“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
Suffering– it is part of the human condition, and it also human nature to avoid it whenever possible. Even among those rare souls who “suffer well” by following Christ’s example, suffering can be a seemingly unending trial that wears one down. Illness and suffering “can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God.” (CCC 1501) In times of suffering people could turn to distractions, inward on themselves, or turn their eyes to the Face of Jesus Christ. It is He who suffers, and no one has suffered more than Him. When He took our human flesh at the Incarnation, He accepted all the suffering of humanity, though completely innocent, to redeem us from our sin.
How do we follow in Christ’s footsteps when we are faced with suffering?
“‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.’
When He was insulted, He returned no insult, when He suffered, He did not threaten; instead, He handed Himself over to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the Cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2: 22-25)
For many though, their suffering may not be a physical one. There is another terrible suffering, experienced worldwide: the separation from our loved ones. And even more painful, the suffering of being separated from “The Loved One,” Jesus, in the sacraments. Again, it is Christ who suffers most, in the Eucharist, isolated in every tabernacle throughout the world.
Perhaps this isolation from loved ones is a warning from Our Loving God of what happens when we turn away from the Face of God by unrepented mortal sin. The result is a painful separation from the love of God for all eternity, which is the suffering of Hell.
What can one do “to suffer with Christ” by staying alone at home? As a Discalced Carmelite nun, St. Edith Stein, contemplated a life of separation from the rest of the world in the cloister. She wrote, “Whoever enters Carmel is not lost to their own, but is theirs fully for the first time; It is our vocation to stand before God for all.” In quarantine each of us may suffer with Jesus by seeking His Christ’s Face with hearts of prayer, as the Blessed Virgin Mary did at the foot of the Cross – “to stand before God for all.”
“For whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil lips, from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears turned to their prayer, but the Face of the Lord is against evildoers.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)
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. ”
The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the temple is a feast of light, signifying by the lighting of the candles that Christ our radiant Light shines in the world. Mary carried the Christ Child, the true Light of the World, to present Him in the Temple, but so few recognized Him, because the world had been eclipsed in darkness. It was only the prophetess Anna, “who spent night and day praying in the Temple,” and the aged Simeon, who longed to see the Messiah before he died, who saw the light on the face of the Child Jesus and recognized their Lord.
The world today is also eclipsed in darkness, but a glimmer of light still shines, bringing hope and peace to souls. If you are prayerful, like Anna, if you long to see His Face, like Simeon the high priest, you too will recognize your Lord — in the Scripture, in the faces of those around you, and in the Most Holy Eucharist.
There is yet another “miracle of light,” a means by which the Face of Jesus shines: It is called the Veil of Manoppello. It is a sign to a darkened world that God became man for our salvation. As was true at the Presentation in the Temple, there are few that recognize this great sign for what it is: An *”Iconic Turn,” a gift from God to draw mankind back “to seek His Face.”
Paul Badde has written a wonderful article for Vatican Magazine, on the Omnis Terra celebration honoring the “miracle of light,” the Face of Christ on the Veil of Manoppello, and the humble men who recognized their Lord there. Thank you, Paul, for the permission to post this article, and thanks too, to Raymond Frost for your translation in English from the original German.
*”An Iconic turn…a new picture that is essentially true: with the sun in the center! –Paul Badde”
Omnis terra in Manoppello
A Copernican turn in the fog of Abruzzo
BY PAUL BADDE
“Omnis terra adorate, Deus, et psallat tibi”
(Let all the world adore you, O God and sing psalms to you).
On the feast day of St. Agnes the Virgin, martyred for Christ in the third century in Rome, there appeared in the New York Magazine a glossy cover story about the “gay church” by the avowed gay writer Andrew Sullivan. That was to be expected sooner rather than later. What was wholly unexpected was that, a day before, Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, the prefect of the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017, arrived in Manoppello to come together with the archbishops Bruno Forte from Chieti-Vasto in Abruzzo and Salvatore Cordileone from San Francisco, California, to bless the city, the world and the Church with the face of Christ on his sudarium.
In Hebrew, kohanim birkat םיִנֲהֹּכ תַּכְרִּב, by which God is entreated that his face might shine upon us, is the oldest recorded blessing of the whole entire Bible. But this blessing is not given to be received from the outstretched hands of the priests, but with the “true Icon “of the human face of God- from the hands of three bishops from Germany, Italy and America –
This was unheard of and has never been this way before. The American news outlet Catholic News Service CNS had beforehand pointed to the event and could not guess what was about to happen.
Because as Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006, as the first Pope after four hundred years for the first time who again had bent his knee and bowed to the true facecloth of Christ,
Nevertheless, the circumstances and much resistance had allowed him little more time before the precious icon than would any Japanese tourist be allowed. Neither the local bishop nor the guardian of the shrine could not then dare to ask the Pontiff to bless the world with the true icon. So this Sunday it was no less than a theological turning point, as Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller with two chief shepherds from the Old and the New Worlds, blessed the city of Manoppello, the world and the church with the face of Christ.
It was an unprecedented celebration dating back to 1208 when Pope Innocent III first made known in Rome the face of God to the Latin world of the West on the second Sunday after the feast of the apparition to the peoples (Epiphany), bearing in his hands the hitherto unknown Sanctissimo Sudarium in a solemn procession from St. Peter’s Basilica to the nearby Hospital Church of Sancto Spirito in Sassia.
This Sunday bears the name “Omnis Terra” after the Latin entrance psalm for the day. This tradition was renewed again in the same churches three years ago by the archbishops Georg Gänswein and Edmond Farhat from Lebanon with pilgrims from Manoppello. It was in the “Year of Mercy ” which Pope Francis had proclaimed. And it borders on a miracle that the spark only three years later jumped to California where the brave archbishop, whose diocese adjoins the Silicon Valley and includes the headquarters of YouTube and Facebook, on the same evening sent the following statement on the internet:
“My visit to the Volto Santo of Manoppello was moving and profound. It took a very cherished idea and made it personal and real. I will always treasure the half-hour I had to pray privately before the holy image. It is alive; even the expression changes from different angles and with different lighting. It is like looking at a real human face, looking into the face of Jesus. The eyes, especially, are very alive and penetrating. My love for Jesus Christ has become much more personal now.
I will also always be thankful for the opportunity to concelebrate the Mass with Cardinal Muller, along with the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, the Most Reverend Bruno Forte, the next day – “Omnis terra” Sunday. To participate with them in blessing the people with the Holy Face and then having the privilege to carry it in returning it to its place of safe keeping was a blessing I will never forget.
I encourage everyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ and love for him to cultivate a devotion to this holy image he has left us – a picture of the first instant of the Resurrection.”
. – Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, California,
– Manoppello, on January 20, 2019 ”
The American archbishop “Lionheart” from San Francisco and his Italian brother and Manoppello’s local bishop Bruno Forte, fellow celebrities at the side of the German cardinal, could not be more different from each other. The savvy Monsignor Forte had already fourteen years prior laconically stated that the enigmatic veil icon “sorrow and Light are brought so close together, as only love can do “. Since then – and especially after the visit of Pope Benedict XVI -numerous Cardinals have streamed here and are so very enthusiastic in their homage to the image, as the evangelist Matthew related of the biblical wise men from the East in front of the child in Bethlehem.
Most recently it was the Cardinals Kurt Koch from Switzerland, Robert Sarah from Africa and Antonio Tagle from Asia. Who knows the portrait, knows: the power of silence rests in it. It has been scientifically proven for decades that it is not painted and contains no imaging color or blood traces. Nevertheless, there is a decades long conspiracy of professors and experts (who have for the most part never seen it) against the spiderwebs sheath made of mussel silk, since it was first identified in the seventies of the last century by the Capuchin Domenico da Cese as the hagion soudarion, which the evangelist John prominently mentioned next to other cloths in the empty tomb of Christ in his report on the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The dispute should be no surprise. Already in the first millennium the Soudarion led to the extremely violent wars and dislocations of the “iconoclast controversy”. In fact, the issue raised today is not about images but about the question of God: “You, who do you think I am?”. The spectacular response of Cardinal Muller, is even more of a breakthrough than the visit of Pope Benedict to Manoppello, in which one of the most prominent Church theologians at the end of the Gutenberg Age (dominated by Dr. Luther’s maxim “Sola scriptura”) in front of this great icon and mother of the images not made by human hands, but still, so to speak, before the book of evidence has been closed, and without even speaking in his homily of the day’s Gospel (the wedding of Cana), but said the following: link to homily
Thus the words of Cardinal Muller’s sermon. Even more telling, however, were the photos taken at the end of the solemn pontifical Mass with his brothers in their common blessing gesture with the facecloth.. It was a Copernican revolution, and yes, it really was a breakthrough that in its meaning must be compared with the book “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” of Nicolaus Copernicus of 1543. The analogy is neither reckless nor indiscriminate. A lot of the facts of Copernicus were wrong and almost all the details. Nevertheless, we honor him for being one who has drawn a new picture that is essentially true: with the sun in the center!
And now the three bishops raised like hardly ever before in the liturgy this new blessing with the human face –God’s return of the visible Jesus Christ to the center of the world and the Church– and made it clearer than ever that the Creator of the Heaven and the earth has not become a book at the end of days, but man, and with it also picture. It was an unprecedented translation of all theology into the new and universal imagery that has become the digital revolution of the world in its entirety
“Iconic Turn” as a new means of communication.
Now it was suddenly as if the time of the eclipse haunting the earth, the world and the church finally ends in the misty Abruzzo with the look into the merciful eyes of Christ by the three shepherds
There was no further dispute on the overwhelming, sometimes almost suffocating, problems and capital sins that the Church of our day poses, but with the holy facecloth Christ has steered a whole new look towards his face, as the head of the church and the face of love, “that moves the sun and the other stars” as Dante, the prince among poets, still formulated at the goal of the cosmic pilgrimage in his Divine Comedy. Ω
St. Faustina Kowalska, “The Apostle of Mercy,” was known as a mystic and visionary. Her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, records the journey of her soul. Our Lord granted St. Faustina a deep understanding of the love and mercy of God which she was to share with the world.
The greatest sign of God’s continuing mercy for the people of the world is His hidden Presence in the Eucharist. By turning to His Eucharistic Face, gazing at Jesus’s Face in silent contemplation, “a change takes place” in our souls, because He is also gazing at us.
“O Living Host, O hidden Jesus. You see the condition of my soul. Of myself, I am unable to utter Your Holy Name. I cannot bring forth from my heart the fire of love, but, kneeling at Your feet, 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 that the time will come when You will unveil Your Countenance, and Your child will again see Your sweet Face. I am astonished, Jesus, that You can hide Yourself from me for so long and that You can restrain the enormous love You have for me. In the dwelling of my heart, I am listening and waiting for Your coming, O only Treasure of my heart! (1239 “Divine Mercy in My Soul”)
It is through the Divine Mercy of God that souls, by turning continually toward His Holy Face, learn to live in His Presence. Thus, we may reach the true treasure of all hearts, fulfilling the soul’s greatest desire, which is to see God face to Face.
“During meditation, the Lord gave me knowledge of the joy of Heaven and of the Saints on our arrival there; they love God as the sole object of their love, but they also have a tender and heartfelt love for us. It is from the Face of God that this joy flows out upon all, because we see Him face to Face. His Face is so sweet that the soul falls anew into ecstasy” (1592, “Divine Mercy in My Soul”).
St. Faustina, pray for us!
Important Update:Raymond Frost at the Holy Face of Manoppello Blogspot reports that the most recent episode of Vaticano, EWTN’s weekly television program originating in Rome there is a most beautiful segment (“Traces of the Resurrection” starting at 23:40) on the Holy Face of Manoppello as one of the “clues” which demonstrates the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus.
“So Simon Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him he went into the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” John 20
“This Year of Mercy invites us to discover the core; to return to what is essential. This time of mercy calls us to look at the true Face of Our King, the one that shines out at Easter, to rediscover the youthful, beautiful Face of the Church…” –Pope Francis, close of the Year of Mercy. November 20, 2016
Sunday, November 20th, 2016 will be the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and Living Face of the Father’s Mercy. The Jubilee Year of Mercy will be at an end.
“On that day,” says Pope Francis, “as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking Him to pour out His mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future….May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!”
I would be remiss if I didn’t express gratitude to God for this Year of Mercy and most especially for His incredible, miraculous gift of His Holy Face on the Veil of Manoppello–the Face of all faces–the Face of the Mercy of God! Look at His Face! Look at those eyes filled with mercy and peace! It has been said that His eyes look both like a lion’s and a lamb’s.
This has been a very turbulent year in the world, and the next may become even more turbulent, as the enemies of Christianity wage war against the followers of Christ. It is all the more necessary that we keep our eyes fixed on the Face of the King and the Lamb.
“They will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and those who are with Him are called chosen and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14)
So, keep fighting the good fight and keep your eyes on His Holy Face, because…
A change in appearance of the Veronica of Rome and an appearance of a Veil in Manoppello
Before the Sack of Rome in 1527 everyone knew quite well what the Veronica looked like. The veil was displayed to the many pilgrims at the Vatican; it was carried publicly in procession; artists made reproductions of the image for the faithful to use for veneration, prayer, and contemplation. The specially made reliquary (which was later broken) had not one, but two panes of crystal, so that the veil could be viewed from either side. Prior to 1527, when pilgrims viewed the Veronica they saw these general characteristics:
“the Face of the living Christ on a sheer veil or cloth–a human face of a man who has suffered, with traces of wounds, bruises, and swelling visible, especially on the left cheek. His wavy hair is long and parted with a small, short lock of curls at the center. His beard is sparse as though torn, and divided in two. His open eyes are peaceful and looking slightly to one side. His mouth is partially opened.” (Pt. 1)
However, after the Sack of Rome, the image at the Vatican was shown less, and what was being presented as the Veronica Veil caused a change in the reaction of the pilgrims and in artists’ portrayals. The painted images began to depict the Face of Christ in more diverse and imaginative ways, more often with the Crown of Thorns, or as merely a veil with a reddish smudge, or even as the face of a dead man with eyes and mouth closed.
Giacomo Grimaldi, a canon who had the task of illustrating and recording inventory for the Vatican, recorded the Veronica Veil on an inventory document called the Opusculum (shown left with an obviously altered date of 1618). Grimaldi noted that the living face shown (with wavy hair, parted in the middle, and the eyes open) was faithful to the image that he saw in 1606 (before the first demolition of the Old St. Peter’s). A copy made in 1635 by Francesco Speroni of the Grimaldi Opusculum inventory shows a dramatically different drawing–with the Face of Christ appearing as a dead man. (below)
Pope Paul V, in 1616, had prohibited any copies to be made of the Veronica without permission and later Urban VIII ordered that all copies of the Veronica be handed in to a local priest or bishop under pain of excommunication. In 1629, the image with the death-like face was placed in the newly completed Veronica Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica–covered with another outer veil–and a notice was placed nearby stating that anyone who removed the veil covering the Holy Face without papal approval would be excommunicated. It was only shown once a year from a distance of 20 meters. All that could be seen was a dark cloth within a frame in the shape of a face. Not surprisingly, interest in the Veronica and therefore devotion to the Holy Face soon dwindled.
While one must be very careful not to ascribe any sort of malicious motive to the apparent incongruity and change of the appearance of the image; one must also be honest in saying that the two images on the Opusculum couldn’t be more different. It is certainly a great mystery which remains to be unraveled.
In 1638, on the other side of Italy, towards the Adriatic coast, “a devout and well-respected man” named Don Antonio Fabritiis donated a precious Veil bearing the Face of Christ to the Capuchin monastery in the small, isolated mountain village of Manoppello, Italy. A document entitled Relazione Historica re-telling the local legend of the Veil was written by Capuchin Donato da Bomba and notarized in 1646 and then, certified by sixteen local witnesses. The story told of the arrival of the Veil in Mannoppello, “in around 1506,”(the date was vague) in the hands of a mysterious stranger who was thought to have been a holy angel. (Aside from the “angel,” the main characters in the story have been historically verified.)
The recorded story told was this: “There lived in Manoppello the very famous Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, doctor in medicine…one day when he was out in the public square just outside of the door of the Mother church of the town of Manoppello, St. Nicholas Bari, in honest conversation with other peers, and while they were speaking a pilgrim arrived unknown by anyone, with a very venerable religious appearance, who having greeted this beautiful circle of citizens, he said, with many terms of manners, and of humility to Dr. Giacomo Antonio Leonelli that he had to speak with him about a secret thing which would be very pleasing, useful and profitable for him. And thus, taking him aside just inside the doorway of the church of St. Nicholas Bari, gave him a parcel, and without unfolding it told him that he ought to hold this devotion very dear, because God would do him many favors, so that in things both temporal and spiritual he would always prosper.” So the doctor took the parcel and turning towards the holy water fount carefully opened it, and “seeing the Most Sacred Face of Our Lord Christ…he burst into most tender tears…and thanking God for such a gift…turned to the unknown pilgrim to thank him…but he did not see him anymore.” When the good doctor, “shaken” and “filled with wonder,” went outside to his friends and asked where the man went, his friends replied that they never saw him exit the church. They searched high and low but never found the mysterious pilgrim, “hence all judged that the man in the form of a pilgrim to be a heavenly Angel, or else a Saint from Paradise.”
The Holy Veil remained the property of the Leonelli family for nearly a century, until a family member in need of money sold the Veil to Don Antonio Fabritiis, who in turn gave it to the Capuchins in 1638. The Holy Veil, called the “Il Volto Santo,” was kept in a dimly lit side chapel until the church was renovated in 1960, when it was decided that the Veil should be moved to a more prominent place behind the altar.
What did the Face on the gossamer-thin Veil look like? Here are portions of a description that Capuchin Donato da Bomba gave of the Holy Face: “He has a rather long, well-proportioned face, with a venerable and majestic look. His hair, or locks are long with thin twisted curls–in particular at the top of the forehead about fifty hairs wind into a little corkscrew, distinct from each other and well arranged. His left cheek is swollen and bigger than the other because of a strong blow across the cheek. The lips are very swollen. His teeth show. It seems the Holy Face is made of living flesh, but flesh that is afflicted, emaciated, sad, sorrowful, pale and covered in bruises around the eyes and on the forehead. The eyes of Christ are similar to those of a dove…He is serene and tranquil.”
“Those who gaze on it are never satisfied with contemplating it, and wish to always have it before their eyes. And when they eventually leave it, with heavy sighs full of love, they are forced to leave Him their hearts, bathed in tears.” –Capuchin Donato da Bomba 1646
On September 1, 2006, another pilgrim (some also may say an “angelic pilgrim”) came to Manoppello to see for himself the Holy Face of Jesus on the Veil–Pope Benedict XVI, who has elevated the status of the Shrine to a Sanctuary Basilica. “Your Face O Lord I seek–seeking the Face of Jesus must be the longing of all Christians, indeed, we are ‘the generation’ which seeks His Face in our day, the Face of the ‘God of Jacob.’ If we persevere in our quest for the Face of the Lord, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, He, Jesus, will be our eternal joy, our reward and glory forever.”–Pope Benedict XVI, September 1, 2006
The Face of Manoppello, which may be viewed from both sides, is described as “dark,” “light,” “bluish”, “golden” or it may even “vanish completely”…all are different, but, it is one Face!
“We saw in the Face the mercy of God”: A dialogue with Cardinal Koch
Paul Badde interviews the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on a special event
By Paul Badde
(Manoppello, September 2016 / 9:15 a.m.)
In 2017, it will be 500 years since in the West the Lutheran brothers and sisters began to separate themselves from the Pope and from the Roman Catholic Church. However, even older than the Reformation and the division of the Western Church is the Great Schism of the East, and the division of Christianity into the Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church in the West, which occurred in 1054 between Rome and Constantinople. Only on December 7, 1965 Pope Paul VI from Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras from Istanbul solemnly cancelled the reciprocal anathemas “from the memory and from the center of the Church” “abandoning them to oblivion.” But the Eastern Church and the Western Church remained estranged, above all from the cultural point of view. Now, however, at the invitation of Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, on September 18, 2016, seventy Orthodox bishops celebrated the “Divine Liturgy” of Saint John Chrysostom under the Face of Christ, there exposed above the principal altar, together with two cardinals and numerous other prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello.
CNA: Lord Cardinal, Archbishop Bruno Forte calls the “Holy Face” of Christ “the polar star of Christianity.” For him, there is no reasonable cause to doubt that the image on the veil is the sudario of Christ that John cites in the Holy Sepulchre near the burial clothes. But is it not also a provocation for the Orthodox brothers?
Cardinal Koch: Christians believe in one God who showed his concrete face in Jesus Christ. When we know more closely the Face of Christ and when we more deeply identify ourselves with him, the more deeply we become one, as well. For this is a miraculous event to be in front of the Face of Christ, to pray, to venerate the Face, because it fulfills his [Christ’s] desire that we be one.
Catholics have something to bring to the Orthodox. Also for the Orthodox it is so, as for instance for their culture of the veneration of icons. Could it be that from this day forward also in the Catholic Church the images can come to be understood and evaluated in a new way – in the midst of that mighty “Iconic Turn” that the experts of communication today note, in which the images expect a general role in communications like never before?
Yes, the very profound mystery of ecumenism is an exchange of gifts. Today the Church has her gifts. And a particular gift the Orthodox have are the icons. So I think that also many Christians in the West can find a new access to the icons and thus deepening the faith. It is a great gift. It is very important that we also re-evaluate the images in the Western tradition. With the Reform of the sixteenth century, we have placed a whole new accent on the word. But the Word has become flesh, the Word became visible, so also the images belong to the faith. This is a gift from the Orthodox that we welcome gratefully. At Chieti, in these recent days the delicate question of the theological and ecclesiological relations between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church, then the role of Peter and that of all bishops, was discussed within the commission that has come on pilgrimage to Manoppello. Ten years ago Peter came here in the vesture of Pope Benedict. Since then, there has been an enormous turning point in the evaluation of this image of Manoppello that has become famous throughout the world. What significance do you think will be given to this day of pilgrimage, in which the synod of bishops gathered here?
It is very beautiful that we could come here on this anniversary ten years later. Pope Benedict came in the name of the whole Catholic Church. Today is present here the Church of the East and of the West. So this anniversary maybe can also help in the search for the unity between the Church in the East and the Church in the West. You, as president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, are responsible to Rome for ecumenism. In this regard, Pope Francis affirmed: “Look at Christ and go ahead with courage!” Which next step would indicate to you today to go with courage to encounter Christ, in a day in which notwithstanding the difference between the Eastern Church and the Western Church you have come together before this image?
In reality, we are always on the way towards Christ. Because it is His Will that we find unity, it is not a human project. Christ himself on the eve of His Passion prayed that His disciples might be one, that the world might believe. The credibility of this testimony depends on the fact that we are one. This is also a particular request of Pope Francis, when he says that when we can walk on the same road toward Christ, then we find unity.
“Misericordiae Vultus”: with these first Latin words begins the Bull of Indiction with which Pope Francis announced this year of the Jubilee of Mercy. The “Face of Mercy” has given to this year a very particular meaning. What do you sense today being here before the merciful gaze of Jesus, who looks at us from this wonderful veil?
It is a magnificent message that we can have a merciful God, for which we know that there are no cases without hope. Per as long as a man can fall down, he can never fall lower than the hands of God. Now you can really see this face, encounter it, it is naturally a marvelous deepening of this message of the Holy Year. The men of today need nothing more than the mercy of God. And if they can look on the Face of the merciful God it is a marvelous gift. And what will you tell Pope Francis about this event in case you will have the opportunity?
I will certainly tell him that we saw in the Face his great message of the mercy of God. And that this Face is important for the whole Church. It is in a certain way the manifesto of the Church: the merciful Face of God!
(Re-printed with the Author’s permission) Translation from the Italian by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle
Pt. 2: The Feast of the Transfiguration in Manoppello
“Jesus took Peter, James and John…and led them to a high mountain by themselves. And He transfigured before them; His Face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light…Lord, it is good to be here.” (Mt. 17:1-2,4)
There are several important feasts of the Holy Face–Shrove Tuesday (the day preceding Ash Wednesday) and Good Friday are two, each focused on reparation to the Face of Christ. In Manoppello, the day the Holy Veil arrived in the hands of a mysterious stranger is celebrated as a joyful feast in May, as well as a celebration on August 6th, the feast of the Transfiguration.
Being in Manoppello on the feast of the Transfiguration reminded me of an important event in the life of St. Therese. The day before the feast of the Transfiguration, a few weeks before her death, St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus lay dying. Her sisters brought her a picture of the Holy Face and placed it where she could see it, pinned to her bed curtains. St. Therese exclaimed, “Oh, how much good that Holy Face has done me in my life!” The Transfiguration was always celebrated in the Lisieux Carmelite convent by honoring the Holy Face. St. Therese had, on a previous feast of the Transfiguration, sprinkled the image with perfume and tossed rose petals before it. (I always wondered why Discalced Carmelite nuns had the perfume, but, after all, it was France!) It was on the Transfiguration that Therese, along with a few companions, made a solemn consecration to the Holy Face as an extension of their Oblation to His Merciful Love, desiring to be “Veronicas” by consoling Jesus in His Passion and offering souls to Him. The Transfiguration is always a preparation for the mystery of the Cross.
“O Beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we contemplate Your infinite Glory our one desire is to charm Your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too, so that here on earth no one can recognize us. O Jesus! Your veiled gaze is our heaven!”–St. Therese
When we visited Manoppello, the blessed day of the Transfiguration was to be celebrated at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face by bringing the Veil in procession from the reliquary high above the altar to another in front of the altar where it could be viewed and venerated on all sides by the faithful. Music and celebrations were planned in the piazza for the day and in the evening there was to be a solemn procession through the lighted streets culminating with Benediction.
I had planned my pilgrimage around the feast of the Transfiguration after seeing Paul Badde‘s beautiful photos of the procession in honor of the Holy Face on Pentecost, May 15th. I had such a great longing to honor His Holy Face in this way by participating in a jubilant procession such as the one on Pentecost! It was the whole impetus for my making the pilgrimage and I looked forward to the event with great joy and expectation. However, man’s plans are not God’s plans and “into every life a little rain must fall” and so it did. It rained, and it rained and it rained. Cats and dogs! The procession was cancelled, or rather post-poned till Sunday night when the weather was more favorable and when I would not be there.
Naturally, I was disappointed but, still, here He was before me in the church, so that is where I remained for the day. The previous day Sr. Petra-Maria had given me a tour of the beautiful museum and filled my mind and heart with the research, history, treasures, and mysteries of the Sacred Veil of Manoppello. I haven’t spoken much about the Holy Veil itself so far, for one reason: that it is too great to be expressed in words. But I will make a pitiful attempt, like the photographs, which–although some are quite beautiful–can never fully capture what is seen by the viewer. The Veil of Manoppello is an image “not made by human hands” it is a miracle of light and a reflection of Creation–ever changing, ever new. It is dark, it is brilliant, it is somber, joyful, always merciful, always peaceful. If you see nothing, stand at a different angle–and there He is! Sr. Petra-Maria told me that there is one angle from which you can always see the image–but “you must become like little children.” (Mt. 18:3)
I can attest to the truth of what Sr. Petra-Maria said, “you must become like little children.” Back in 2012, when I first climbed the stairs and stood high behind the altar to view the Veil, the Face of Jesus appeared, bruised, bloodied, swollen. I could see the marks from thorns, the torn beard, His eyes peaceful yet filled with tears. I then knelt down in prayer and sorrow. From this angle, the perspective of a little child, I saw the Holy Face anew, no longer bloodied and bruised, but as though a living reflection in a mirror, and once held in that Gaze my heart has been captivated by it ever since. It is the Face of Mercy!
Throughout the day, as I prayed, I was greatly edified by the reactions of the people who streamed in to pay their reverence and express their love. I stayed until evening when my husband arrived, umbrella in hand, and we made our way through the pouring rain back to the hotel. The next morning after Mass we would leave the Holy Face Sanctuary for the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto. (to be continued in Pt. 3)