Since ancient times processions have been a reminder that our Christian life is a constant movement toward God and our eternal home. A procession is a type of pilgrimage and expression of piety that flows from the liturgy. Solemn processions can be quite beautiful–accompanied by hymns, prayers, and lit candles– flower girls dropping roses petals, lines of freshly scrubbed altar servers, Knights of Columbus in plumed hats and capes, bearing their swords (the envy of every little boy), priests accompanying the Eucharist or precious relics, acolytes surrounded by clouds of incense, and the faithful holding their rosaries trying to keep their place as they walk slowly behind. But make no mistake, a procession is not a pretty parade. There is power in procession that terrifies the infernal foe and makes all of hell tremble.
Fr. Frederick W. Faber in his treatise on the Blessed Sacrament wrote:
“We process toward our heavenly home in the company of God. Procession is the function of faith, which burns in our hearts and beams in our faces, and makes our voices tremulous with emotion as our ‘Lauda Sion’ bids defiance to an unbelieving world.”
The world is not only unbelieving but publicly blasphemes God to His Face, and it is for this reason that He must be honored publicly. Whether it is within the confines of a church or through the city streets, the procession is a public function of faith, hope, and love. It is an antidote to the poison disseminated by our culture which falsely asserts that religion is “private” and not something to be brought up in polite society or in the public square. By solemn procession the Church loudly proclaims to all the world that Jesus is Lord!
History was made on “Omnis Terra”(All the earth) Sunday in January of 2016, when bishops, priests, and pilgrims re-enacted the historic “Omnis Terra” Procession of Pope Innocent III (pictured above), carrying a reproduction of the precious image that many scholars identify with “the Veronica” or “true image” of the Face of Jesus. The pilgrim procession began at St. Peter’s in Rome and processed to Spirito Santo church and hospital, drawing attention especially to the Face of Christ in the sick and the poor.
On the occasion of the first “Omnis Terra” procession in 1208, Pope Innocent III wrote this beautiful prayer of devotion to the Veil of Holy Face of Jesus:
“O God, who has marked us with the light of Thy Face as your memorial, and at the request of Veronica, left us Thy Image imprinted on the sudarium; grant we pray, that by your passion and death, to adore, venerate and honor you, in mystery and as through a mirror on earth, so that we might be able to certainly see you, face to face, when you come as our judge.”
This year, on “Omnis Terra” Sunday, January 15, 2017, history will be made once again at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy. A third solemn annual procession will be introduced–in addition to the two solemn processions already observed in May (commemorating the arrival of the Holy Veil to Manoppello), and the solemn procession in August (on the Feast of the Transfiguration). (Details may be found here on the Holy Face of Manoppello blogspot)
The addition of a third procession of the Holy Face at the Shrine of Manoppello is not only Trinitarian, it is a deeply significant and public witness of honor paid by the faithful to His Holy Face and thus also to the Holy Name of Jesus! May all of hell tremble at the sight of His Holy Face!
A Hymn composed by Pope Innocent III from the year 1216:
“Sancte Salve Facies”
Hail Holy Face of Our Redeemer on which shines the appearance of divine splendor impressed upon a little cloth of snowy radiance and given to Veronica as a standard of love.
Hail beauty of the ages, mirror of the saints, which the spirits of the heavens desire to see. Cleanse us from every stain of sin and guide us to the fellowship of the blessed.
Hail our glory amidst this hard life, so fragile and unstable, quickly passing away. Point us, O happy figure, to the heavenly homeland to see the Face that is Christ indeed.
Hail, O sudarium, noble encased jewel, both our solace and the memorial of Him who assumed a little mortal body–our true joy and ultimate good!
*The precious miniature manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia,” was published around 1350 and is preserved in the State Archives in Rome. The illustration at the bottom of the first page of the Liber is one of the oldest illustrations of “the Veronica,” which depicts Pope Innocent III with “the Veronica” in his right hand and the Rule granted to the brothers of the hospital in his left. Prior to the Jubilee of 2000, the French medievalist Jacques Le Goff wrote, “Over the centuries Rome was enriched with notable relics. One in particular acquired an exceptional prestige: the sudarium of Christ known and revered by the name of “the Veronica.” The circumstances by which the image first came to Rome is a mystery but was mentioned for the first time under Pope John VII (705-707)