Monday, October 27, 2008

The Old Testament Urges us to Seek God's Face

How many passages of the Old Testament refer to God's face?
Quite a few.
Probably the best known and the most beautiful is the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26. "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."

At least seven of the Psalms refer to God's face including Psalm 4:6; Psalm 24:5-6; Psalm 27:7-9; Psalm 31:16; Pslam 44:3; Psalm 67:1; and Psalm 80:3 which reads: "Restore us, O God; let thy face shine, that we may be saved!".

Daniel 9:17 reads "Now therefore, O our God, hearken to the prayer of thy servant and to his supplications and for they own sake, O Lord, cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary, which is desolate".

May the sanctuary of our hearts, homes and churches not be desolate, but may God shine his glorious face on each and all.

St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Anthony - Seeking the Origins of the Franciscan Tradition of Contemplating the Holy Face

Is it a coincidence that the conversion of St. Francis of Assisi developed in the first years of the 13th century when the image known then as the Veil of Veronica revealing so vividly the Holy Face of Christ was first displayed for public veneration in Rome?

Here are several writings on the Franciscan devotion to the Holy Face, one from a contemporary author and one from the great follower of St. Francis, St. Anthony.

"Francis and Clare put all their senses and human and spiritual faculties at the service of their contemplative life. They prayed with their eyes and their ears, their hearts and their minds. ...They had contemplated for so long the face of Christ, both disfigured and transfigured, that they saw His shining countenance concealed under every human face, even the most deformed by illness or sin. ...

"Francis, who had always taken great delight in 'whatever...was beautiful to look upon' in nature (cf. 1 Cel. 3) ...cultivated an enlightened, kindly way of looking at people, seeking what was good in them rather than what was bad, emphasizing their positive qualities rather than their defects. He viewed everything in the light of the Creator, who, at the dawn of creation 'saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good' (Gen. 1:31). He did not pass judgment on anyone or divide people into classes. ...

"No one, not even the greatest criminal, can completely destroy in himself the pure, luminous aspect of his soul which mirrors God and in which the Spirit is present though dormant.

"This insight allowed Francis and his brothers to make the whole world their 'cloister,' in which they saw God everywhere present. (cf. SC 63). They were able to 'see' and pray just as well in the world of work, suffering, and human struggle as they did in solitude.

"That is why Francis, right up to the end of his life, never drew a line of separation between the solitude of the wilderness and the company of the poor because both were his privileged places of contemplation in which he always found God. ..."

from Christ, Our Joy: Learning to Pray with St. Francis and St. Clare

(pages 23-24)

by Michel Hubaut, O.F.M.

Translated from French by Paul Barrett, O.F.M. Cap.

Published by Greyfriars Review, St. Bonaventure University,

Supplement to Volume 9, 1994/95

as quoted in

Now the words of St. Anthony:

"The Lord manifests Himself to those who pause while in peace and humility of heart. If you look into the murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see your own countenance. If you want the face of Christ to appear in your countenance, pause, collect your thoughts in silence, and shut the door of the soul to the noise of exterior things.

The greetings of the angels and the blessings of the Good are not for those who live in public squares, that is, outside of themselves, agitated and distracted. The sweet "Ave" was addressed to the Virgin Mary when she was absorbed in prayer, in the privacy of her house...God, in order to be able to speak to the soul and fill it with the knowledge of his love, leads it to the solitude, detaching it from preoccupations of earthly things. He speaks to the ears of those who are silent and makes them hear His secrets."

From the Sermons of St. Anthony
as quoted in the booklet
"Companion Prayers" by the Conventual Franciscans of 12300 Folly Quarter Road, Ellicott City, MD 21042-1419

By contemplating the Face of Christ in prayer we are able to see the Face of Christ in ourselves and in our neighbor. May the image of the Holy Face of Manoppello help us to come to prayer, and then to the love of God and the love of neighbor.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

St. Paul Proclaims "The Glory of God on the Face of Christ"

In an important passage of his second letter to the Corinthians Paul refers to the ministry of those called to preach the Gospel, he writes

"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. For God who said 'Let light shine out of darkness', has shown in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ."
2Cor 4:5-6

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will make Paul's words our own. Show in our own hearts your face, O Lord!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Contemplating the Sacred Wounds and Salvific Death of Christ

The first sorrowful mystery of the most holy rosary, the Agony in the Garden:

"He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground"
Luke chapter 22, verse 44

The second sorrowful mystery of the most holy rosary, the Scourging at the Pillar

"The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him" Luke chapter 22, verse 63

The third sorrowful mystery of the most holy rosary, the Crowning with Thorns

"The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him."
Mark chapter 15, verses 16-17

The fourth sorrowful mystery of the most holy rosary, the Carrying of the Cross

"So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha."
John chapter 19, verses 16-17

The fifth sorrowful mystery of the most holy rosary, the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus

"When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, and the other on his left...The veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit' and when he had said this he breathed his last."
John chapter 23, verse 33 and verses 45 and 46

The Holy Face of Manoppello, according to the different views at various times, reveals the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. By contemplating the mysteries of the most holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary may we come to the joys of Christ's resurrection.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dante's Vista Nova for the Twenty First Century

Can we in the twenty first century see the "new vista" that Dante saw over 700 years ago?

Let's listen first to the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux as heard by Dante

"Riguarda omai nella faccia che a Cristo piu' si somiglia, che' la sua chiarezza sola ti puo' disporre a veder Cristo"

"Look now on the face that most resembles Christ, for only her brightness can fit thee to see Christ"
Paradise Canto XXXII, 85-87

And then the words of Dante within himself

"O luce eterna che sola in te sidi, sola t'intendi, e da te intelletta e intendente te ami e arridi! Quella circulazion che si' concetta pareva in te come lume reflesso dalli occhi miei alquanto circunspetta, dentra da se', del suo colore stesso, mi parve pinta della nostra effige; per che'l mio viso in lei tutto era messo, Qual e' 'l geometra che tutto s'affige per misurar lo cerchio, e non ritrova, pensando, quel principio onde'elli indige, tal era io a quella vista nova: veder volea come si convenne l'imago al cerchio e come vi s'indova; ma non eran da cio' le proprie penne: se non che la mia menta fu percossa da un fulgore in che sua voglia venne. All'alta fantasia qui manco' possa; ma gia' volgeva il mio disio e 'l velle, si come rota ch'igulamente e' mossa, l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle."

"O Light Eternal, that alone abidest in Thyself, alone knowest Thyself, and, known to Thyself and knowing, lovest and smilest on Thyself!. That circling which, thus begotten, appeared in Thee as reflected light, when my eyes dwelt on it for a time, seemed to me, within it and in its own colour, painted with our likeness, for which my sight was wholly given to it.

Like the geometer who sets all his mind to the squaring of the circle and for all his thinking does not discover the principle he needs,, such was I at that new vista. I wished to see how the image was fitted to the circle and how it has its place there; but my own wings were not sufficient for that had not my mind been struck by a flash of light wherein my desire came to pass; Here power failed the high fantasy; but now my desire and will, like a wheel that spins with even motion, were revolved by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars."
Paradise Canto XXXIII, 125-145

Is this climax of the Divine Comedy Dante's commentary upon seeing the image of the Veronica now in Manoppello? Can we see what Dante saw?

Where is Manoppello?

Manoppello is just a few hours by autostrada from Rome, on the way to San Giovanni Rotondo where St. Padre Pio labored and where his mortal remains are now on solemn display. Pilgrimages to San Giovanni Rotondo could easily make a stop at Manoppello.

Manoppello is about 30 minutes from the Italian Adriatic coastal city of Pescara. There are inexpensive daily flights from London's Stansted Airport to Pescara Airport. Trains from Rome arrive in Manoppello Scalo which is around 5 miles below Manoppello Storico (historic Manoppello) where the Shrine of the Holy Face sits about a kilometer away. During the day there are public buses between Pescara and Manoppello which pass through Manoppello Scalo and stop at the Shrine of the Holy Face.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Beautiful Comune of Manoppello, A City on a Mountain

A View of the Shrine of the Holy Face from the Town of Manoppello Storico

A View of the Shrine from up Above, with the Gran Sasso in the Distance

A Bird's Eye View of Manoppello Storico

Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."
(Mt 5:14-16)