Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has taught us, in his many writings about the Holy Face, that the Hebrew term, “panim”, which means “face” means to see The Face of God, or the presence of God. “Panim” is a term that describes relationships. The Hebrew word “shem” meaning “name” is also a term of relationship. God has a Face and a Name!
The revelation of the Face of God, Pope Benedict XVI says, took on a new and beautiful manifestation when God became man at the moment of The Incarnation, in the person of Jesus Christ. The Son of God was made man and He is given a Name–Jesus. As fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ gave us a human face that revealed the Face of God. The Incarnation reveals the direct connection between The Holy Face and Holy Name of God. Jesus shows us the Face of the Father for as He told His disciples, “If you have seen Me, you have seen The Father.” But Jesus also makes known to us the Name of God: as He said at the Last Supper when praying to His Father, “I have made Your Name known to them.”
The expression “name of God” means God as He Who is present among men. His name, Pope Benedict XVI teaches, is the concrete sign of His Existence.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of His Namemade 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.”
Because of the profound relationship with God and His Name and Face, sins committed against this relationship with Him–causing pain and suffering to His Sacred Heart– are reflected in the Face of Christ. The manifestation of our sins on His Countenance come about through blasphemy, atheism, disrespect of God in Sacred things, the profanation of Sunday, hatred of God’s Church. These indignities suffered by Our Lord in His Face represent the most serious sins, because they are against God Himself.
The damage done by our sins to our relationship with God are reflected in the Face of Jesus Christ. For this reason, devotion and reparation to The Holy Face and the Holy Name is fitting in order to make amends for what we have done to Him.
The Golden Arrow is a beautiful Prayer given by Our Lord to Carmelite Sr. Marie St. Pierre to be said in reparation for blasphemy against the Holy Name.
The Golden Arrow
“May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God, be forever praised, blessed, adored, loved and glorified, in heaven, on earth, and in the hells, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.”
Reciting the Golden Arrow or other prayers that honor the Holy Face and the Holy Name, are an act of compassion and love, which have the effect of wiping the blood, sweat, dust and spittle from The Face of Jesus. And by doing so, Our Lord also restores His Image in our souls.
“O God, Who did constitute Your only-begotten Son the Saviour of mankind, and did command that He should be called Jesus; grant in Your kindness that our hearts joy in Heaven may be the Face of Him Whose Holy Name we venerate on earth.” Amen.
“Oh Savior Jesus, who didst will that reparation should be as public and universal as had been the offense, penetrate us with the true spirit of reparation. Give us the grace to love Thy Divine Face, to make it known and loved by the whole world, in order that it may be to us a source of light and means of salvation. Amen. ” ~ Blessed Mother Maria Pierina De Micheli (who is also known for the Holy Face Medal, which bears the Face of the Shroud of Turin on one side, and the symbol for the Holy Name on the other.)
A change in appearance of the Veronica of Rome and an appearance of a Veil in Manoppello
Before the Sack of Rome in 1527 everyone knew quite well what the Veronica looked like. The veil was displayed to the many pilgrims at the Vatican; it was carried publicly in procession; artists made reproductions of the image for the faithful to use for veneration, prayer, and contemplation. The specially made reliquary (which was later broken) had not one, but two panes of crystal, so that the veil could be viewed from either side. Prior to 1527, when pilgrims viewed the Veronica they saw these general characteristics:
“the Face of the living Christ on a sheer veil or cloth–a human face of a man who has suffered, with traces of wounds, bruises, and swelling visible, especially on the left cheek. His wavy hair is long and parted with a small, short lock of curls at the center. His beard is sparse as though torn, and divided in two. His open eyes are peaceful and looking slightly to one side. His mouth is partially opened.” (Pt. 1)
However, after the Sack of Rome, the image at the Vatican was shown less, and what was being presented as the Veronica Veil caused a change in the reaction of the pilgrims and in artists’ portrayals. The painted images began to depict the Face of Christ in more diverse and imaginative ways, more often with the Crown of Thorns, or as merely a veil with a reddish smudge, or even as the face of a dead man with eyes and mouth closed.
Giacomo Grimaldi, a canon who had the task of illustrating and recording inventory for the Vatican, recorded the Veronica Veil on an inventory document called the Opusculum (shown left with an obviously altered date of 1618). Grimaldi noted that the living face shown (with wavy hair, parted in the middle, and the eyes open) was faithful to the image that he saw in 1606 (before the first demolition of the Old St. Peter’s). A copy made in 1635 by Francesco Speroni of the Grimaldi Opusculum inventory shows a dramatically different drawing–with the Face of Christ appearing as a dead man. (below)
Pope Paul V, in 1616, had prohibited any copies to be made of the Veronica without permission and later Urban VIII ordered that all copies of the Veronica be handed in to a local priest or bishop under pain of excommunication. In 1629, the image with the death-like face was placed in the newly completed Veronica Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica–covered with another outer veil–and a notice was placed nearby stating that anyone who removed the veil covering the Holy Face without papal approval would be excommunicated. It was only shown once a year from a distance of 20 meters. All that could be seen was a dark cloth within a frame in the shape of a face. Not surprisingly, interest in the Veronica and therefore devotion to the Holy Face soon dwindled.
While one must be very careful not to ascribe any sort of malicious motive to the apparent incongruity and change of the appearance of the image; one must also be honest in saying that the two images on the Opusculum couldn’t be more different. It is certainly a great mystery which remains to be unraveled.
In 1638, on the other side of Italy, towards the Adriatic coast, “a devout and well-respected man” named Don Antonio Fabritiis donated a precious Veil bearing the Face of Christ to the Capuchin monastery in the small, isolated mountain village of Manoppello, Italy. A document entitled Relazione Historica re-telling the local legend of the Veil was written by Capuchin Donato da Bomba and notarized in 1646 and then, certified by sixteen local witnesses. The story told of the arrival of the Veil in Mannoppello, “in around 1506,”(the date was vague) in the hands of a mysterious stranger who was thought to have been a holy angel. (Aside from the “angel,” the main characters in the story have been historically verified.)
The recorded story told was this: “There lived in Manoppello the very famous Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, doctor in medicine…one day when he was out in the public square just outside of the door of the Mother church of the town of Manoppello, St. Nicholas Bari, in honest conversation with other peers, and while they were speaking a pilgrim arrived unknown by anyone, with a very venerable religious appearance, who having greeted this beautiful circle of citizens, he said, with many terms of manners, and of humility to Dr. Giacomo Antonio Leonelli that he had to speak with him about a secret thing which would be very pleasing, useful and profitable for him. And thus, taking him aside just inside the doorway of the church of St. Nicholas Bari, gave him a parcel, and without unfolding it told him that he ought to hold this devotion very dear, because God would do him many favors, so that in things both temporal and spiritual he would always prosper.” So the doctor took the parcel and turning towards the holy water fount carefully opened it, and “seeing the Most Sacred Face of Our Lord Christ…he burst into most tender tears…and thanking God for such a gift…turned to the unknown pilgrim to thank him…but he did not see him anymore.” When the good doctor, “shaken” and “filled with wonder,” went outside to his friends and asked where the man went, his friends replied that they never saw him exit the church. They searched high and low but never found the mysterious pilgrim, “hence all judged that the man in the form of a pilgrim to be a heavenly Angel, or else a Saint from Paradise.”
The Holy Veil remained the property of the Leonelli family for nearly a century, until a family member in need of money sold the Veil to Don Antonio Fabritiis, who in turn gave it to the Capuchins in 1638. The Holy Veil, called the “Il Volto Santo,” was kept in a dimly lit side chapel until the church was renovated in 1960, when it was decided that the Veil should be moved to a more prominent place behind the altar.
What did the Face on the gossamer-thin Veil look like? Here are portions of a description that Capuchin Donato da Bomba gave of the Holy Face: “He has a rather long, well-proportioned face, with a venerable and majestic look. His hair, or locks are long with thin twisted curls–in particular at the top of the forehead about fifty hairs wind into a little corkscrew, distinct from each other and well arranged. His left cheek is swollen and bigger than the other because of a strong blow across the cheek. The lips are very swollen. His teeth show. It seems the Holy Face is made of living flesh, but flesh that is afflicted, emaciated, sad, sorrowful, pale and covered in bruises around the eyes and on the forehead. The eyes of Christ are similar to those of a dove…He is serene and tranquil.”
“Those who gaze on it are never satisfied with contemplating it, and wish to always have it before their eyes. And when they eventually leave it, with heavy sighs full of love, they are forced to leave Him their hearts, bathed in tears.” –Capuchin Donato da Bomba 1646
On September 1, 2006, another pilgrim (some also may say an “angelic pilgrim”) came to Manoppello to see for himself the Holy Face of Jesus on the Veil–Pope Benedict XVI, who has elevated the status of the Shrine to a Sanctuary Basilica. “Your Face O Lord I seek–seeking the Face of Jesus must be the longing of all Christians, indeed, we are ‘the generation’ which seeks His Face in our day, the Face of the ‘God of Jacob.’ If we persevere in our quest for the Face of the Lord, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, He, Jesus, will be our eternal joy, our reward and glory forever.”–Pope Benedict XVI, September 1, 2006
The Face of Manoppello, which may be viewed from both sides, is described as “dark,” “light,” “bluish”, “golden” or it may even “vanish completely”…all are different, but, it is one Face!
Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:
“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years. The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers which was for the priests and the people of Israel. “The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man. Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”
This is the great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:
“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)
*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…”)
“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being a viator, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination…each according to his or her ability will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion; by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” –Pope Francis from The Face of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus
Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and so our souls have a yearning, a natural longing for the infinite. We are called to communion with God, to see Him “face to face.” He is calling us to seek Him, to know Him, and love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. The history of salvation can be described as a gradual discovery of the Face of God by nations and individuals, marked by their battles, falls and triumphs, as they turn toward or away from the Face of God, on a pilgrimage–a journey which will only end when each person comes “face to face” with God.
The Year of Mercy cannot be complete until we have made some sort of pilgrimage toward God. Although I had made a local pilgrimage to the Door of Mercy at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, I had felt a very strong tug in my heart to return to Italy and re-visit places of pilgrimage that were especially meaningful to me. Together with my husband, I made the necessary preparations, but, the most important “packing” for the journey was to remember on our pilgrimage all those God has given us to love, and their intentions, people that we would like to have with us, but could not make the journey. We especially carried within our hearts those who were too sick, or too old, as well as those who have lost their faith, the deceased, and people in our country and in the world in need of someone’s prayers, placing all in our hearts so that we could carry them, in spirit, through the Doors of Mercy.
We began with the place in which I encountered the Face of Mercy in a very profound way in October of 2012: the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in the small mountain village of Manoppello. This humble, beautiful village has hidden in its heart, for centuries, what St. Pio of Pietrelcina called “The greatest relic of the Church”–a gossamer-thin byssus veil, bearing, in a miraculous way, an image of the human Face of Jesus.
We arrived very late at night after 28 hours of travel to a hotel in the village very near the Sanctuary. The next morning we walked to the Basilica for Mass, entering the beautiful dedicated Holy Door, engraved with depictions of events in the history of the Veil. My favorite was the panel recalling the visit of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the Shrine in September of 2006. It was a year later, that he wrote his moving prayer to the Holy Face in honor of that occasion and elevated the Shrine to the status of a Basilica.
The day after we arrived was a special occasion as well, as the next day, August 6th, was a Feast of the Holy Face, the Transfiguration. The Veil, normally kept in a special reliquary high above the back of the altar (but accessible by a stairway from behind) was to be brought down after the Mass and placed in another movable reliquary, used in processions, near the front of the altar. The Veil would remain there throughout the day for prayers and veneration of the faithful, then be returned to its place behind the altar for the night.
Earlier in the day, on the steps leading up to the relic, I bumped into journalist Paul Badde, who has taken more photos perhaps than anyone of the Holy Veil and written so much about its amazing re-discovery. I couldn’t have been more surprised than if I had bumped into Lazarus emerging from the tomb! Paul has been making an amazing recovery from heart surgery, stroke, and a coma which lasted for more than
three weeks during Lent of 2016. Paul later introduced me to Sr. Petra-Maria, who, I soon discovered, shares with pilgrims her extensive knowledge and love for “Il Volto Santo.” Like two other nuns, who shared similar names–Sr. Marie St. Pierre, a Discalced Carmelite nun associated with the Holy Face in Tours, and Bl. Mother Maria Pierina, an Immaculate Conception nun associated with the Holy Face Medal–Sr. Petra-Maria is a true apostle of the Holy Face of Manoppello. The Holy Face draws her like a magnet; she never tires of gazing at His Face or drawing others to His peaceful, merciful countenance and telling and re-telling the incredible details of the features, the history, and especially, the spiritual significance of the miraculous image. (I’ll have to save those details for a special post.)
Celebrations and entertainment were held in honor the Holy Face in the piazza in front of the Basilica in the evening by local musicians and very talented young people of the community, who gave a very enjoyable musical performance of the life of St. Francis. I’ll never forget the line of young “Franciscan monks” on the stage singing “Andiamo! Andiamo!…” “We go! We go! For the Blessed Mother!” The next day the Holy Veil was brought out after Mass on the Feast of the Transfiguration for the day and in the evening there was planned a solemn procession with the Veil and benediction. But, as in all things in life, plans change… (To be continued in Pt.2)
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.
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)
“The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of His Wisdom and His Spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare His treasures more and more.” — St. John of the Cross
A blindness has descended upon the world–a spiritual blindness. Society as a whole seems unable to distinguish what is good and true from evil and lies. Like Pontius Pilate, few can recognize Truth even when He (Jesus) is standing before them. The importance of being able to distinguish the Face of God from the face of Satan couldn’t be more serious; it is a matter of life and death for us.
Satan, first appearing as an angel of light, and proudly confident of his victory over mankind, now bares his “face of evil more and more,” but, “so does the Lord bare His treasures more and more.” God’s greatest treasures are hidden in His Holy Face. (To name a few: the virtues of humility, detachment, love of suffering, self sacrifice and love–the treasures of the Holy Face are infinite.) Perhaps that is why, in this crucial point in history, St. Pope John Paul II dedicated the millennium to the Holy Face of Christ; and why Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called upon us to contemplate and shine the light of the Face of Christ on every human being through evangelization; and why Pope Francis holds out to mankind the Merciful Face of Jesus Christ. Mankind must turn back to the Face of God or perish!
But, in order to turn back to the Face of God, we must be capable of recognizing Him, in our neighbor, in the Scriptures, in the Holy Eucharist and in the Person of Jesus Christ who was born, suffered, died, and rose again for our sake. If we do not recognize Jesus, neither will we be able to recognize the face of Satan, who seeks to destroy us.
Scripture seems to contradict itself in describing Jesus Christ: “You are the fairest of the children of men, and graciousness is poured out upon you lips.” (Ps. 45) “He was transfigured before their eyes, His Face became as dazzling as the sun, His clothes as radiant as light.” (Mt. 17:2) “There was in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, no appearance that would attract us to Him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity. One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned and we held Him in no esteem. (Isaiah 53:2-3) It is not always easy to recognize Jesus, He may also be hidden in the poor, the suffering, the young the old.To truly recognize Jesus, we need to ask God for eyes of faith and the light of the Holy Spirit. As Pope Benedict XVI had said,“The Holy Spirit illuminates the reciprocity: Jesus has divine dignity and God has the human Face of Jesus. God shows Himself in Jesus and by doing so gives us the truth about ourselves.” The truth that He is God, Eternal Wisdom, Power, and Merciful Love… and we are not. We have nothing that does not first come from God. So, to recognize the Face of God we must be able to distinguish it from the face of the enemy.
So, how then do we recognize “the face of evil,” especially when Satan may appear as an angel of light? When he announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy,Pope Francis also recommended the reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy as a spiritual preparation. There is a relevant passage in Canto 34 of Dante’s The Inferno that contains keen insights that can help us to recognize the face of Satan… or rather faces, as Dante gives Satan three faces in mimicry of the Blessed Trinity.
He was as fair as he is ugly now,
and raised his brow against his Maker still,
he well is made the source of every woe.
But when I saw three faces in his head,
how great a marvel it appeared to me!
One face in front, and it was ruddy red;
the other two were joined to it upon
the middle of the shoulder on each side,
and joined above, where the cock sports his crown;
and the right was a kind of yellowish white,
and where the Nile comes rolling to the plains,
men’s faces are the color on the left.
Beneath each face extended two huge wings,
large enough to suffice for such a bird.
I never saw a sail at sea so broad.
They had no feathers, but were black and scaled
like a bat’s wings, and those he flapped, and flapped,
and from his flapping raised three gales that swept
Cocytus, and reduced it all to ice.
With his six eyes he wept, and down three chins
dribbled his tears and slaver slick with blood.
Anthony Esolen writes in his excellent commentary on The Divine Comedy:“At the center of evil there is nothing but a small, hard, cold kernel of self, transcendentally small, a something just this side of emptiness. Despite his apparent power in the world, that is what Lucifer finally is, and despite his threatening size, that is how Dante has portrayed him. That he flaps his wings everlastingly only underscores his impotence. He is the ‘evil worm’ who ‘gnaws a whole into the world.’ For Dante, escape from sin is escape from that tight little hole, to breathe the air of freedom and humanity, and to look upon those vast realms above–realms meant for the fire of love, and therefore also meant for man.”
….”Satan is an anti-Trinity. The power, wisdom, and love of God are inverted here into impotence, ignorance, and hate. The colors of the faces seem to correspond with the colors of the men of the three continents Dante knew: ruddy, (European), yellowish (Asian), and dusky (African).”
. . . “Satan’s action locks him in place. What should be a symbol of freedom–the flapping of wings–is the engine of his imprisonment. He who would be free of God is bound by his own will and shackled into a dumb, mechanical dullness.”
Satan’s face will always be always be one of impotence, ignorance, and hate and God’s Face will always be one of Divine Power, Wisdom and Love. One wonders how the world persists in blindness; how it calls good “evil” and evil “good” in failing to recognize either the Face of God or the face of Satan. We must pray for the “eyes of faith” and the light of the Holy Spirit for ourselves and the world. We must pray too, that as “evil bares it’s face more and more” that God will reveal the treasures of the Divine Power, Wisdom, and Merciful Love of His Holy Face more and more so that mankind will return to the Merciful Face of God!
*The drawing above is by Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin) the sister of St. Therese of The Child Jesus and the Holy Face. One year after the Saint’s death in 1898, the photographer Secondo Pia took the first photographs of the Shroud of Turin. He was shocked when on the photographic negatives, the “positive” image of a man who had endured terrible suffering appeared. While Celine was reading a book on the amazing discovery, she heard the voice of her sister St. Therese speak these words, “Paint Him, paint a new Holy Face, paint Him as He was!” In 1904, after praying and meditating hours before a print of the Holy Face on the Shroud of Turin she executed the charcoal drawing.
Celine has written this about St. Therese’s devotion to the Holy Face: “Devotion to the Holy Face was, for Therese, the crown and compliment of her love for the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord. This Blessed Face was the mirror wherein she beheld the Heart and Soul of her Well-Beloved. Just as the picture of a loved one serves to bring the whole person before us, so in the Holy Face of Christ, Therese beheld the entire Humanity of Jesus. We can say unequivocally that this devotion was the burning inspiration of the Saint’s life.
St. Therese herself said, “Until my coming to Carmel, I had never fathomed the depths of the treasures hidden in the Holy Face... I understood what real glory was. He whose kingdom is not of this world (John 13:36) showed me that true wisdom consists in ‘desiring to be unknown and counted on as nothing’ (Imitation of Christ 1,2-3) ‘in placing one’s joys in the contempt of self.’Ah! I thirsted after suffering and I longed to be forgotten.” —The Last Conversations
“May the Lord bless and keep you, may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you: May the Lord turn His Countenance toward you and give you His PEACE.” (Num. 6:22-27)
Peace, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, is the summit of the six actions of God in this blessing, which are in our favor; “His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”
January 1st is the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, who is the Queen of Peace and this is also the World Day of Peace. Today Pope Francis said, “She is the Mother of Mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of Divine Mercy, Jesus, Emanuel, the Expectation of the nations, the “Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:5) Jesus has given us His Mother so that we may never be left alone on our pilgrimage through life, especially in times of trouble and uncertainty.
Pope Francis has also said, “Our eyes need to focus on the particular signs God has given us, to see His merciful love first-hand.” The Holy Father recalled the suffering, violence and death of many innocent people in the previous year, but he also noted the many acts of kindness, love and solidarity that go unnoticed but should not be obscured “by the arrogance of evil.” “The good always wins,”said Pope Francis, “even if at times it can appear weak and hidden.”
One of the “particular signs God has given us, to see His merciful love first-hand” is the Face of Christ which He offers to all humanity as “the supreme revelation of the Father’s Mercy.” By contemplating and rejoicing in the splendor of His Face through devotion to the Holy Face we may obtain the peace that the world so desperately needs.
Pope Francis concluded his blessing by appealing to Mary saying, “Send us your blessing on this day consecrated to your honor. Show us the Face of Jesus your Son, who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace.” Finally, the Pope concluded by calling on the faithful to pray each morning for God to “shine his face” on us, and invited those in the square to repeat after him:“Today, the Lord makes His Face to shine upon me.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written, “To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of His Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of His interior life and of His will, so that we can live according to His plan for humanity. Jesus lets us know the hidden Face of The Father through His human face; by the gift of The Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.” “This,” Pope Benedict XVI says, “is the foundation of our Peace, which nothing can take from us.”
+Peace and have a Blessed New Year!
“Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us to have ‘hands innocent and a heart pure,’ hands illumined by the truth of love and hearts enraptured by divine beauty, that transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may gift ourselves to the poor and the suffering, whose faces reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus. Amen.” — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”
Pope Francis has chosen December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, as the opening of the Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, “because of its rich meaning.” “After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy.” Pope Francis (Face of Mercy)
Mary was “Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing,” (cf. Eph 1:3) chosen by God from all eternity to be the Mother of the Redeemer. It is she who leads us to Jesus, so that we may contemplate, together with her, the Face of Mercy. As the Immaculate Conception, Mary bears in herself the most perfect reflection of the face of God. Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Blessed Virgin saw shining upon her, as no other creature, the face of the Father, rich in grace and mercy.”
As the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins, let us fix our gaze on Mary rather than on the profane things of the world. We keep Mary before our eyes in order to contemplate in her everything that is good and true and beautiful. “She is the proclamation of a merciful God who does not surrender to the sin of his children,” Pope St. John Paul II tells us “in Mary shines forth God’s sublime and surprising tenderness for the entire human race. In her, humanity regains its former beauty and the divine plan is revealed to be stronger than evil…” In Mary “the Creator has kept the original beauty of creation uncontaminated” so that in the Immaculate Conception, “the Father’s original, wondrous plan of love was reestablished in an even more wondrous way.”
A Little Litany by G.K.Chesterton
When God turned back eternity and was young, Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth (As under the low arch the land is bright) Peered through you, gate of heaven – and saw the earth.
Or shutting out his shining skies awhile Built you about him for a house of gold To see in pictured walls his storied world Return upon him as a tale is told.
Or found his mirror there; the only glass That would not break with that unbearable light Till in a corner of the high dark house God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.
Star of his morning; that unfallen star In the strange starry overturn of space When earth and sky changed places for an hour And heaven looked upwards in a human face.
Or young on your strong knees and lifted up Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street, And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.
Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose, Of your tall body climbed the ivory tower And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.
St. Faustina Kowalska, “The Apostle of Mercy,” whose feast day is October 5th, was known as a mystic and visionary. Her diary Divine Mercy in My Soul is a record of the journey of her soul. Our Lord granted St. Faustina a deep understanding of the love and mercy of God which she was to share with the world. Because Pope Francis has declared a “Jubilee Year of Mercy” beginning December 8, 2015, it would be beneficial to read St. Faustina’s message of mercy to better understand the significance of the upcoming holy year.
Our Lord spoke strongly to St. Faustina about putting mercy into action:
“I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it.” (742)
Pope Francis exhorts us in the Jubilee Year “to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ.” Practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy will also enable us to fulfill the Lord’s command to let your light “shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, “The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”
“I have ever before my eyes His sorrowful Face, abused and disfigured. His divine Heart pierced by our sins and especially by the ingratitude of chosen souls.” (487) –St. Faustina
The Jubilee Year will also have a “door”—a “Door of Mercy”—a Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica and other designated churches through which “anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.” (The Face of Mercy) St. Faustina, in her diary, wrote of “a door of mercy”: “While there is yet time, let them have recourse to the fountain of my mercy.” (848) … He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice.” (1146)
I have often reflected on the meaning of this Holy Door and the Face of Mercy. I believe they are both one and the same: The Face of Jesus Christ, the face of the Church, who leads us to the Father. We enter this “door” through devotion to the Holy Face by discipleship, to see Jesus in the faces our neighbors, through prayer and contemplation of the wounded Face of Jesus and through contemplation of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. Our faces, too, are like a “door” to our hearts and souls, which can radiate the Face of Jesus, the Face of Mercy to others. When Pope Francis came to the United States he spoke to the homeless in St. Patrick’s Parish in Washington, D.C., “Jesus keeps knocking on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the faces of our neighbors, in the face of those at our side.”
“Write this: before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy.” — Our Lord to St. Faustina
The Jubilee Year will end on November 20, 2016, on the Sunday dedicated to “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe–and living Face of the Father’s Mercy.” (The Face of Mercy, Bull of Indiction)
St. Faustina’s Prayer for Divine Mercy
O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy — to Your compassion, O God, and it is with its mighty voice of misery that it cries out: Gracious God, do not reject the prayer of this earth’s exiles! O Lord, Goodness beyond our understanding, Who are acquainted with our misery through and through and know that by our own power we cannot ascend to You, we implore You, anticipate us with Your grace and keep on increasing Your mercy in us, that we may faithfully do Your holy will all through our life and at death’s hour. Let the omnipotence of Your mercy shield us from the darts of our salvation’s enemies, that we may with confidence, as Your children, await Your final coming — that day known to You alone. And we expect to obtain everything promised us by Jesus in spite of all our wretchedness. For Jesus is our Hope: Through His merciful Heart as through an open gate we pass through to heaven. (1570).
The West is experiencing a severe drought; just how bad it was, was brought home to me when I visited the Los Angeles area this past week, after an absence of six years. I had always been surprised by the lush greenery, flowers, flowering trees and palms that lined the freeways of “Tinsel Town.” That is all gone. Streets, highways, homes and gardens now display signs that read “Brown is the new green.” What was once lush, verdant and colorful is now dry as dust, brown, and dead. The West is suffering from a great thirst for water. It is emblematic of its thirst for God.
“O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting, My body pines for you like dry, weary land without water…
It is no secret that Los Angeles is mecca of images, idolatry and false faces. But on September 8th, the feast of the birth of the Blessed Mother, a replica of a miraculous image arrived in California, bearing the Face of Jesus Christ. It had traveled all the way from a shrine in a small mountain village in Italy called Manoppello, accompanied by the rector of the Holy Face Sanctuary, Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, OFM Capuchin and Mr. Paul Badde, journalist and author of several books about the Holy Face of Manoppello, who were there to give talks about the Holy Face. The first stop was the Carmelite Chapel of St. Joseph in Duarte, and the second stop, Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles.
“… So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.” Ps. 63:1
It is significant, that this holy image should come to this place, at this time. Images have great
impact on human beings, for good or evil, as everyone in Hollywood knows. When God became Man at the Incarnation, He made His Face known to us. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, the Face of Christ is “the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.” Pope Francis, has declared an “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy,” in a Bull of Indiction – THE FACE OF MERCY from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015 to the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe and Face of the Father’s Mercy” November 20th, 2016. The primary task of the Church, Pope Francis urges us, is to be “a herald of mercy,” “especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction… to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplation of the Face of Christ.”
As I departed Los Angeles, a rain shower fell. It made all the news programs, it was so rare. It seemed to me that the arrival of His Holy Face to Los Angeles was bringing blessings and showering grace on the City of Angels. The Face of Jesus is the antidote to the poison of sin and evil in the world. He comes to give us “Living Water.” Nothing less will quench our thirst.
Let us follow Pope Francis’ exhortation to contemplate the Face of Christ through discipleship, images of the Face of Christ and in the Eucharist, and be true “heralds of mercy” by spreading devotion to the Face of Christ.
A special thanks to Mr. Paul Badde for allowing me to use his beautiful photos of The Holy Face of Manoppello!