The Pure of Heart – Seeking the Face of the Beloved

 

 

The Deposition, 1507, Raphael (detail)

Is there anyone who associates St. Mary Magdalene with purity? St. Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus drove out seven devils, is more often recalled as the sinful woman, who in penitence, not ceasing to kiss Jesus’s feet, also bathed them “with her tears and wiped them with her hair,” then anointing them with expensive nard. Her many sins were forgiven and so she shows great love. When Our Lord visited the home of Mary and Martha, Mary was seated at the Master’s feet. Martha worked, while Mary “chose the better part” which “would not be taken from her,” thus becoming the model of contemplation for the faithful, seeking the Face of God in prayer.

From the foot of the Cross, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to the tomb, Mary Magdalene never ceased to seek the Face of Jesus. Before dawn, on Easter morning Mary Magdalene sought for her Beloved Jesus; heart broken and burning with love, she persevered in faith and hope. She was at the tomb, while the apostles were nowhere to be found. Although her eyes were blinded with tears, they were also purified to see the Face of her Lord, though she did not at first recognize him until he spoke her name. Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote in a homily, “Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her ‘woman’; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.”

The byssus Veil of Manoppello, which is thought to be one of the burial cloths of Jesus which covered his head. and which captured the first breath of the Resurrection. photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” 

Upon returning from the Lord’s tomb, Mary Magdalene told the disciples: “I have seen the Lord.” Her perseverance in seeking the Face of Jesus was rewarded; she was made worthy to be the first to proclaim that Jesus Christ had risen.

The Bride says, “On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves–I sought him but I did not find him.

I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek Him whom my heart loves. 

I sought him but I did not find him. The watchmen came upon me, as they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves? I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves.”  (Song of Songs 3:1-4B)

Detail from The Deposition by Raphael shows the hand of St. Mary Magdalene clasping Jesus’s hand together with a byssus veil.

Mary Magdalene “recovered purity…in anticipation of the Eucharist, the night she bathed the feet of Our Lord with her tears. That day she came in contact with purity, and she so lived out its implications that within a short time we find her at the foot of the Cross. ”

–Ven. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 

 

 

What Do You Seek…or Whom?

“Your Face, LORD, do I seek!” Photo: Patricia Enk

What is the soul’s deepest longing? The answer to that question is another question: what do you seek? Do you seek truth, love, or joy? Peace? Endless fulfillment? Beauty? The desire for all these things are good, but our weak human nature usually seeks them in all the wrong places, when there is only one place where all may be found, that is, in God. The real search begins when we begin to seek God’s Face.

In his Confessions, St. Augustine told of his search in his youth for love, joy, beauty, et cetera…  but “looking in all the wrong places” he turned to sexual immorality, living with a woman for thirteen years — which only left his restless heart deeply unsatisfied. He then sought to quench his desires intellectually, which led to strange religions and philosophies. But when he heard St. Ambrose speak in Milan, and thanks also to the persevering prayers of his mother, St. Monica, God’s grace moved his heart to recognize what was true and beautiful.  But he still found it difficult to give up his sinful life.

One day in a garden, still struggling with his passions, St. Augustine heard the voice of a child repeating, “take and read, take and read.” He looked around but no one was there, but there was a Bible laying open beside him. Picking it up, he read the words from Romans 13:13-14  “…not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  

St. Augustine was at a turning point. “What” he sought became “Whom” — Jesus Christ. By seeking the Face of God in His Word, he began his transformation in Christ, eventually becoming a Bishop and Doctor of the Church. His life of prayer, praise, and contemplation of the Blessed Trinity led to the fulfillment of the longing of his heart, which is the longing of every heart — to see the Face of God and find there all truth, beauty, goodness, love, joy, peace, and endless fulfillment in HIM.

Prayer of St. Augustine

“My Lord and my God, my only hope, hear my prayer so that I may not give in to discouragement and cease to seek you. May I desire always to see your face.  Give me strength for the search. You who caused me to find you and gave the hope of a more perfect knowledge of you. I place before you my steadfastness, that you may preserve it, and my weakness, that you may heal it. I place before you my knowledge, and my ignorance. If you open the door to me, welcome the one who enters. If you have closed the gate, open it to the one who calls. Make me always remember you, understand you, and love you. Increase those gifts in me until I am completely changed.

When we come up into your presence, these many things we talk about now without understanding them will cease, and you alone will remain everything in everyone, and then we will sing as one an eternal hymn of praise and we too will become one with you.” 

 

I Only Have Eyes for You

“Those in love try to see each other. People in love have eyes only for their love. That’s logical isn’t it? The human heart feels this need. I would be lying if I denied my eagerness to contemplate the Face of Jesus Christ. ‘ Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram.’ I will seek your Countenance, O Lord”–St. Jose Maria Escriva

 

The desire to seek the face of a loved one is written in the human heart by God, who loves each soul as though it were the only one on earth.  God in turn, longs for us to return His love, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, searching the horizon each day for the sight of his lost son.  Visit any airport terminal and you will find someone standing with eyes riveted on the arrival gates with anxious anticipation for the familiar face of a loved one to appear, followed by great joy when their hope is fulfilled.

Jesus waits for us, with great longing, but do we have the same longing to see Him? It would be the greatest tragedy if we simply walk past Him because we didn’t recognize Him. Why is it so difficult to keep our focus on seeking the Face of the One who loves us most?  The reason may be that we see His Face “only dimly.” Every day a million distractions prevent us from recognizing Jesus, and divert us from seeking the Face of the One who should be our “All in All.”

 “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known. So Faith, Hope, and Love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.” (1 Cor: 12-13)

Jesus tells us, “Seek and you will find.”  To seek the Face of God requires an exercise of the virtue of Hope united with Faith and Love to come to know Him.  We can seek Him not only by  spending more time in prayer which is the source of our love, but also in recognizing His loving presence in Scripture, in the Eucharist and in our neighbor. One way to exercise the virtue of Hope, in Faith and Love is to repeat often the words of King David: “Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s Face”; your Face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide Your Face from me!” (Psalm 27:8-9) …and to remember that He “Only has eyes for you!”  Though we may forget to seek God, He never ceases to seek us so we may find life and happiness in Him. His love is blind, though sins have marred our souls, He seeks only to beautify and fill with virtue each individual soul, created in His image and likeness, so that by His gaze, He may find there the original truth and beauty – a reflection of His Face.

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

I Only Have Eyes for You

My love must be a kind of blind love,
I can’t see anyone but you.
Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright.
I only have eyes for you, dear.
The moon may be high
but I can’t see a thing in the sky.
I only have eyes for you.
I don’t know if we’re in a garden
or on a crowded avenue.
You are here and so am I,
Maybe millions of people go by,
but they all disappear from view
and I only have eyes for you.

(By songwriters Al Dubin and Harry Warren)

Come Holy Spirit

“Truly, truly, I tell you the truth. Whoever will invoke the Holy Spirit, he will seek me and he will find me, and it is through the Spirit that he will find me.” ~Our Lord to Sr. Miriam of Jesus Crucified.

 

 

News Updates:

The Annual Feast of the Holy Face of Manoppello and Procession was celebrated on May 20, 2018. A beautiful account of the day, written by Antonio Bini, together with many wonderful photo’s may be found here on the HolyFace of Manoppello Blogspot.

A new documentary about the Holy Face of Manoppello will be released soon. To read more about it click here for the article on Holy Face of Manoppello blog.  

(A preview – in Italian)