Eucharistic Face of Christ: May 2008 Archives


In his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II drew the eyes of the Church to the Face of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He coined a new phrase, one not encountered before in his writings or in the teachings of his predecessors, “the Eucharistic Face of Christ.” Thus did Pope John Paul II share with the Church his own experience of seeking, finding, and adoring the Face of Christ in the Eucharist.

To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “programme” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of His Body and Blood. The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by Him she is fed and by Him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a “mystery of light.” Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him” (Lk 24:31). . . . I cannot let this Holy Thursday 2003 pass without halting before the “Eucharistic face” of Christ and pointing out with new force to the Church the centrality of the Eucharist.

This text, among others of Pope John Paul II, inspired both these Salutations to the Eucharistic Face of Christ and this icon of the Mother of God, Adorer of the Eucharistic Face of Christ. The Salutations are drawn from the Corpus Christi meditation which I wrote in 2006 and posted here.

Hail, Eucharistic Face reflecting the Glory of the Father
and bearing the very stamp of His nature!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, Living Icon of the Father!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, Epiphany of the Father’s Love!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, Kindly Light amidst the gloom!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Crucified in the Sacrament of Your abiding presence!
Hail, Eucharistic Face of Life conquering death!
Hail, Eucharistic Face of Mercy rising in the night with healing in your rays!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, Sweetness leaving no bitterness!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Risen One,
filling earth and heaven with glory
from the rising of the sun even to its setting
in the offering of your pure and eternal Oblation!
Hail, Eucharistic Face raising the dead to life!
Hail, Eucharistic Face breathing peace into every troubled place!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, revelation of a Heart full of mercy and ready to forgive!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Ascended One!
Hail, Eucharistic Face of the High Priest interceding for us beyond the veil!
Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Victim reconciling heaven and earth!
Hail, Eucharistic Face all ablaze with the Holy Spirit’s fire!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the King who will return in glory!
Hail, Eucharistic Face hidden from the powerful, the clever, and the wise!
Hail, Eucharistic Face revealed to the pure of heart!
Hail, Eucharistic Face familiar to little children and to those like them!

Hail, Eucharistic Face of the Divine Wayfarer!
Hail, Eucharistic Face, unrecognized and unknown in the midst of men!
Hail, Eucharistic Face shrouded in silence,
and with us always, even unto the consummation of the world!

Quaesivi Vultum Tuum

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Seventh Sunday of Paschaltide
Sunday of the Holy Face of Christ

The Most Holy Face of Christ is celebrated on various days of the liturgical year. In the tradition of Carmel, especially in France, the feast of the Transfiguration, August 6th, is marked by loving attention to the Face of Christ. Mother Maria-Pierina De Micheli and the Servant of God Abbot Ildebrando Gregori, O.S.B. promoted the feast of the Holy Face on Shrove Tuesday.

The Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, founded by Mother Marie des Douleurs in 1930, has the custom of turning to the Holy Face in a special way on the Sunday after the Ascension of the Lord. The choice was motivated by the Introit of the Mass:

“Listen to my voice, Lord, when I cry to Thee, alleluia.
True to my heart’s promise I have eyes only for Thy Face;
I seek Thy Face, O Lord!
Turn not Thy Face away from me, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 26: 7-9).

One of the unfortunate consequences of the lamentable transfer (in some places) of Ascension Thursday to the following Sunday is the loss of the magnificent Proper texts of the Sunday after the Ascension, both for the Mass and the Divine Office . . . and the loss of a Sunday that leaves us with the gaze of our souls riveted to the Face of the Beloved.

A Longing to See Him Again

The soon to be beatified Cardinal Newman wrote somewhere that the Ascension of the Lord is “at once a source of sorrow, because it involves His absence; and of joy, because it involves His presence.” For Our Blessed Lady and the Apostles, standing on the Mount of Olives with their eyes riveted to the heavens, the Ascension was the last glimpse of the Face of Christ on earth. The disappearance of the beloved Face of Christ leaves in the heart of the Church a longing to see Him again, a burning desire for His return.

I Seek Thy Face

This is the reason for Exaudi, Domine, today’s incomparable Introit: “Listen to my voice, Lord, when I cry to Thee, alleluia. True to my heart’s promise I have eyes only for Thy Face; I seek Thy Face, O Lord! Turn not Thy Face away from me, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 26: 7-9). The desire to contemplate the Face of Christ becomes a persistent longing; this is the experience of all the saints. The vitality of one’s interior life can be measured by the intensity of one’s desire to see the Face of Christ.

John Paul II

Eight years ago in Novo Millennio Ineunte, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II placed the new millennium under the radiant sign of the Face of Christ. Then again, at the beginning of the Year of the Eucharist, the year of his death, Pope John Paul II again directed our eyes to the Face of Christ concealed and revealed in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The teaching of Pope John Paul II confirms, in a striking way, the spiritual patrimony left by Mother Marie des Douleurs to the Congregation she founded. “Devotion to the Holy Face,” she wrote, “is the particular aspect by which the Holy Spirit makes us learn again all that we need know to become the saints that Jesus desires. This devotion is of such central importance and so vital for us that we cannot live without it.”

The Holy Spirit

I am touched by the connection Mother Marie des Douleurs makes between the Holy Spirit and the Face of Christ. “Devotion to the Holy Face is the particular aspect by which the Holy Spirit makes us learn again all that we need know to become the saints that Jesus desires.” Recall the promise of Our Lord before His Passion: “He who is to befriend you, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send on my account, will in His turn make everything plain, and recall to your minds everything I have said you” (Jn 14:26). “It will be for Him, the truth-giving Spirit, when He comes, to guide you into all truth” (Jn 16:13).

The Holy Spirit teaches souls by referring them to the adorable Face of Jesus. The Sacred Scriptures themselves are illumined by the Holy Spirit who so opens our eyes that we perceive the Face of the Bridegroom shining through the text. “Now,” says the Bride of the Canticle, “He is looking in through each window in turn, peering through every chink” (Ct 2:9).

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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