|Mons. Americo Ciani, Canon of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, blessing the people with the Holy Face|
- photo by Paul Badde -
(Editor's Note: The news of the January 15, 2017 Omnis Terra Celebration of the Holy Face in Manoppello is quite simply overwhelming. The report below by Paul Badde is just the first taste of much more to come)
It was as if the sky had opened a window over Manoppello for exactly that day. It had been snowing all the time before, thena rainbow appeared. it was immaculately blue. Omnis Terra Sunday the clouds had come back. And night Manoppello was covered with snow again.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist and the procession with incense, candles and beautiful music by the choir of Maestro Nicola Costantini was as noble and worthy as if it had been performed in Saint Peter`s in Rome.
The homily of Don Americo was absolutely powerful and very clear with great parts he added by heart with great enthusiasm.
Before the procession and benediction a prayer by Padre Carmine for all the victims of the earthquakes was said, then a beautiful new litany of the Holy Face by Sr. Petra Maria.
Present though, so much that you could feel it, was Archbishop Edmundo Farhat, who had reintroduced the feast last year January 17 before he went home to the house of his father a month ago in Rome, to be with Padre Domenico da Cese and choirs of angels and saints.
So much more could be said.
But after all this new feast and procession - the first one established after the year 1712! - was the most intimate one I've ever seen and attended in Manoppello, with the "naked HOLY Face" and a breathtaking benediction for the first time after it had left Rome in 1527 I assume. And it is going to create and generate breathtakingly new images every year in the ever changing clear and wintery light. Here are some first samples (photos below taken by Paul Badde show Mons. Ciani carrying the Holy Face and Mons. Ciani with Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, O.F.M., Cap., Rector of the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello).
They would have been absolutely different a day before and will be absolutely different next year and 2019 etc etc. But here is the beginning in the Year of Our Lady of Fatima 2017 and her miracle with the sun a hundred years ago.
And please keep all in mind that the brave Mons. Ciani has displayed the famous reliquary of Pope Urban VIII in Saint Peter's a dozen of times or so. This Sunday he couldn't have been substituted more worthily by any Cardinal or Bishop of the Church.
This time the old judge of the Roman Rota was here as an arch-witness - he who became known worldwide two years ago when he buried Willy Herteleer, a Flemish homeless persom from the streets of Rome in the Campo Santo Teutonico, the most noble cemetery next to Saint Peter's.
(English Translation of Prepared Homily of Mons. Americo Ciani)
Manoppello Feast of the Holy Face January 15, 2017 Omnis Terra Sunday
Homily of Mons. Americo Ciani, Canon of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
We are commemorating that most ancient procession which the great pontiff Innocent III desired in 1208 during which he had carried for the first time the Holy Sudarium of Christ from the Basilica of St. Peter to the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. It was a foretaste of the Holy Years, the first of which was decreed by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300. On that memorable occasion the numerous faithful would have been able to contemplate the Holy Face impressed on the mantilla of Saint Veronica. The Holy Relic, preserved in the patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, disappeared in 1527 during the Sack of Rome.
We have repeated the same solemn procession with the Holy Face, preserved here in Manoppello, from the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican to the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, in January 2016, where we celebrated the Holy Mass presided by Archbishop Monsignor Georg Gänswein and a second one presided by Archbishop Monsignor Edmund Farhat, who just a few days ago has left us to return to the House of the Father.
Here we are gathered to contemplate the Face of God, who became man in His Son Jesus. This precious relic is “the human Face of God”, which since 1636 has been jealously cared for here at Manoppello and venerated by Pope Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006, a good 479 years later, when he knelt before that which had been the most precious treasure of the Popes.
From the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John, “No one has ever seen God, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known.
On the face of Christ shines the majesty of God, who in His turn God has shown Himself under the form of a man.
Let us fix then our gaze upon the Face of the Son of God made man.
The image belongs to our everyday life. We are immersed in the culture of images, in private and in public.
With how much care we display the photos of our loved ones! Go into the rooms of young people, the walls of which are an exposition of images of leaders, from the world of fashion, of sport, of singers, etc. Go silently into cemeteries, how many images to remember loved ones! The list would be too long, and it’s not necessary for us to go on about it.
The image speaks louder than the word, in fact the word passes but the image remains. The Church in addition to the language of place, of gesture, of word, of song, has utilized the image, from the beginning she has created a treasury of images to communicate, to evangelize., it is the “Bible of the poor”.
The word passes, the image remains and can be admired, contemplated by everyone and in all kinds of circumstances. Word and image speak together in the Church.
We are gathered here to contemplate this Image, the Holy Face, which is the Face of God who died and is risen, Jesus Christ, Son of God, He who is Himself God.
The Holy Bible, especially in the Psalms, touches on the theme which today is for us so dear: The Face of God”, the seeking of the Face of God, the desire to see the Face of God, and the invocation to see the Face of God.
From Psalm 27: Confidence in God in times of danger: “My heart repeats your exhortation: Seek my face! Your face, O Lord, do I seek. O Lord, do not hide your face from me.”
Psalm 31:16 “Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love”.
Psalm 88:15 “Why O Lord do you cast me off, why do you hide your face from me?”
Psalm 102:3 “Do not hide your face from me, in the day of my agony, turn your ear towards me. When I call upon you, respond to me quickly Lord.”
Psalm 105:3-4 “ Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice, Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.”
Psalm 119:135 “Make your face shine on your servant, and teach me your statutes”.
The problem which today torments us, is precisely fear and terrorism!
My beloved this sublime truth consoles us: The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom should I be afraid?”
The psalm exhorts us to a solid hope: “Hope in the Lord, be strong, let your heart take courage, and hope in the Lord.”
All of us, whether small or great, need to cast out fear, to cast it far away from us, to succeed in controlling it and in conquering it.
The Face of God manifested itself in the Face of His Son Jesus Christ, born of Mary of Nazareth. God made Himself one of us, went about doing good, gave Himself for us and for our sins, and to make us His people.
Let our desire to see Jesus be as strong as those pagans who asked the Apostle Philip: “We want to see Jesus” and as Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who “wanted to see Jesus”, and climbing up a tree, because he was short of stature, precisely so that he could see Jesus. Jesus passed by, looked up and called him by name: “Zacchaeus, come down, today I wish to come to your house”. And from that encounter came the miracle of the conversion of Zacchaeus.
Our constant prayer is the commitment: “I want to see your Face”.
History is not ensnared in a blind alley, closed off from hope. Our society today is lost, suffers from nightmares, because it has lost “the Face of God”. It does not perceive the ways of God in history.
God the Father has sent His Son Jesus among us. He is the youthfulness and the freshness of history. Jesus is the Son of God, of the God that is the joy of our youth. For over 2000 years God has shown His face to the world by the Incarnation of His Son Jesus, from whom beauty and richness has poured out security, above all for those of us who need security: the poor, the oppressed, the “least ones”, because He “ will judge with justice the poor and with equity the oppressed”. So that humanity, turned toward the presence of Christ, will be able to breathe deeply.
To judge how things are going, today, one might think that Christ is pretty much just a dream. Christ renews us and make us true. We need purity and to be purified. Jesus has come to accompany us, to put Himself at our disposition. Jesus comes in us and we breathe liberty.
In Jesus we know where we come from, who we are and where we are going: we who can accompany him, we who have listened to him, we have the power to become sons of God, we are a “new race”, created by God and by Him regenerated in Christ the Lord, Wisdom of the Most High, Word of God, is “the true light which enlightens every man”. He is the Wisdom of God that became love and the love became light.
Here is the tragedy of yesterday and today: “He came into the world but the world did not recognize Him. He came to his own but his own did not receive Him.”
And our struggle continues: It is the mess in which we find ourselves still caught up in (“How long, O Lord? When will you return and finally liberate us?”) Let us repeat with faith “Come Lord, do not delay”. Today we cling to Jesus and tomorrow we run away from Him.
We need to enter more vividly into the mystery of Christ.
All of us, fragile and sinners, we can take a deep breath, a liberating breath, and even a cry of liberty and hope. Slaves of sin, we can resist sin, we can defeat it, because Jesus has come and will always remain with us, He who “opens the eyes of the blind, sets prisoners free and delivers those living in darkness.”
Thus, holiness is possible, even for those who must rise from the depths, because Jesus has come “to do good and to heal all those who are under the power of the devil”. Before, we were under the power of the devil, now no more; the chains on our feet have been broken and we can walk towards the heights.
Hope is rekindled in us, “God will return soon and will show his face to the world and shake the foundations with his all-powerful voice”.
Just as the Apostle John who entered the Tomb after the Resurrection, “saw and believed”, so it happens for each us today, we see and contemplate the Face of God and we firmly believe.
Holy Father, accept with benevolence our prayers and guide us to the seeking of Your Face, which you have revealed in fullness in Jesus, Your Son.
O Lord, make Your Face to shine on us so that we might enjoy your goodness in the peace we are protected by your powerful hand, freed from every sin by the strength of your outstretched arm, and saved from those who hate us unjustly.
Grant harmony and peace to us and to all the inhabitants of the earth, as you have granted to our fathers, when they invoked you devoutly in faith and in truth, you alone, O Lord, can grant us these good things.
Prayer in time of earthquake
O God the Creator, we believe that you are our Father and that you love us, you are the God of life: But we feel lost, helpless and tempted to give in to resignation and pessimism in the face of natural disasters, which remind us that we are not to have the power over things, which matter very little, because everything that we have built can collapse or fall apart
Reawaken in us hope, make us thoughtful and wise in front of the mystery of life and death.
O Holy Face of Jesus, turn your gracious and merciful eyes towards us and hear us! We remember our brothers and sisters in Central Italy and other parts of the world who have been affected by earthquake, instill in them your Spirit of light so that they can rely on your love. Give them strong hearts and strong arms so that they can rebuild the future with courage, energy and hope. Arrange that our tears are not an expression of either bitterness or rebellion, but of trusting abandonment to your fatherly love and unite our departed brothers and sisters to the Easter of your Son, in the assurance that those who die in Christ will rise again in him.
Protect your children from harm and help us to make right choices, respectful of nature and the of the truth of all things. Amen.