Holy Face of Jesus: April 2007 Archives

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Ah, awful Face of Love, bruised by my hand,
Turn to me, pierce me with Thine eyes of flame,
And give, me deeper knowledge of my sin.
So let me grieve and, when I understand
How great my guilt, my ruin, and my shame,
Open Thy Sacred Heart and let me in!

R.H. Benson

The Embrace of Saint Francis and the Crucified, Murillo, 1668
This is a very significant image for me. When I first saw this painting as a little boy of eleven or twelve years, maybe younger, I was smitten by it. My Dad went out and bought me a beautiful framed reproduction that I treasured. The soul of a child is formed (or deformed) by the images to which he is exposed.

Later in my life I discovered that the theme of the amplexus (embrace) of the Crucified originated in depictions of Saint Bernard. Saint Francis' remarkable affinity to Saint Bernard is demonstrated in that the motif of the amplexus was widely transferred from the Abbot of Clairvaux to the Little Poor Man of Assisi. The recurring motif of the Face of Christ and of His Pierced Heart is linked to the spread of the Cistercian and Franciscan Orders, each with its own iconography of the amplexus.

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Yesterday, in his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Benedict XVI returned to what has become a leitmotif in his preaching: the Face of God. The Holy Father's words were, in fact, reminiscent of the message he gave last September on the occasion of his pilgrimage to to the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello.

Alluding to the traditional rites of Palm Sunday during which the subdeacon (or priest) would strike the door of the church with the foot of the processional cross, Pope Benedict explained that by means of the Cross, Christ knocks at the door of God in the name of all mankind, and knocks at door of mankind, and of every human heart, in the name of God.

Seek the Face of God

"Who may go up the mountain of the Lord?" the psalm asks, and it indicates two essential conditions. Those who ascend and really want to get to the top, to arrive at the true height, must be persons who ask themselves about God. They must be persons who look about themselves in search of God, in search of His Face. My dear young friends, how important this is today: not allowing yourselves to be carried here and there by life; not being satisfied with what everyone thinks, says and does. Be attentive to God, seek God. We must not let the question about God dissolve in our souls. The desire for what is greater. The desire to know Him — his Face.

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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