The Greatest Longing

The greatest longing of the human soul is to see God face to face.

Detail from Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Paul Rubens, 1609

The Blessed Virgin Mary was the most perfect reflection of the Face of God. Her pure soul was continually turned toward the Face of God, seeking His most Holy Will in all things. At the Incarnation the Holy Face of her son Jesus, true God and true man, was formed in her holy womb; by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was the first to see Jesus’s human face at His birth, and was closest to Him throughout His life and death. But, although she was immaculately conceived, she could only see the Face of God on earth, as any other human being can, that is, through the veil of faith.

Mary was created by God to be the mother of His Son, therefore she was “full of grace,” and filled with every gift of the Holy Spirit in their perfection. Her soul was “an enclosed garden” which belonged only to God, and in which the Holy Spirit formed the most perfect masterpiece of love. The gaze of her mind and heart was always on the Face of her son Jesus.  At the foot of the cross Mary suffered a passion of her own together with her son. As the blood and water flowed from Jesus’s side giving birth to the Church, through her pain and suffering Mary became the Mother of Christ’s mystical Body, with Christ as it’s Head.

Mary adored Jesus beneath the Eucharistic Veil of the appearance of bread.
The Virgin of the Host, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

The joy of seeing Jesus’s Face after the Resurrection was followed by the most painful deprivation of the sight of her son after His Ascension into heaven. Then Mary, with ever increasing love and longing, sought the Face of Christ in the same way that we must seek Him in this life: in His Word, in our neighbor, and in the Eucharist. As she sought Him in these ways, the image of God shining in her soul increased in beauty and splendor as God bestowed grace upon grace on Mary. Though she was the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary constantly died to herself and lived for others in perfect charity until finally dying of the burning love and desire to see the Face of God in Heaven. Mary had no attachment to creatures or things of this earth, and having no stain of sin or corruption, she was taken body and soul to Heaven, where she was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Mary, constantly seeking the Face of God throughout her life until she was assumed into Heaven by God was to be an example for us to follow. Her example may be best summed up in the words of the Servant of God, Père Jacques of Jesus, OCD:

“Let your life be transformed by this constantly burning desire to be willing to die in order to see Christ face to face.” 


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

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.
+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)

“Blessed is she who believed” – Mary’s veil of faith

The Virgin of the Grapes by Pierre Mignard
The Virgin of the Grapes by Pierre Mignard

The word “veil” can have many meanings. A veil can cover the face, the head, or an object; it can cover, conceal, or separate. In ancient Jewish tradition a veil in the Holy of Holies in the Temple separated sinful man from the presence of God dwelling in the midst of His People. The holiness of God was not to be taken lightly. The blinding light of the purity and glory of the Face of God could not be looked upon by sinful eyes.

But when God chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son He created her to be all-pure and sinless from the moment of her conception through the merits of her Son, Jesus. In Matthew 5:8 we read, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” What was to prevent Mary, the Immaculate Conception, who was free from all sin, from seeing the Face of God in all His glory even while she was still here on earth? The answer is, in a word, a veil.

When the Word of God became flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the Incarnation, Mary became His Tabernacle. Jesus’ human flesh was His veil: “by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is His flesh” (Heb. 10:20). The Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God.  But Mary, though “full of grace” and all-pure, would only gaze upon the human face of her child and upon the Face of her God through the veil of faith.

Elizabeth bore witness to Mary’s faith when “filled with the Holy Spirit” she greeted Mary with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?…“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk. 1:45). As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Redemptoris Mater, “Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the full submission of intellect and will…this response of faith included both perfect cooperation with ‘the grace of God that precedes and assists’ and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit, who constantly brings faith to completion by His gifts.”

Veil of Veronica C. 1618-22 National Gallery
Veil of Veronica C. 1618-22 National Gallery

In a truly heroic manner, in poverty and suffering, on her whole pilgrimage or journey towards God, Mary believed, in faith, though everything happening around her seemed to contradict God’s words to her: That “the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David.” And that “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Mary believed these invisible truths about her Son, even as Jesus, suffered and died, hanging on the Cross. What was visible on an earthly level did not reflect the heavenly reality. Mary did not necessarily see her Son radiant in glory or angels ministering to Him in His Passion.  At the foot of the Cross she saw His bruised and bloodied suffering Face.

Pope St. John Paul II tells us in Redemptoris Mater that “faith is contact with the mystery of God. Every day Mary is in constant contact with the ineffable mystery of God made-man, a mystery that surpasses everything revealed in the Old Covenant… Mary is in contact with the truth about her Son only in faith and through faith!” Though all-pure, she could not see, except through faith. “Blessed is she who believed” is a key, he says, which unlocks for us the innermost reality of Mary. Mary’s all-pure eyes looked on the glory of her Son through a veil of faith, “a dark night,” to use the words of St. John of the Cross, that feeling of darkness or emptiness when a soul draws near to the brightness and glory of God. Pope St. John Paul II writes in Redemptoris Mater that Mary’s faith is: “a kind of a veil though which one has to draw near to the Invisible One and to live in intimacy with the mystery.”

In this earthly pilgrimage of faith a veil lies over our hearts, as St. Paul writes: “To this day, in fact…a veil lies over their hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed… All of us, with unveiled face gazing on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 4:15-16, 18) As members of the Church, we can “look at” Jesus through Mary’s eyes of faith, in the Eucharist, in our neighbor; believing in His Word and following her example in our pilgrimage towards the Father until that time when the “veil” of faith will be finally lifted.

“Blessed is she who believed!”

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)