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.