by Paola Frachessaphoto by Nicholas Erickson
In the context of the New York Encounter, the yearly cultural event organized by the catholic movement Communion and Liberation, visitors from all over the States have attended the guided tour to the exhibit "the Face of Jesus: from that gaze, the human face is born".
The exhibit, dedicated to the tradition of the acheiropoeita, the images of Christ not painted by human hands, focused on the "Holy Face of Manoppello", the precious relic that has been held since 1660 in the Capuchin monastery of the town of Manoppello in Abruzzo, Italy.
The exhibit documents how the desire to see the Face of God has been present in the life of the Church throughout the centuries and is still the object of modern man's profound nostalgia.
All the guides were volunteers that had been trained by the Italian curator of the exhibit, Ms. Raffaella Zardoni.
About a thousand people visited the exhibit; among the guests his Excellency Mons. Carlo Maria Vigano', Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America and to the Organization of American States.
The Mayor of the town of Manoppello, Mr. Gennaro Matarazzo came to New York expressly for the event. He was present for the entire weekend, and was warmly welcomed by the visitors. "I will never stress enough the importance of this exhibit for all of us who are visiting it and, if I am allowed to say it, for the whole Church and believers. I keep receiving text messages from the citizens of Manoppello, asking how the exhibit is being welcomed in New York". Mr. Matarazzo said.
“Several things about the presentation on the Face of Jesus exhibit, and particularly the Veil of Manoppello, really moved me”, Mr. Henry Artis, Painter, said after viewing the exhibit. “First, that at a certain point in history the desire to see the “face” of Christ stopped. I am really intrigued by this because it indicates that something changed, a something that was greater than the sack of Rome.
Second, that we, in a time of extreme individualism in which “faces” merge into a faceless mass would once again be prompted by the gesture of Pope Benedict XVI to turn toward a particular “face”, the face of the one we love.
Third, the fact that Christ would even have the desire to leave an imprint of his face on Veronica’s veil makes the question “Why?” immediately arise.
Fourth, that like Juan Diego's tilma, Christ’s portrait is left on a surface that does not hold paint and with unknown pigments.
Fifth, the fact that Christ wants “to see” and “be seen” points to the fact that his humanity is so truly human. This, I believe, is vitally important because the desire to “be seen”, to be acknowledged, by the person I love is one of two deeply rooted needs that I have, and the second is that I want to see the one seeing me in order to see what kind of gaze it is. Because the look in the eyes of the one I love looking at me tells me everything.
And that leads me to my sixth point. When I looked at the eyes of Christ on the Veil of Manoppello they showed an ocean of paradoxical emotions that are hard to describe and that no artist was able to catch. I saw in the eyes a certainty and a pleading, a love and a begging for love, a willingness and a regret…in short, I saw the gaze of a real man begging for my gaze, a gaze full of His love.
I am really thankful that the exhibit was put on and that I was able to see it during the New York Encounter”.