Contemplating the Mystery of Light with Pope Benedict XVI

The Transfiguration by Carl Bloch (1872) Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up a high mountain to pray and was transfigured before them, becoming so dazzlingly bright that his clothes were “whiter than the work of any bleacher could make them.” (Mk 9:2-100

 

Like many of our beloved elderly, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been quietly sharing in the suffering of Christ. Since visiting his brother, Georg, in Germany before Georg died, Pope Benedict XVI had contracted very painful erysipelas rash on his face. The sad news brought to mind the pope’s words during his pontificate about the Transfiguration, that “mystery of light,” when the reality of Jesus, who is “light from light,” became perceptible to the senses to Peter, James, and John on the mountain, when His Face became radiant with Divine Glory. The Transfiguration not only prepared and strengthened the apostles for the Passion of Jesus, but was also a foretaste of the Resurrection.  As Pope Benedict wrote in the first volume of his work Jesus of Nazareth: 

[The Transfiguration] “reveals the profound interpenetration of His being with God, which then becomes pure light. In His oneness with the Father, Jesus is Himself ‘light from light.'”

 

“The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI (photo:Paul Badde/EWTN)

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI invited us to contemplate this mystery of light from the Gospel:

“Today, the liturgy invites us to focus our gaze on this mystery of light. On the transfigured face of Jesus a ray of light which he held within shines forth. This same light was to shine on Christ’s face on the day of the Resurrection. In this sense, the Transfiguration appears as a foretaste of the Paschal Mystery.

The Transfiguration invites us to open the eyes of our hearts to the mystery of God’s light, present throughout salvation history. At the beginning of creation, the Almighty had already said: ‘Fiat lux – let there be light!’ (Gn 1: 2), and the light was separated from the darkness. Like the other created things, light is a sign that reveals something of God: it is, as it were, a reflection of his glory which accompanies its manifestations. When God appears, ‘his brightness was like the light, rays flashed from his hand.’ (Heb 3: 3ff.).

Light, it is said in the Psalms, is the mantle with which God covers himself (cf. Ps 104[103]: 2). In the Book of Wisdom, the symbolism of light is used to describe the very essence of God: wisdom, an outpouring of his glory, is ‘a reflection of eternal light’ superior to any created light (cf. Wis 7: 27, 29ff.).

In the New Testament, it is Christ who constitutes the full manifestation of God’s light. His Resurrection defeated the power of the darkness of evil forever. With the Risen Christ, truth and love triumph over deceit and sin. In him, God’s light henceforth illumines definitively human life and the course of history: ‘I am the light of the world,’ he says in the Gospel, ‘he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn 8: 12).

In our time too, we urgently need to emerge from the darkness of evil, to experience the joy of the children of light!'”

Pope Benedict XVI, Paul Badde, and Sr. Blandina Schlomer Sept. 2006, at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello.

In September of 2006, Pope Benedict XVI travelled as a pilgrim to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, where he contemplated another “miracle of light” — the Holy Face on the Veil of Manoppello. A year following this visit, he elevated the shrine to a basilica, and wrote the following prayer:

Pope Benedict XVI contemplates the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN
Light shines through the Holy Veil of Manoppello during evening procession. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI to The Holy Face

Lord Jesus, as the first Apostles, whom you asked: “What do you seek?” accepted your invitation to “Come and See,” recognizing you as the Son of God, the Promised Messiah for the world’s redemption, we too, your disciples in this difficult time, want to follow you and be your friends, drawn by the brilliance of Your Face, much desired, yet hidden.

Hand viewed through the miraculous Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Show us, O Lord, we pray you, Your Face ever new; that mirror, mystery-laden, of God’s infinite mercy. Grant that we may contemplate it with the eyes of our mind and our hearts: the Son’s Face, radiance of the Father’s glory and the imprint of His Nature (cf. Hb 1:3), the human Face of God that has burst into history to reveal the horizons of eternity. The silent Face of Jesus, suffering and risen, when loved and accepted, changes our

Face becomes visible with light on the Holy Veil of Manoppello.
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

hearts and lives. “Your Face, Lord, do I seek, do not hide Your Face from me.” (Ps. 27:8ff) How many times through the centuries and millennia has resounded the ardent invocation of the Psalmist among the faithful! Lord, with faith, we too repeat the same invocation: “Man of suffering, as one from whom other hide their faces.” (Is. 53:3) Do not hide your Face from us! We want to draw from your eyes that look on us with tenderness and compassion the force of love and peace which shows us the way of life, and the courage to follow you without fear or compromise, so as to be witnesses of your Gospel with concrete signs of acceptance, love and forgiveness. O Holy Face of Christ, Light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness, life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death, O inscrutable gaze that never ceases to watch over mankind. Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs and in the faces of those that live with us! Make us God’s pilgrims in this world, longing for the infinite and ready for the final encounter, when we shall see you, Lord, “face to face” (Cor. 13:12) and be able to contemplate you forever in heavenly Glory. 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 face reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus. Amen.

Holy Veil of Manoppello said to be the image of the Resurrected Christ
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

In March of 2012, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “As Jesus was transfigured before them, His Face ‘dazzling with light,’ the voice of the Father could be heard, ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.’ (Mk 9:7)  Thus, the light and the voice: the divine radiance on Jesus’ Face, and the voice of the Heavenly Father that witnesses to Him and commands that He be listened to.

The mystery of the Transfiguration must not be separated from the context of the path Jesus is following. He is now decisively oriented to fulfilling his mission, knowing all too well that to arrive at the Resurrection He must pass through the Passion and death on the Cross. He had spoken openly of this to His disciples; but they did not understand, on the contrary they rejected this prospect because they were not reasoning in accordance with God, but in accordance with men.

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

It is for this reason that Jesus takes three of them with Him up the mountain and reveals His divine glory, the splendor of Truth and of Love. Jesus wants this light to illuminate their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of His Passion and death, when the folly of the Cross becomes unbearable to them. God is light, and Jesus wishes to give his closest friends the experience of this light which dwells within Him.

After this event, therefore, He will be an inner light within them that can protect them from any assault of darkness. Even on the darkest of nights, Jesus is the lamp that never goes out.” (Pope Benedict XVI, March 2012)

Let us pray for our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and all who share in Christ’s suffering, that their hearts will be illumined  and transfigured by this mystery of light shining on the Face of Christ.

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“While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe:  all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human Face.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI

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News: Holy Face of Manoppello blogspot has posted a schedule for the days leading to the Feast of the Transfiguration celebrated at the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face for the fortunate pilgrims who may visit. By special privilege of the Pope Francis in these days the faithful can gain the Plenary Indulgence.

Beautiful video below of the Feast of the Transfiguration at the Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.

 

+++Blessing with The Holy Face Veil of Manoppello on the Feast of the Transfiguration+++

 

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello
(photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

Lord Jesus, Savior of the world, hope that will never disappoint us, have mercy on us and deliver us from all evil! Please overcome the scourge of this virus which is spreading, heal the sick, preserve the healthy, support those who work for the health of all. Show us your face of mercy and save us in your great love. We ask you through the intercession of Mary, Your Mother and ours, who faithfully accompanies us. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)
NEWS UPDATE: Cardinal Brenes imparted a moving blessing with the charred Holy Face of Jesus which had been separated from the Crucifix during the attack and fire at the Church in Managua, Nicaragua, on the Feast of the Transfiguration.

 

The Holy Face Novena – Day Five for 2018

The Holy Face of Jesus Novena, Day 5, Thursday, 8th of February, 2018

Pope Benedict XVI gazing intensely at the Eucharistic Face of Christ. Photo:Paul Badde
Pope Benedict XVI gazing intensely at the Eucharistic Face of Christ. Photo:Paul Badde

“O Holy Face of Christ, light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness, life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death, O inscrutable gaze that never ceases to watch over mankind; Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs and in the faces of those that live with us!  Make us pilgrims in his world, longing for the infinite and ready for the final encounter, when we shall see you, Lord, “face to face” (Cor. 13-12) and be able to contemplate you forever in Heavenly Glory.” — Pope Benedict XVI

“Blessed are the pure of heart; for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8)

“So may sins of impurity are committed in this city, but true souls of reparation are few, do thou at least console and comfort me.”–words of Our Lord to Bl. Mother Pierina de Micheli, “Missionary of the Holy Face”

Daily Preparatory Prayer

O Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, through the intercession of Holy Mary, whose soul was pierced through by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of her Divine Son, we ask your help in making a perfect Novena of reparation with Jesus, united with His sorrows, love and total abandonment.

We now implore all the Angels and Saints to intercede for us as we pray this Holy Novena to the Most Holy Face of Jesus and for the glory of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Fifth DayIMG_1037 – Holy Face of Jesus, Sacred Countenance of God, how great is your patience with humankind, how infinite your forgiveness.  We are sinners, yet you love us. This gives us courage. For the glory of your Holy Face and of the Blessed Trinity, hear and answer us.  Mary our Mother, intercede for us, St. Joseph, pray for us.

Through the merits of your precious blood and your Holy Face, O Jesus, grant us our petition, …Pardon and mercy.

Prayer to St. Joseph*

St. Joseph
St. Joseph

 Dear St. Joseph!  Adopt us as thy children, take charge of our salvation; watch over us day and night; preserve us from occasions of sin; obtain for us purity of body and soul, and the spirit of prayer, through thy intercession with Jesus, grant us a spirit of sacrifice, of humility and self-denial; obtain for us a burning love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and a sweet, tender love for Mary, our Mother.  St. Joseph, be with us in life, be with us in death and obtain for us a favorable judgement from Jesus, our merciful Savior.  Amen.

Pray one (1) Our Father, three (3) Hail Mary’s, one (1) Glory Be.

O Bleeding Face, O Face Divine, be every adoration Thine. (3 times)

St. Joseph
St. Joseph

* [The prayer to St. Joseph in this novena reminds us of the love of God the Father.  He looks upon us with infinite mercy and love through the Face of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Face of Jesus shows us the eternal, tender love that God the Father has for us.]

 

The Divine Image

 

Pieta, with Holy Trinity, Blessed Mother and St. John (Jean Malouel 1400-1410 Met Museum)

The communication of the Most Holy Trinity is a communication of Persons– Father, Son and Holy Spirit — their communication is love.  God also communicates His love to all mankind so that we may know Him and love Him. We learn about God not only from His creation, but through other human beings. We are all made in His image and likeness, after all, reflecting God’s truth, goodness, and beauty.  As is written in the Book of Wisdom, “for from greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of the Creator.” (Wis. 13:5)

We have the capacity to know God because we are created in His image and likeness; however, we also learn, from ourselves and those around us, how unlike God we are.  St. Thomas Aquinas says, “concerning God, we cannot grasp what He is, but only what He is not, and how other beings stand in relation to Him.” The internet has a great potential for real communication; that is, to convey information exchanged between persons, that could really help us learn about the love of God. Unfortunately, mass communication, such as the internet, communicates more about what God is not, than what God is.

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, Italy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“In the world of the internet, which enables billions of images to appear on millions of screens throughout the world, the Face of Christ needs to be seen and his voice heard, for ‘if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man’.” –Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini

 

Those who love God, therefore, would naturally desire to communicate His love to other human beings through the Face of Christ–using the means which God Himself has chosen to communicate His love to us.  The Face of Christ needs to “be seen and His voice heard” on the internet. But where do we see the Face of Christ on the internet?  Where do we hear His voice?

Sadly, even some Christians on the internet present “a face and voice” more like the evil one, than that of Jesus Christ. Most often Jesus’s Face is hidden in a nauseating ocean of hatred, anger, banality, and filth. But He is still present there in our internet “neighbors” whose faces pass by as we scroll down our screens each day: The innocent children in danger, victims of natural disasters, violence, terrorism, addiction, human trafficking, the spiritually blind and lame — all manner of human suffering, together with perpetrators of crime equally in need of our prayers.  Though we are separated from them by a computer screen, the suffering Face of Jesus is present in all their faces and voices. 

The first element of Devotion to the Holy Face, says Pope Benedict XVI, is “discipleship and orientation of one’s life towards an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the face of those in need.”  We need to begin by seeking out the Divine Image in them, and also by becoming the “face and voice of Christ” to them. In order to do this, “believers first need to become better acquainted with Jesus through the Eucharist,” allowing ourselves first to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into His image, thereby reflecting the Face of Christ to other souls made in His image–to be communicators of His love.

Holy Face of Manoppelllo (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

The Divine Image

To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is God, our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is man, His child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays in the human for divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

— William Blake

 

 

Jesus’s Self-Portrait

The Beatitudes by Carl Bloch

Did you know that there exists, in this world, a self-portrait of Jesus?  Yes, it is true. Pope St. John Paul II has written about this self-portrait in Veritatis Splendor, and so did Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus painted this masterpiece of Himself on a mountain, where He prayed “face-to-face with the Father.” On the mountain of the Beatitudes, Jesus painted in deep, rich hues, a self-portrait of crucified love for us to contemplate and imitate:     

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.  Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt. 5:1-12)

The Beatitudes, Pope St. John Paul II says in Veritatis Splendor, “are a sort of self- portrait of Christ, and for this very reason are invitations to discipleship and to communion of life with Christ.”  In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI describes the Sermon on the Mount as a “hidden Christology.” He writes, “Anyone who reads Matthew’s text attentively will realize that the Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of His figure.  He who had no place to lay his head (Mt. 8:20) is truly poor; he who can say, “Come to me…for I am meek and lowly of heart” (Mt. 11:28-29) is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God.  He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God’s sake.”  

The brushstrokes of the Master are the Christian virtues by which He reveals His Face: Justice, Mercy, Humility, Meekness, Purity of Heart.  Jesus painted this self-portrait as an invitation for those who seek His Face to follow Him as His disciples, calling us to communion with Him, accompanying Him to the Cross. 

“If you say, ‘show me your God,’ I should like to answer you, ‘show me the man who is in you’… For God is perceived by men who are capable of seeing Him, who have the eyes of their spirit open…Man’s soul must be as pure as a shining mirror.”  –Theophilus of Antioch 

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5)
Holy Face “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello, photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Your Face is resplendent with Grace – Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Queen Beauty of Carmel
Queen Beauty of Carmel Feast day: July 16th

“How fair you are, O Virgin Mary!  Your face is resplendent with grace.”– Carmelite Proper

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written:

“The Virgin Mary is she who more than any other contemplated God in the human Face of Jesus.  She saw Him as a newborn when, wrapped in swaddling clothes, He was placed in a manger; she saw Him when, just after His death, they took Him down from the Cross, wrapped Him in linen and placed Him in the sepulcher.  Inside her was impressed the image of her martyred Son; but this image was then transfigured in the light of the Resurrection.  Thus, in Mary’s heart, was carried the mystery of the Face of Christ, a mystery of death and glory.  From her we can always learn how to look upon Jesus, with a gaze of love and faith, to recognize in that human countenance, the Face of God.” 

(Below is a re-post from the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 2015)

Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Seeking the Face of God through Mary

In the icon of “Queen Beauty and Mother of Carmel,” the Infant Jesus tenderly invites us to look at the face of His Mother, “resplendent with grace.” What makes the Virgin Mary’s face “resplendent with grace?”  It is the light of the Face of Christ – just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, the face of Mary reflects the light of the true sun, Jesus Christ.

Mary is “The glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the highest honor of our race,” (Judith 15:9) because she sought the face of God, His holy will and pleasure, in all things. Just as it is possible for the moon to shine even in the brightness of day, Mary gives more beauty to the heavens, more glory to God than any other creature on earth.  And when the dark night of faith is upon us and the sun is hidden from our view, Mary is there to enlighten our path and show us the way to her Son, until “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 78-79)

At the present moment, although the world is filled with darkness, we can turn to her for help in seeking His Face and leading souls to Him. Even pebbles on a path on the ground can reflect the light of the moon at night; and so the children of Mary by following her example, “to seek the Face of God in all things,” can guide others through the darkness by reflecting the light of the Face of Christ as does Mary.

It is Jesus Himself who desires that we turn to the face of His Mother. He created her with all the perfection and beauty that would be fitting for the Mother of God.  Her soul, holy, immaculate and unstained by sin, is the perfect mirror in which He reflects His Face. He holds her up to us as the model for all His disciples as He did in Luke’s Gospel:  “While He was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’” This singular praise of Mary from the woman in the crowd was not enough for her Son.  And so Jesus replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:27)  Mary is thus thrice blessed, first, in being chosen to be the Mother of God, second, in that Mary heard the word of God and third, because she kept His word in her heart.

Mary holds out to us her Scapular, a sacramental sign of being clothed in her own garment, to place over our shoulders, so that we may imitate her in faith, hope, charity and all the virtues that adorn her soul.  By contemplating the Face of Jesus always, together with Mary, we can do our part in making His Face shine upon our world as well.

img_1069Our Lady of Mount Carmel

O most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, blessed Mother of Christ, Immaculate Virgin, we praise and honor you as our Queen and Mother.

Help us to persevere in constant prayer for the needs of our world and share with you in the work of redemption.  Be with us, Holy Virgin, and guide us on our way, as we journey together in faith, hope and love to your Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.