O Jesus, hidden God,
My heart perceives You
Though veils hide You;
You know that I love you.
–St. Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament, Apostle of Divine Mercy
On October 11, 1933, Saint Marie Faustina Kowalska was struggling “with great difficulty” to remain at prayer during a Holy Hour; she felt nothing, her mind seemed dimmed, she couldn’t understand the simplest form of prayer, and unlike most of us, this made her determined to stay another hour. During the second hour her sufferings increased, together with great dryness and discouragement. Rather than call it quits, she heroically resolved to remain for a third hour, by sheer will. Kneeling with her arms outstretched, she took off her ring and asked Jesus to look at it as the sign of their eternal union and her perpetual vows. After a while, her heart was inundated with a wave of love. Jesus suddenly stood before her stripped of His clothing as in His Passion. “His body completely covered with wounds, His eyes flooded with tears and blood, His Face disfigured and covered with spittle.” The Lord then said to St. Faustina, “The Bride must resemble her Betrothed.” She says she understood these words to their very depth. Her likeness to Jesus must be through suffering and humility. Jesus said to her, “See what love of human souls has done to Me. My daughter, in your heart I find everything that so great a number of souls refuses Me, Your heart is My repose. I often wait with great graces until towards the end of prayer.” Her faithfulness to prayer was rewarded with a powerful reminder that she must resemble Jesus, her spouse.
This mystery of likeness to God is tied to contemplative prayer, “a communion, in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image and likeness of God, to His likeness.” (CCC 2713) In contemplative prayer we seek Him whom our soul loves, with our attention fixed on Jesus, surrendering to the love of the Father. The interior life of prayer can be difficult, dry and empty; it requires pure abandonment to God when nothing is felt, resisting our natural inclination to self-love by desiring to enjoy consolation. St. Faustina writes, “Amid the greatest torments, I fix the gaze of my soul upon Jesus Crucified.” St. Faustina’s strength was in contemplation of the Face of Jesus reflecting all the pain and suffering of His Sacred Heart: “I have ever before my eyes His sorrowful Face, abused and disfigured, His divine Heart pierced for our sins and especially by the ingratitude of chosen souls.”
St. Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, had the mission of spreading His Mercy so that souls will come to know His unfathomable love, “to remove the veil of heaven so that earth will not doubt Your goodness.” She wrote, “Make of me, Jesus, a pure and agreeable offering before the Face of Your Father. Jesus, transform me, miserable and sinful as I am, into Your own self (for You can do all things), and give me to Your Eternal Father.” St. Faustina’s desire to see the Face of God increased although darkness filled her soul as though she were in exile. In spite of that suffering, she abandoned herself to the Will of God, remaining faithful in prayer. “When will the veil be lifted for me as well? Although I see and feel to a certain extent how very thin is the veil separating me from the Lord, I long to see Him face to face; but let everything be done according to Your will.”
St. Faustina sought solace by remaining patiently in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. “I cast upon the Tabernacle the gaze of my soul, a gaze of faithfulness. As for You, You are ever the same, while within my soul a change takes place. I trust the time will come when You unveil Your Countenance, and Your child will again see Your sweet Face…I am listening and waiting for Your coming, O only Treasure of my heart!”
God who made us in His image and likeness dwells in us. His divine indwelling enables us to become who we truly are when we turn to Him with humility and perseverance in prayer. “With God, to gaze at is to love,” says St. John of the Cross, and we are transformed by what we gaze upon. The trouble for our human nature is that in difficulties we often forget to turn to His Face, as St. Teresa of Jesus has said, “O Lord, how true that all harm comes to us from not keeping our eyes fixed on You.” The divine goal of the grace of contemplative prayer, which flows from His mercy, is to resemble Jesus. St. Faustina wrote, “The Heavenly Father will recognize and glorify our soul to the extent that He sees in us a resemblance to His Son.”
“Be blessed, merciful God, Eternal Love, / You are above the heavens, the sapphires, the firmaments, / The hosts of pure spirits sings You praises, / With its eternal hymn: Thrice Holy.
And, gazing upon You, face to face, O God, / I see that You could have called other creatures before them, / Therefore they humble themselves before You in great humility, / For well they see that this grace comes solely from Your mercy.” –St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul