Saturday, 4 April 2015
Devotion To The Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ compiled by a member of The Ursuline Community, Blackrock, Cork. Part 3.
THE HOLY FACE OF OUR LORD - THE CENTRE OF ATTACK IN HIS PASSION
From the account given us by the sacred writers, it is clear that, while the whole Body of Our Lord was insulted in every way that could be devised, His beautiful Face was singled out in a special manner for insults, humiliations and injuries. The Passion itself almost opens with the treacherous kiss of Judas, the sign of his betrayal. The memory of this awful kiss brooded darkly over the Soul of Jesus during His Passion, and down through all the centuries, it has since filled the heart of the Church with horror and detestation. It has been our Lady’s wonderful privilege to imprint maternal kisses upon the Holy Face. For three and thirty years, from the first time she beheld it, as the Face of her own little babe, it had been the object of her adoring love; she, beyond all others, understood that Face was the centre of the worship of the heavenly hosts. She knew the sanctity that surrounded its awful majesty. It was the Face of God. How heaven must have shuddered at the kiss of Judas!
The same horror begins to steal over our own hearts, so often hardened in sin, when we consider how extraordinary was the love of Our Lord for Judas. He had been one of the chosen twelve, predestined from all ages to be the intimate companion of Jesus in His public life: upon him the graces of the apostleship had been heaped. Day after day, for three long years, he had listened to the words of Eternal Wisdom; he had lived and eaten and walked with Him who was the most lovable of men: time after time, he had been admonished with infinite tenderness for his growing vice of avarice: and, even when at last, he had determined to sell his Master and struck his bargain with the priests, who were thirsting for the blood of our Saviour, the love of the Sacred Heart for him did not falter. At the Last Supper the final warning was given probably in the midst of the very institution of the Sacrament of Love. The washing of his feet by his divine Victim, the prophecies of the approaching betrayal, and lastly the morsel of bread dipped in the dish and given as a sign to him were the supreme and final efforts of Jesus to turn Judas from his unspeakable crime.
“And Judas went out into the night and it was dark.” It was dark in the traitor’s heart. from which the last glimmer of divine grace had faded away; and it was cold, for the last spark of love had died out. He would betray his Master and friend by no ordinary sign: he would not point with his finger to single Him out, or touch Him on the arm. No, he was one of the first to think of so vile a sign, and we know that ever since, the kiss of treachery is always spoken as the “kiss of Judas.” Judas consummated and masked his baseness in the moment of supreme injury, by the supreme sign of friendship. “And he that betrayed Him had given them a sign, saving: ‘Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is He: lay hold on Him and lead Him away carefully.’ And when he was come, immediately going up to Him, he said : ‘Hail, Rabbi,’ and he kissed Him.”
It was a refinement of torture for the Sacred Heart, which had poured out all its treasures upon Judas to win his love. But even his diabolical malice could not prevent a last attempt of the Sacred Heart to avert the dreadful doom of this unhappy man. From the lips of Jesus came the gentle rebuke, so full of tenderness: “Friend, wherefore art thou come? Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”‘ But love could no longer soften the heart of Judas. For the last time, he had been called “Friend”; never again will he hear his name spoken in accents of love; never again will he have a friend in the whole world, and, in a few hours, he will stand before his God to be judged. :’’The Son of Man indeed goeth, as it is written: but woe to him by whom the Son of Man shall he betrayed!”
It is not enough for us to detest the crime of Judas; we have to bring home to ourselves that it is but a type of the many crimes that we ourselves do and can commit. The endless mercies of the Sacred Heart in our regard place Our Lord at the mercy of the same base ingratitude.
That contemptuous casting away of the friendship of Jesus, in order to obtain some fleeting pleasure, which, like thirty pieces of silver is but a misery in disguise, is a repetition by us of the betrayal. Remembering, therefore, how afflicted the Sacred Heart was by the sin of Judas and remembering also the countless number of mortal sins throughout the world, in particular our own personal sins, we begin dimly to realise the need of making reparation for the innumerable acts of treachery, man’s return for His boundless love, and this we can very fittingly do by devotion to His holy Face.
As the dread drama of the Passion unfolds itself, the insults to our Blessed Saviour multiply beyond number. In the night of Maundy Thursday, when our Blessed Lord stood arraigned before the court of the High Priest, St. John tells us that because of one of His answers. Jesus was struck, receiving so terrible a blow that it deserved special mention among the many insults of the Passion. ‘And when He had said these things, one of the servants standing by gave Jesus a blow, saying: “Answerest thou the High Priest so”? (John xviii, 22). St. John Chrysostom and other early Fathers identify this assailant of the Saviour with Malchus, whose ear Our Lord had miraculously healed but a few hours earlier. All through the rest of the night, “then they did spit in His Face” (Matt. xxxi, 69). “And the men that held Him mocked Him and struck Him. And they blindfolded Him and struck Him with the palms of their hands” (Mark xiv, 65). “And they blindfolded Him and struck His Face. And they asked Him, saying: ‘Prophesy who it is that struck Thee?’ And blaspheming, many other things they said against Him.” (Luke xxii 65).
Let us contemplate the ignominies to which the Holy Face of Our Lord was subjected during the rest of that night. He was imprisoned in a dungeon, surrounded not only by his guards, but also by the rabble of soldiers and servants that had come together to wreak their brutality on Him. Like their masters, they vie with one another in cruelty. Our Lord is seated on some convenient stone, and blows are rained on His Face from all sides: some blows being given by the open hand, others by hands encased in iron gauntlets. The air resounds with ribald songs and coarse jests. “They that drank wine made me their song.” The Sacred Face is bruised, battered and streaming with spittle, and, in the midst of all these horrors, Our Lord sits patient and uncomplaining. The love of the Sacred Heart for each of us is so great that He willingly bears all these insults for us. From time to time, one of the priests comes down to see how matters are faring and to gloat over Our Lord’s misery, and, at each visit, the horrible orgy gains in intensity.
At length. they devise a new kind of game. Is He not the great Prophet, so He can prophesy for them, and at once a filthy rag is found, and with it they veil the majesty of the Holy Face. Then, one by one, they come before Him, and bending the knee in mockery, they strike Him with many blows. “Prophesy who it is that struck Thee?” As these men stood before the veiled Face of Jesus, He saw each of them distinctly, and also every human being, who, in the ages yet to come, would ever join in mockery of Him. Perhaps His all-pure eyes recognised you and me in that crowd of daring sinners! If so, here we have sufficient reason for reparation to His Holy Face. For our consolation, in after years, He was to reveal to a holy soul that He would accept every act of reparation offered to His Holy Face, and that He would delight to restore to our souls the beauty they had on leaving the baptismal font.
In this meditation we cannot follow the Passion step by step. There was never a moment during it that Our Lord’s Face was not the special object of degradation. His captivity in the hands of the brutal soldiers was a perpetual outrage. His examinations before Pilate, the humiliations which He endured at the hands of the shrieking mob that hooted after Him, crying out for His blood in the streets of Jerusalem, His mockery before Herod, all of these were affronts from which His Sacred Heart shrank with the keenest sensitiveness, but all of which He bore for us with the tenderest patience. But let us dwell for a moment on the dreadful scene after the scourging, when the horrors of the preceding night are again repeated by the soldiery of Pilate. During the night-watches He has been treated with derision as the great Prophet and Physician of souls. It is His Holy Head which is now to be the target of their mockery. “And, stripping Him, they put a scarlet cloak about Him, and, plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it upon His Head, and a reed in His right hand, and, bowing their knees, they adored Him, saying: “Hail, King of the Jews!” and they gave Him blows. They struck His Head with the reed and they did spit upon Him.”
The scarlet cloak of mock royalty is about Him, the diadem of cruel thorns is on His Head, decorated with the rubies of His Precious Blood, and the frail reed in His hand, the sceptre of His kingly power. Remembering how very sensitive we are to the least insult to our pride, which is based on our nothingness and sins, let us contemplate with fear and trembling the sight of the outraged majesty of our God, and let us adore the Holy Face, which willingly suffered such great things for our love.
The sentence has been pronounced and the whole city is in a tumult. Surrounded by an infuriated mob, torn and exhausted, really “a worm and no man,” dragged by soldiers, Our Lord proceeds slowly through the streets crowded with sightseers, for, at the time of the Pasch, Jerusalem was filled with Jews from all parts of the known world. The awful procession now draws near to a certain house, in which one of those faithful women dwells, who used to minister to Jesus, and whose heart is still full of love for Him. A momentary halt is made outside her house. She sees the Face of her divine Master streaming with blood and the sweat of agony, disfigured by filth and spittle. In a moment, braving all the insults and anger of the mob, she is by His side, she hands Him her folded veil, and with it Our Lord wipes His adorable Face and Eyes that are streaming with tears and blood. She is quickly hustled away and forced to take shelter in her house. The tragic procession moves on, and Veronica, through her tears, gazes on the veil. Swift as was Our Lord’s forgiveness for the repentant Peter, swift as will be His answer to pardon the dying thief on his cross, so also just as swift has been the reward for Veronica’s pity. She kneels in reverence before the Veil, now become her dearest treasure, for on it, miraculously imprinted, are the features of her divine Master. He has given her a lasting pledge of His undying gratitude, a pledge, too, of the wonders of grace that He will work in souls who seek to make reparation to the Sacred Heart for the insults and outrages upon His Holy Face.