There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. Then the Lord said: “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord willl be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord–but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire–but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?” He replied, “I have been most jealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts.” (1 Kings 19)
Fixing our eyes on God
Pope St. Gregory explains why Elijah is described as standing at the mouth of the cave (“where we direct our mental gaze, there we may be said to stand.”) and veiling his face when he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him: “…as soon as the voice of heavenly understanding enters the mind through the grace of contemplation, the whole man is no longer within the cave, for his soul is no longer taken up with matters of the flesh: intent on leaving the bounds of mortality, he stands at the cave’s mouth.”
Humility and Detachment – the keys to contemplation
“But if a man stands at the mouth of the cave and hears the word of God with his heart’s ear, he must veil his face. For when heavenly grace leads us to the understanding of higher things, the rarer the heights to which we are raised, the more we should abase ourselves in our own estimation by humility: we must not try to know ‘more than is fitting; we must know as it befits us to know.’ Otherwise, through over-familiarity with the invisible, we wish going astray; and we might perhaps look for material light in what is immaterial. For to cover the face while listening with the ear means hearing with our mind the voice of Him who is within us, yet averting the eyes of the heart from every bodily appearance. If we do this, there will be no risk of our spirit interpreting as something corporeal that which is everywhere in its entirety and everywhere uncircumscribed…while our feet stand within the walls of His holy Church, let us keep our eyes turned toward the door; let us mentally turn our backs on the corruption of this temporal life; let us keep our hearts facing toward the freedom of our heavenly fatherland.”
Almighty, ever-living God, your prophet Elijah, our Father, lived always in your presence and was jealous for the honor due to your name. May we, your servants, always seek your Face and bear witness to your love. We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him.
Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart:I seek your face; your face, Lord, I desire.
Lord, my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you. Lord, if you are not here where shall I look for you in your absence? Yet if you are everywhere, why do I not see you when you are present? But surely you dwell in “light inaccessible.” And where is light inaccessible? How shall I approach light inaccessible? Or who will lead me and bring me into it that I may see you there? And then, by what signs and under what forms shall I seek you? I have never seen you, Lord my God; I do not know your face.
Lord, most high, what shall this exile do, so far from you? What shall your servant do, tormented by love of you and cast so far from your face? He yearns to see you, and your face is is too far from him. He desire to approach you, and your dwelling is inapproachable. He longs to find you, and does not know your dwelling place. He strives to look for you, and does not know your face.
Lord, you are my God and you are my Lord, and I have never seen you. You have made me and remade me, and you have given me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I was made in order to see you, and I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Lord, how long will it be? How long, Lord, will you forget us? How long will you turn your face away from us? When will you look upon us and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes and show us your face? When will you give your self back to us?
Look upon us, Lord, hear us and enlighten us, show us your very self. Restore yourself to us that it may go well with us whose life is so evil without you. Take pity on our efforts and our striving toward you, for we have no strength apart from you.
Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me. for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you.
Listen to my voice, Lord, when I call
... Your Face, Lord, do I seek!
Hide not Your Face from me!
-- Psalm 27
“Peace I leave with you; Mypeace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)
In His discourse at the Last Supper Jesus gives to his disciples, and to us, the gift of His peace. He leaves it “with” us. Most people would think of peace as a state of being undisturbed, tranquil or quiet. But Jesus tells us at the same time not to “let our hearts be troubled or fearful.” We must must somehow preserve this peace while living, as did the first disciples, in a disturbing, troubling, and frightening anti-Christian world. It is a paradox. What is this “gift” of His peace — a peace that can remain with us while the world around has gone mad?
The world offers its own sort of “peace” but it is at the price of rejecting Jesus Christ and His Cross. It is the false peace of tolerance and acquiescence — getting along, or going along with the prevailing culture — in the hope that by submission to its unceasing demands we will somehow be left alone to live our lives, losing none of our comforts or security. Anyone accepting this false type of peace however will ultimately lose everything, including eternal salvation. There is no real peace apart from Jesus Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote that the revelation of the Face of God took on a new and beautiful manifestation when God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. As fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ gave us a human face that revealed the Face of God. “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!” Something new happens at the Incarnation, because now God’s Face can be seen: The Son of God was made man and He is given a Name, Jesus.
God, our loving Father, offers us a gift of true peace that is so much greater than anything the world has to offer, if only we turn back to His Face. God has a Face and a Name, “the concrete sign of His existence” which He has shown us through His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. “To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave Himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In His Face we truly see who God is and what He looks like!” – Pope Benedict XVI
It was on the World Day of Peace 2013 that Pope Benedict spoke about the blessing of the priests of 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:
“May the Lord bless and keep you, may He make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you: May the Lord turn His Face toward you and give you His PEACE.” (Num. 6: 22-27)
“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.” -Pope Benedict XVI
Moreover, Pope Benedict wrote, “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, the pope says, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing can take from us.
Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to the Holy Face as having three separate components: 1. Discipleship – an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the Face of those in need. 2. The Passion of Jesus, and suffering expressed by images of the wounded Face of Jesus. 3. The Eucharist, “the great school in which we learn to see the Face of God,” which is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His Face hidden in the Eucharist. “In the Eucharist, the Face of Christ is turned toward us.” – Pope St. John Paul II
“Our whole life should be directed toward encountering Him,” writes Benedict, “toward loving Him; and in it, a central place must be given to love of one’s neighbor, that love that in the light of the Crucified One, enables us to recognize the Face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering.” In short, to enter into a relationship with Jesus and to follow Him. The pope goes on to explain the fruits of this contemplation: “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, PEACE.” Peace, not as the world gives, but the peace which can only come from Jesus Christ. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)
Listen to my voice, Lord, when I call . . . Your Face, Lord, do I seek! Hide not Your Face from me! -Psalm 27
“Abide in peace, banish care, take no account of all that happens. And you will serve God according to His good pleasure.” — St. John of the Cross
“…and if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from Heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.” (2 Chr. 7:4)
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.
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.”
“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)
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. ”
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.”
“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.
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)
“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.
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 theHolyFace of Manoppello Blogspot.