icon may be found in this German article, Der Schatz von Monte Mario. (I have also added a “Google” translation from the original German article below, but hope readers can get a good sense of the article none the less.)

Paul discovered, however, that finding such a buried treasure in Rome was like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. No one had ever heard of the cloistered Dominican convent of St. Mary of the Rosary, where the original icon was said to be found; all inquiries met dead ends. Paul, together with his wife Ellen, with few clues, wandered long up the steep winding Roman streets, and had nearly given up their search just five minutes away from their goal. But, as Paul relates in his article: a hidden inscription on the roadside led to a locked gate of the monastery on Monte Mario. Once inside the door of the ancient, decaying church, from behind the cloister grill the sound of singing greeted them as they entered the sunlit interior of the church. Through another heavy iron grill they could see a painting of Our Lady, with a seemingly sorrowful aspect, surrounded by the precious stones, jewels, gold and rosaries left by pilgrims. Soon, Paul heard a soft voice speak from behind the picture, “One moment!…wait.” Two small windows to the right and left of the painting unfolded, the the whole frame began to move, and was turned from behind, revealing that the jewel encrusted image that they first saw was actually the back of the true icon of the “Advocata” now before their eyes. Paul described the icon of “our lawyer of God” as “breathtakingly beautiful!”

The “Advocata” behind the grate of the cloister. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

In the fifth century the icon of Our Lady was described in an epistle of Bishop Epiphanios of Cyprus: “It was of medium size…and her complexion was that of a wheat grain. “She has amber eyes, dark brows, pupils like olives, a slender nose and rose-colored mouth.”  While later icons of the Blessed Mother portrayed her together with the child Jesus as “Mother of God,” in this icon, although Jesus is not seen, her hands indicate both her intercession for us, and “the way” to her Son.  Paul Badde reminded me that the Latin verb ad-vocare means call over or summon in English. “So, the Advocata is the one who is there when you call her.” She is cloistered behind the grate — in the world but not of the world — and together with the Dominican nuns, our “Advocata” will forever plead our cause before the Face of God, if only we call on her and seek our Mother’s face.

“Advocata Nostra” Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Salve Regina – Hail, Holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee to we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Advocata Nostra with golden hands and cross
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

 

Below is a translation of Paul Badde’s original article from the German. Please forgive the imperfection of translation, but I hope the reader will get a sense of this wonderful article by Paul Badde

The treasure of Monte Mario  (Original Article In German – here)

Published on 03.01.2007 | Reading time: 8 minutes, By Paul Badde

At an almost forgotten Roman monastery, our correspondent discovered a century-old icon of Mary. It is supposed to be the legendary portrait of the Mother of God, which Luke, the evangelist, painted on the cross after Jesus’ death.

The “Advocata” is not a lawyer in the usual sense, but an ancient picture on fragile, worm-eaten wood. Still, I discovered her when I needed a lawyer again. The phone rang as I stood in front of her, and I turned it off immediately. Otherwise no noise disturbed us. Years before I had decided to visit this picture as soon as I came to Rome, since Bernhard Maria, a monk from Mount Zion, had recommended it to us in Jerusalem. Just then, in a crooked house behind the Armenian quarter, we discovered a dark image of Mary on deerskin, of which the Syrian archpriest assured  that it was from Luke, the evangelist, himself. Was not the claim ridiculous? “Oh, a Lukas icon”, Bernhard Maria only smiled.

He knew twelve such pictures, having seen them personally and by hearsay, of which the most venerable was to be in Rome, in a monastery on Monte Mario.

Of course, nobody in Rome knew anything I asked when we arrived, nor did I find a photo of it. No travel guide had the picture in the program, even the worldwide network gave no information. The Advocata simply could not be found.

I had almost forgotten  about it when last year an  email appeared on my screen in which a friend from Aachen wrote to me: “For Christmas I will send you this beautiful icon (from the Rosary Monastery on Monte Mario). I found it in the ‘Seven Luke Icons of Rome’, by Salesia Bongenberg from Fulda, left to me by a priest friend. She greets you from her other world. Could you use it? “Attached was a photo in which one could distinguish, in spite of the advanced deterioration of the wood, only the face and one hand of the Madonna.  Above the image was written: ” Advocata – summoned “.

But not even the small book, which was in my mailbox a week later, was the address of the Rosary Monastery, nor did the telephone book help us, nor our pastor, nor any taxi driver. So we sat down somewhere on the long Via Trionfale on Monte Mario.

It was here that the Emperor Constantine saw a monogram of Christ in the evening sky up here on October 27, 312, before beating the army of his opponent Maxentius the next day down the Milvian Bridge under the same “Sign of the Cross”.

But now not even a Carmelite along the Via Trionfale had  ever heard of the Dominican convent of St. Mary of the Rosary in the neighborhood, where the oldest icon of the city is supposed to be found. We gave up. “Let’s go back!” My wife said.

Still, five minutes later we found ourselves in front of the monastery. A hidden inscription on the roadside, next to a locked gate, above a decaying Baroque church, between the trees, behind walls. At the back of the complex another door, also closed, but with a bell. “Ave Maria,” a voice from the intercom announced. No, no, we could not go to church right now. The house was a enclosed cloister for eternal prayer, and its inhabitants lived behind their self-imposed bars.

But, we could come the next morning. As of seven o’clock in a side wall, a steel door was open for visitors for Mass at half past seven.

The next morning, sun was filtering into the church. From the left of the altar, the singing of some voices were heard through a barred window. Next to it, through another heavy iron grille, is the image of the Madonna that we have been searching for so long. She looks sad, in the shadow of the overflowing jewelry with which pilgrims and devotees have surrounded her: with gold, precious stones, rosaries. “One moment!”, I hear a soft voice behind the picture, “wait!” On the left and right next to the Madonna, two small little windows unfold, then the whole frame starts to move and is turned from behind. The generously decorated image was the back, and it was just a copy of the true “Advocata” .

The image itself, on the other hand, is at home on the side of the monastery, which has become a human vault. Now it turns to us, without any decoration of jewelry. A small lamp illuminates it from above. The icon is about 60 cm wide and 90 cm high. Fine cracks run through the warm complexion of the Madonna’s skin, and the coral-red lips, broken by many small areas that have been restored. The remainder was unable to be saved. Only this face has maintained itself in incomparable splendor between all decay and dissolution, infinitely familiar. Like the mother’s round face, meeting the gaze of her infant as she bends over Him for the first time. She does not look sad. Her hands are covered with gold and point to the right, as if to indicate one way.

It is the first representation of Mary that the Russians call “Rimskaya” (The Roman) or “Liddskaja” (The one from Lydda). Rome is the only place, along with Sinai, where images have been found  that have survived the iconoclasm of the Eastern Church. However it is in Lydda, today’s Lod, at the Ben-Gurion Airport between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, of which it is said that the first image of Mary appeared during her lifetime, as stated in a letter from three patriarchs to Emperor Theophilus in 833.

“It was of medium size,” says another Epistle of Bishop Epiphanios of Cyprus in the 5th century, “and her complexion was that of a wheat grain.” She has amber eyes, dark brows, pupils like olives, a slender nose and a rose-colored mouth.

He could not have seen her in person; However, he could have seen this image and the soul-soothing gaze of those eyes. But where?

In Rome, several trails lead to some images with exactly the same posture – which, however, make it clear that no other can match this image. They must all be copies, and only this is the original. Of all these family of  images only the “Advocata” is painted with wax, that is: “encaustic”, in an ancient painting technique with hot wax and resin, whose secret was lost forever in the 7th century. Most likely, therefore, it resembles some mummy portraits found in some of the oases of Upper Egypt in the 19th century, all from the 1st to the 4th century, all painted in the manner of the Encaustic, and the older, the more expressive. The oldest of them is closest to “Advocata”. With her eyes as deep as wells, no person has come down to us is such an inspiring manner from the depth of time. The linden wood is so decayed that the age can not be determined.

For more than 1000 years, the path of this Table has been well documented. San Domenico di Guzman, to whom Christendom owes the rosary, carried the picture on February 28, 1221, by hand, from S. Maria in Tempulo to his newly founded convent. In 1575 it migrated from there to SS. Domenico e Sisto in the Piazza Magnanapoli, from there it came in 1931 in the Rosary Monastery on Monte Mario.

Before that, we have only legends which have illuminated its path through the darkness of time like a halo, of which a Sister Salomona in 1656 has gathered the most beautiful [legends] in a work entitled “Cronaca.” She had no doubt that Luke had painted the picture in the Upper Room in Sion. That is why Luke conveyed this gaze of she who had seen her Son being martyred to death next to her. Did not she then have to become the first icon of her Son among the apostles?

John, not Luke, then took the picture from Jerusalem to Ephesus, from where it later came to Constantinople and Europe. Here Thomas Aquinas stated in the Middle Ages that for the faith of the Christians was not only the Holy Scriptures, but also that tradition played an essential role. As a special example of authentic traditions, he pointed to the icon painted by Luke. Could he have meant something other than “Advocata”? He knew Rome and was Dominican, just a generation after Dominic, who had incorporated this icon into his order, which has found its last place today on Monte Mario.

Before the Advocata was brought here, Franz Liszt composed his Christ Oratory in the house. The view over Rome is cosmic. The dome in the panorama of the hills almost lost since the “Hilton” hotel was built above the monastery, The image of Mary in this retreat of the Dominicans is still poignant, as on the first day, as a hidden wonder of the world. The story is not over yet, she says with an ageless look. Is not she just starting again?

In any case, the nuns who keep “the sweet image in inseparable communion” are getting older and older. Of 13 sisters, five are over 80, one is 92. Water comes through some walls, the pipes are old and brittle, Sister Maria Angelica, the Mother Superior, cannot pay her debts, the phones do not work. She urgently needs donations and only knows how to beg her [Mary] in prayer. It is a little island in a world that — from a purely sociological point of view — is more in danger of extinction than the glaciers of Switzerland.

When I turned my phone back on after our first visit outside the door, I learned that the case, for which I was looking for a lawyer, had just solved by itself. I turned around again. How breathtakingly beautiful she is! Mary “is our lawyer with God,” said Benedict XVI. on 11 September in Regensburg, therefore she received the title “Advocata”. I see how I have to go back to her (and maybe the Pope too). We will all still need them.

 

Beauty and Benediction for “Omnis Terra” procession in Manoppello

 

Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Sr. Blandina Pachalis Schloemer
Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Sr. Blandina Pachalis Schlomer

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.

detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia"
Detail of procession with the Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia”

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.

Holy Face of Manoppello, phot: Patricia Enk
Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

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:

Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer
Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer

“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.”

Dom Americo Ciani carrying Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello in procession, photo: Paul Badde
Dom Americo Ciani carrying Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello in procession, photo: Paul Badde
Mons. Ciani (Right) holding reliquary of Pope Urban VIII
Mons. Ciani (Right) holding reliquary of Pope Urban VIII

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.)

Mons. Americo Ciani and Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Paul Badde
Mons. Americo Ciani and Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: 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)

Archbishop Edmond Farhat and Mons. Americo Ciani, Photo: Paul Badde
Archbishop Edmond Farhat and Mons. Americo Ciani, Photo: Paul Badde

(Bishop Farhat, on left, died December 17, 2016-May he gaze on God’s Face!)

“The Polar Star of Christianity” – The Face of Mercy

image
Veil of Manoppello (hand of Kurt Cardinal Koch seen through transparent veil) Photo: Paul Badde

“We saw in the Face the mercy of God”: A dialogue with Cardinal Koch

Paul Badde interviews the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on a special event
By Paul Badde
(Manoppello, September 2016 / 9:15 a.m.)

Kurt Cardinal Koch observes the transparency of the Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde
Kurt Cardinal Koch observes the transparency of the Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde

In 2017, it will be 500 years since in the West the Lutheran brothers and sisters began to separate themselves from the Pope and from the Roman Catholic Church. However, even older than the Reformation and the division of the Western Church is the Great Schism of the East, and the division of Christianity into the Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church in the West, which occurred in 1054 between Rome and Constantinople. Only on December 7, 1965 Pope Paul VI from Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras from Istanbul solemnly cancelled the reciprocal anathemas “from the memory and from the center of the Church” “abandoning them to oblivion.” But the Eastern Church and the Western Church remained estranged, above all from the cultural point of view. Now, however, at the invitation of Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, on September 18, 2016, seventy Orthodox bishops celebrated the “Divine Liturgy” of Saint John Chrysostom under the Face of Christ, there exposed above the principal altar, together with two cardinals and numerous other prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello.

CNA: Lord Cardinal, Archbishop Bruno Forte calls the “Holy Face” of Christ “the polar star of Christianity.” For him, there is no reasonable cause to doubt that the image on the veil is the sudario of Christ that John cites in the Holy Sepulchre near the burial clothes. But is it not also a provocation for the Orthodox brothers?

Cardinal Koch: Christians believe in one God who showed his concrete face in Jesus Christ. When we know more closely the Face of Christ and when we more deeply identify ourselves with him, the more deeply we become one, as well. For this is a miraculous event to be in front of the Face of Christ, to pray, to venerate the Face, because it fulfills his [Christ’s] desire that we be one.

Catholics have something to bring to the Orthodox. Also for the Orthodox it is so, as for instance for their culture of the veneration of icons. Could it be that from this day forward also in the Catholic Church the images can come to be understood and evaluated in a new way – in the midst of that mighty “Iconic Turn” that the experts of communication today note, in which the images expect a general role in communications like never before?
Yes, the very profound mystery of ecumenism is an exchange of gifts. Today the Church has her gifts. And a particular gift the Orthodox have are the icons. So I think that also many Christians in the West can find a new access to the icons and thus deepening the faith. It is a great gift. It is very important that we also re-evaluate the images in the Western tradition. With the Reform of the sixteenth century, we have placed a whole new accent on the word. But the Word has become flesh, the Word became visible, so also the images belong to the faith. This is a gift from the Orthodox that we welcome gratefully.
At Chieti, in these recent days the delicate question of the theological and ecclesiological relations between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church, then the role of Peter and that of all bishops, was discussed within the commission that has come on pilgrimage to Manoppello. Ten years ago Peter came here in the vesture of Pope Benedict. Since then, there has been an enormous turning point in the evaluation of this image of Manoppello that has become famous throughout the world. What significance do you think will be given to this day of pilgrimage, in which the synod of bishops gathered here?
It is very beautiful that we could come here on this anniversary ten years later. Pope Benedict came in the name of the whole Catholic Church. Today is present here the Church of the East and of the West. So this anniversary maybe can also help in the search for the unity between the Church in the East and the Church in the West.
You, as president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, are responsible to Rome for ecumenism. In this regard, Pope Francis affirmed: “Look at Christ and go ahead with courage!” Which next step would indicate to you today to go with courage to encounter Christ, in a day in which notwithstanding the difference between the Eastern Church and the Western Church you have come together before this image?
In reality, we are always on the way towards Christ. Because it is His Will that we find unity, it is not a human project. Christ himself on the eve of His Passion prayed that His disciples might be one, that the world might believe. The credibility of this testimony depends on the fact that we are one. This is also a particular request of Pope Francis, when he says that when we can walk on the same road toward Christ, then we find unity.
Misericordiae Vultus”: with these first Latin words begins the Bull of Indiction with which Pope Francis announced this year of the Jubilee of Mercy. The “Face of Mercy” has given to this year a very particular meaning. What do you sense today being here before the merciful gaze of Jesus, who looks at us from this wonderful veil?
It is a magnificent message that we can have a merciful God, for which we know that there are no cases without hope. Per as long as a man can fall down, he can never fall lower than the hands of God. Now you can really see this face, encounter it, it is naturally a marvelous deepening of this message of the Holy Year. The men of today need nothing more than the mercy of God. And if they can look on the Face of the merciful God it is a marvelous gift.
And what will you tell Pope Francis about this event in case you will have the opportunity?
I will certainly tell him that we saw in the Face his great message of the mercy of God. And that this Face is important for the whole Church. It is in a certain way the manifesto of the Church: the merciful Face of God!

Kurt Cardinal Koch contemplates the Holy Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Kurt Cardinal Koch contemplates the Holy Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde

(Re-printed with the Author’s permission) Translation from the Italian by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle

 

“I pray that they all may be one” –John 17:21

The Holy Face of Jesus on a miraculous veil in Manoppello, Italy bought together over seventy Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bishops to celebrate Divine Liturgy and for theological dialogue on September 18th, 2016, taking one more important step toward fulfilling the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper “that all may be one.” (Jn. 17:21)

A Sacred Dream – Originally at Catholic News Agency, re-printed here with permission of the author, Paul Badde

Veil of Manoppello photo: Paul Badde
Veil of Manoppello
photo: Paul Badde

A Sacred Dream by Paul Badde

It was a single word that brought about the decisive split between the Eastern and Western churches. It happened in May 581, at the Council of Toledo, when the bishops of the Visigoth kingdom added the Latin word “filioque” to the then-200-year-old Catholic creed of the Council of Nicea-Constantinople.

In English, the word means: “and the Son.” Ever since that day, Christians of the West pray in their creed: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son,” whereas in the Eastern Churches to this day they pray: “We believe in the Holy spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.” This addition first attained the rank of dogma under Pope Benedict VIII, and then again in 1215, by which time alienation between East and West had substantially increased.

However, it was but this single word that became both a stumbling block and a milestone in the separation process between the Eastern and Western Church. Thousands upon thousands of highly erudite words only further deepened the rift and never could heal it.

Metropolitan Job Getcha of Talmessos giving homily. Photo: Daniel Ibanez (CNA/EWTN) Photo:
Metropolitan Job Getcha of Telmessos giving homily. Photo: Daniel Ibanez (CNA/EWTN)

But this week, in a quiet ceremony unnoticed by most media, a single image brought the Eastern and Western Church together in way that arguably has never happened before. On this Sunday, Sept. 18, in the small town of Manoppello in the Abruzzi mountains, 70 Orthodox bishops celebrated, together with two cardinals and many Roman Catholic bishops and clergymen, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom before the image of the “Holy Face.” The holy veil had been hidden for more than 300 years in a side chapel of St Michael’s Church, until, after the great earthquake of 1915, it was publicly displayed for the first time again, in the year 1923, over the main altar of a newly constructed building, where it can be visited and adored every day.

Pope Benedict XVI Visit to the Holy Face of Manoppello in 2006
Pope Benedict XVI Visit to the Holy Face of Manoppello in 2006

Ten years after the September 2006 visit of Pope Benedict XVI, this visit of a mixed Orthodox synod, together with their Latin brothers, marked a most significant event in the process of re-discovery of this mysterious, original icon of Christ. It had long been worshiped in Constantinople as “Hagion Mandylion,” and later in Rome as “Sanctissimum Sudarium,” before it was also given the name of “Sancta Veronica Ierosolymitana.”

There were metropolitans and bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (from Finland, Estonia, Crete, Patmos, Malta, Great Britain, America, Australia, the Exarchate of the Philippines, from Europe and from Mount Athos) and patriarchs, metropolitans and archbishops of Alexandria, Antioch, Damascus, Jerusalem, the autonomous Church of Mount Sinai, and the Orthodox churches of Russia, Georgia, Serbia, Cyprus, Romania, Greece Poland, Albania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, which came before the Holy Face and celebrated the Eucharist. Only the Bulgarian Church had sent no representative.

The antiphons of the liturgy were in Italian, Russian, Greek, English, Romanian and French. In his homily, given in English, Metropolitan Job Getcha of Telmessos, who headed the service as representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, praised the “image of Christ, not made by human hand” of Manoppello. He pointed out that – according to some scholars – the Image is identical with that of the Soudarion from the Gospel of the Resurrection according to John, while another tradition holds that a certain Veronica wiped the face of Jesus with this veil on his way to the Cross, though she is not mentioned in the canonical Gospels.

Archbishop Bruno Forte from nearby Chieti knows that neither bloodstains nor any residue of paint can be found in the veil. It had been his idea and initiative to bring the bishops before the face of Christ, which he likes to praise as the “North Star of Christendom.” He invited the group to Manoppello and had given the visitors a scholarly introduction on the bus trip from his diocesan town of Chieti to Manoppello.

In Chieti, the pilgrims had all participated in the 14th General Assembly of a Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. They had discussed a document entitled “Towards a common understanding of synodality and primacy in the service of the unity of the Church.” It was a debate that began in the previous plenary meeting in the Jordanian capital Amman in 2014 and was continued in 2015 in Rome. The Commission is the official organ of the theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. It was founded in 1979 and unites 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches, which are each represented by two theologians who are mostly bishops, together with Catholic representatives.

And now the same group practically traced, as a synodal pilgrimage, that first spectacular step towards the face of Christ that Benedict XVI undertook ten years ago, against much resistance, the first pope to do so after more than 400 years.

His successor Pope Francis later – on Nov 30, 2014 while flying from Istanbul back to Rome – told journalists travelling with him: “Be careful: the Church does not have a light of its own. She needs to gaze upon Jesus Christ! On that path, we must move forward courageously.”

And following on this path, the Divine Liturgy before the Divine Face this Sunday became a milestone of reconciliation on the way to unity. Heavy rainfall had been announced. But only a few drops ended up falling.

“Pray for the Christians in the Middle East as you pray before the Holy Face. They are suffering unspeakably,” an Oriental bishop said right after the final blessing to the German sister Petra-Maria Steiner, who introduces countless pilgrims to the mystery of the light of this image in Manoppello. Earlier, at the conclusion of the celebration, Anatoliy Grytskiv, Protopresbyter of Chieti, had hailed the “miracle” of the encounter in a passionate summary in Italian.

Miraculous Holy Face Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Miraculous Holy Face Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde

Whereto from here? “Today we have gazed upon the face of God,” Cardinal Kurt Koch told CNA outside the main entrance of the Basilica after the celebration. “Probably only in view of the face of the Redeemer may unity come about. But surely it will be difficult. After all this is like a divorce, after you have grown apart – it is hard to get back together. In this case…thousand years of separation are standing between us.”

Kurt Cardinal Koch Photo: Daniel Ibanez (CNA/EWTN)
Kurt Cardinal Koch
Photo: Daniel Ibanez (CNA/EWTN)

“Yes, but fortunately it is said in the Scriptures: A thousand years are with the Lord as one day,” Sister Petra-Maria responded with a smile to the cardinal’s sober skepticism. “Perhaps now the new day of unity arises. With God, nothing is impossible. Perhaps today we have seen the dawn of this new day. This new beginning is as thin and delicate as the Volto Santo.”

Were it so, the image of Christ would indeed have briefly bridged that abyss on this Sunday, an abyss carved out, like a primeval river, by the countless words between East and West, a Grand Canyon into the very foundation of Christianity.

At those very depths, the holy “sudarium” might yet intervene, in a healing fashion, in the ancient Filioque controversy about that first word of separation. For if the veil, as John writes, was indeed lying in the grave of Christ, on the face of the Lord, it must also have absorbed the first breath of the Risen One – when the Spirit of God woke Jesus Christ from the dead – as that Spirit that is the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

photo by Patricia Enk
photo by Patricia Enk

(Original article may be read by clicking here.)

In Heaven and on Earth

The Mass of St. Gregory I by Robert Campin 15th Century
The Mass of St. Gregory I by Robert Campin 15th Century

The book of Revelation of St. John unveils for its reader the beauty of the liturgy of the Mass.  “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne:” “The Lord God.” (Rev. 4:2)  It then shows the Lamb (Jesus Christ), “standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6): Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.” (St. John Chrysostom) All in heaven and on Earth who take part in the service of the praise of God participate in the eternal liturgy whenever we celebrate the mystery of salvation.  The sacramental celebration is woven with signs and symbols which are rich in meaning.  “God speaks to man through visible creation.  The material cosmos is so presented to man’s intelligence that he can read there traces of its Creator.” (CCC 1147) “…these perceptible realities can become means of expressing the action of God who sanctifies men, and the action of men who offer worship to God.” (CCC 1148)

We may not know or appreciate the meaning of these “signs and symbols” in the liturgy, but they are there all the same.  For example, We may give little thought to the meaning of a simple action by the priest or deacon of handling or folding the altar linen or the corporal, but a German theologian, Klaus Berger,  has recently made a stunning discovery which shines a bright light on the deep symbolism contained in this humble action.  Mr. Berger, while doing research for an extensive commentary on Revelation by St. John, uncovered the surprising connection between the altar linens prescribed for the liturgy and the burial cloths of Christ mentioned in the Gospels.  Mr. Berger then shared his amazing discovery, which reveals the key liturgical role of the cloths, with Paul Badde, who has written extensively on the sudaria or burial cloths of Jesus (The True Icon).  Paul has written a truly fascinating article about the discovery for Catholic News Agency (German) The translation may be found on Raymond Frost’s Manoppello blogspot (click here for full article in English).

In the article Paul Badde explains the theological connection between the burial cloths which touched the Body and Blood of Jesus and the altar cloth and corporal, the white linen napkin on which are placed the vessels containing the Body and Blood of Christ during Mass. The corporal, which was to be made of pure linen, could only be touched reverently by the priest with his thumb and forefinger in the old rite.

Detail of Mass of St. Gregory I
Detail of Mass of St. Gregory I

The connection between these altar cloths used in the liturgy and the sudarium, or burial cloths of Jesus (Shroud of Turin and Veil of Manoppello) says Paul Badde, can be understood in reference to  a vision of Pope Gregory I during a Mass when Jesus, appeared as the Man of Sorrows during the Consecration of the Eucharist, reflecting the true Presence of Christ.  Pope St. Gregory the Great, “The Father of Christian Worship,” is renown for his exceptional efforts is revising the liturgy of his day.

The cloths used in the liturgy are rich in symbol and meaning which can aid us in our devotion. During the Mass we may not see Christ with our bodily eyes, but He is present. Knowing our weakness, in His infinite mercy He has left us His image to contemplate on the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello  so that we may call them to mind when gazing with faith on the simple linen cloths used in the Mass.  The images make manifest the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) mentioned in St. John’s Revelation: The Heavenly powers, all creation, the servants of the Old and New Covenants the new People of God especially the martyrs “slain for the word of God,” and the all-holy Mother of God (the Woman clothed with the sun with the moon at her feet), The Bride of the Lamb, and finally “a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues.” (Rev.7:9)

Face of Jesus on veil by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Durer. The “Veil of Veronica” in artwork before 1the early 1500’s resemble the “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello.

Holy Face on The Shroud of Turin
Holy Face on The Shroud of Turin

“Illiterate men can contemplate in the lines of an image what they cannot learn by means of the written word.” – Pope St. Gregory the Great

“The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.”–St. John Damascene

The Veil of Manoppello, photo by Paul Badde
The Veil of Manoppello, photo by Paul Badde

 

 

Pentecost in Mannopello

Rose petals like "tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit" tossed before the Holy Face on Pentecost. photo: Paul Badde
Rose petals like “tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit” tossed before the Holy Face on Pentecost. photo: Paul Badde
Beautiful photo of "Il Volto Santo" Pentecost 2016, photo by Paul Badde
Beautiful photo of “Il Volto Santo” Pentecost 2016, by Paul Badde
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Sheer Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello disappears in the light Photo: Paul Badde

Journalist Paul Badde has generously shared these beautiful photos of “Il Volto Santo” the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy, taken on the 15th of May for the great Feast of Pentecost.  The photo images of the miraculous veil capture so well the changeability and infinite beauty, mercy and peace found by gazing on the Holy Face.   The gossamer-thin byssus veil is not painted but seems to be “written by the Holy Spirit” as an icon in light, which according to the light, may be clearly seen with blood and wounds, or as fresh and healed, or disappear.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, “Faith is seeing and hearing.” May those who contemplate His Holy Face, like St. Peter and St. John in the tomb on Easter, “see and believe,” and as we gaze upon His Face may we be attentive as well to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, who will lead us through Jesus to the Merciful Face of the Father.

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Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Pentecost 2016 photo: Paul Badde
Veil of Manoppello, May 15, 2016 photo: Paul Badde
Veil of Manoppello in procession, Pentecost 2016 photo: Paul Badde
"Little Angels" is Holy Face Procession Photo: Paul Badde
“Little Angels” in Holy Face Procession Photo: Paul Badde
Holy Face of Manoppello changes according to light. Pentecost 2016 photo: Paul Badde
Holy Face of Manoppello changes according to light. Pentecost 2016 photo: Paul Badde
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 grant you His Peace!" (Num. 6: 22-27) Photo: Paul Badde Pentecost 2016
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 grant you His Peace!” (Num. 6: 22-27)
Photo: Paul Badde Pentecost 2016

 

A “Must Read” on the Holy Face: There is an excellent post “More than an Abstraction,” the text from a conference given by Fr. Daren Zehnle.  It is a very clear, well-documented and informative history of “The Veronica,” and the miraculous “Veil of Manoppello” in the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
It can be read on his “Servant and Steward”blog. (click here)