Holy Face of Jesus: March 2007 Archives

Benedict XVI: God Has A Face

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In his questions–and answers–session with the clergy of Rome on February 22nd, Pope Benedict XVI returned to what has become a leitmotif of his teaching: the mystery of the Face of Christ. Again and again, the Holy Father directs our gaze to the Holy Face and to the Pierced Side, never separating the Face of Jesus from His Sacred Heart.

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Brought Near to God in Christ

Saint Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians: "Remember that you were at that time... having no hope and without God.... But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near" (Eph 2: 12-13). Thus, life has a meaning that guides me even through difficulties.

Christ, the Living Face of God

It is therefore necessary to return to God the Creator, to the God who is creative reason, and then to find Christ, Who is the living Face of God. Let us say that here there is a reciprocity. On the one hand, we have the encounter with Jesus, with this human, historical and real figure; little by little, He helps me to become acquainted with God; and on the other, knowing God helps me understand the grandeur of Christ's Mystery which is the Face of God.

The Face of Mercy

Only if we manage to grasp that Jesus is not a great prophet or a world religious figure but that He is the Face of God, that he is God, have we discovered Christ's greatness and found out who God is. God is not only a distant shadow, the "primary Cause", but He has a Face. His is the Face of mercy, the Face of pardon and love, the Face of the encounter with us.

Vultum Tuum, Domine, Requiram

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The Second Sunday of Lent
The Transfiguration of the Lord

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Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Psalm 26: 1, 7-9, 13-14
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 9:28-36

The Transfigured Face of Jesus

Twice yearly, on August 6th, forty days before the feast of the Glorious Cross, and again on the Second Sunday of Lent, the Church is illuminated by the glory of God shining on the Face of the transfigured Jesus. The Introit of today’s Mass is the same one used on August 6th. It directs the gaze of our hearts to the Face of Christ. “Of you my heart has spoken, ‘Seek His Face.’ It is your Face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your Face” (Ps 26:8-9). Some of you know the text, “Tibi dixit” in its chant melody, so full of longing, of desire, of peace.

To Seek God Truly

When our father Saint Benedict speaks of the dispositions to look for in one who seeks to enter the monastery, he emphasizes, above all, that one come to seek God truly. How are we to orient this search for God? God is elusive, hiding himself from those who seek Him, seeking those who hide from Him. “Where shall wisdom be found, asks Job, and where is the place of understanding? Man does not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not in me’” (Jb 28:12-14). The bride of the Canticle speaks no differently. “Upon my bed by night I sought Him whom my soul loves; I sought Him but found Him not; I called Him but he gave no answer” (Ct 3:1). Are we to look up or down? Are we to search within or without? Where are we to seek God first? “If I climb the heavens you are there, if I lie in the grave, you are there. If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell at the sea’s furthest end, even there your hand would lead me, your right hand would hold me fast” (Ps 138:8-10). God is everywhere and yet our gaze has to be somewhere if it is to rest upon Him.

When God Brings One Outside

Today’s first reading may give us a clue. It begins with a curious little phrase. “God brought Abram outside” (Gen 15:5). Two things strike me. First, God takes the initiative, coming first in search of Abram, meeting Abram on his own ground, in his own space. God accommodates His immensity to the limits of Abram’s little domestic world. He comes to the nomad Abram in his tent, in surroundings that are intimate, familiar to Abram, and secure. Second, he brings Abram outside, outside the tent, outside the familiar, obliging Abram to “look toward heaven” (Gen 15:5), to stretch toward the vastness of stars too many to be counted. Then, no sooner has God shown Abram the stars than he hides them. “A deep sleep fell on Abram, and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him” (Gen 15:12).

Lest We Stop Seeking

The search for God —and the monastic vocation, a particular response to God’s search for us— may begin in a familiar place but, inevitably, it leads us outside — outside of our tents, outside of ourselves. For some, paralyzed by fear, incapable of leaving the comfort of the narrow spaces that we call our own, the search is thwarted from the outset. Mercifully, God is patient, and a late response is rewarded, in every way, as generously as one made early. “God brought Abram outside” (Gen 15:5). He does the same in the life of anyone who seeks Him. Just when we think we have found the place of the encounter with God, He calls us outside, lest we stop seeking, even for a moment. He calls us into a dread and great darkness lest we mistake any lesser light for the light of His Face. “‘What can bring us happiness?’” many say. “Lift up the light of your Face on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:7).

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Just as one learns what is in the heart of one’s dearest friend by looking at his face, just as a wife can know what her husband carries for her in his heart by reading his face, so too does the Church look to the Eucharistic face of Christ to discover there all the secrets of His Sacred Heart for her. The connection between face and heart is something deeply inscribed in the human person. Face and person are, in fact synonymous, not only because in Greek the same word denotes both but even more because there is nothing more personal, nothing more precious, nothing dearer than the face of a loved one.

The psalmist’s cry, “I long to see your face” (Ps 26:8), is the cry of every lover to his beloved, the cry of child to parent, of parent to child, and of friend to friend. The most poignant moment in the rites of Pope John Paul II’s death and burial came when a veil was laid over his face. We cherish photographs of those we love, but what is a photograph without a face? The relationships that we call “heart to heart” never tire of the “face to face to face.”

The more one is drawn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the more one experiences the need to seek His Face — and to seek it in the adorable mystery of the Eucharist. The heart is a secret organ, a thing not visible to the eye. The “thoughts of the heart” are transmitted to the face. It is true that some persons try to dissimulate what they hold in the heart by putting on a plastic face, a professional face, or a face of stony indifference, but all of that dissimulation is related to sin. In Jesus Christ, the Lamb without stain, there is no disconnection between face and heart.

All that Jesus holds in his Sacred Heart for us and for his Father is revealed on His Face. If you would know His Heart, seek His Face, and seek it in the Eucharist. It is in the contemplation of the Most Holy Eucharist that, fulfilling Zechariah's ancient prophecy, we “look upon Him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37).

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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