04 March 2014

Lent and the Holy Face

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus Christ, you might considering making use of some of the devotional prayers offered at the web site of il Volto Santo, the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello. As you go to prayer today, remember what the Lord Jesus said to Blessed Maria Pierina De Micheli of the Holy Face:
I wish that my face, which reflects the deep pains of my soul, the sorrow and love of my heart, be better honored: who contemplates me consoles me.
Let us seek to console him today by asking him to strengthen our devotion to his Holy Face.

In his book On the Way to Jesus Christ, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger used a few pages (27-30) to reflect on the devotion to the Holy Face, which he says "reached its apex in Thérèse 'of the Child Jesus' and 'of the Holy Face.'" In the two titles which the Little Flower chose for her name he discerned two aspects of the self-emptying of the Son of God:
Whereas the first title represents the lovable side of this descent, the second one emphasizes the aspect of the Passion, for in this world the face of Christ is a "bleeding Head, so wounded"; precisely in this way it manifests the mystery of God's love and the true face of God.
In the devotion to the Holy Face, Ratzinger sees three main points. The first is that of discipleship, "or following after Christ, the orientation of one's entire life toward the encounter with Jesus." As such, the Feast of the Holy Face is placed profoundly just before the beginning of the season of Lent, in which our aim is to closer to Him who died for us so that we might behold the glory of his Resurrection.

The second point, he says, is that of a liturgical piety, for it is in the Eucharist that "we behold him whom they have pierced, the bleeding head so wounded," "in which the struggle of Moses upon the mountain is continually made present to us." Such a liturgical piety also involves "a very personal devotion to the Passion, the interior encounter with Jesus, and also popular devotions." This is only natural since the two images of the Holy Face we have are on the Shroud of Turin, in which the body of Jesus was wrapped in the tomb and displays his face in death," and the Veil of Manoppello, which was placed on his face on top of the shroud and displays his wounds, yes, but more so his Resurrection.

The third point is eschatological, by which he means "an approach to the Lord who is to come, to that 'awakening' in which he himself will satisfy us with the sight of him, with the vision of the triune God." As we seek to prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming solemnity of Easter with the joy and gladness that is fitting for the Resurrection of the Lord, we also seek to prepare ourselves to be found worthy on the Last Day when he will at last raise our mortal bodies from the dust.

In each of the way, devotion to the Holy Face will help us to live well these coming days of penance. Let us ask the Lord to help us honor him, that be reflecting on and adoring his Holy Face we might become ever more like him.


  1. Beautiful post! Happy Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus! God bless you for making Him known and loved.