Monday, 6 April 2015
Devotion To The Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ compiled by a member of The Ursuline Community, Blackrock, Cork. Part 4.
ST. VERONICA AND THE AUTHENTIC PICTURE OF THE HOLY FACE
In some popular manuals of devotion we read that Veronica was the name of the image of the Holy Face imprinted on the veil, and that no such saint as she ever existed at the time of the Passion. This is a mistake. The best authorities prove beyond doubt that Veronica was the name of the woman who, through pity, gave Him the veil to wipe His Face. Many learned authors think that she was also the woman cured by Jesus, by touching the “hem of His garment.” Full of gratitude for this miracle, she followed His footsteps with Our Lady, Magdalen and the other holy women, and watched every stage of the Passion.
Father Ventura writes : “It is probable that she who received the distinguished favour from Our Lord of wiping with her own hands the sweat and blood from His Face, is the same who touched His garment with heroic faith, and, in doing so, rendered a most beautiful testimony to His Divinity.”
Piazza, a learned writer, describes it thus: “After Jesus had left the Praetorium, laden with His cross and covered with blood, which issued from the wounds received during the Scourging and Crowning with thorns, and gone four hundred and fifty steps on the road to Calvary, He approached a house that stood at the corner of the street. Veronica, then seeing Him from afar, came full of pity to meet Him, and, having removed the veil she wore on her head, she gave it to Him that He might use it to wipe His Holy Face, all bathed as it was with blood and sweat. Christ, having benignantly received it, gave it back to her, when He had used it, leaving upon it, as a gracious recompense, the impress of His Holy Face. The resemblance is so complete that it is even possible to perceive the mark made by the hand that dealt Him the sacrilegious blow. Rejoicing over so precious a treasure, the illustrious lady preserved it in her house with jealous care.”
Veronica is said to have given the precious relic to Pope Clement, the third successor to St. Peter. Like all the other sacred relics, the Veil was preserved for centuries with the greatest care and reverence, as well as the greatest secrecy. That Veronica herself conveyed the relic to Rome is the unanimous opinion of all holy writers on the subject. The learned Pope Benedict XIV writes: “In the Basilica of the Vatican, in addition to the Spear and Lance, is also preserved and greatly venerated the Sudarium, which has perfectly kept, and still keeps, the impression of the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ, bathed in sweat and blood.”
Dante, in his immortal poem, meets Veronica in Paradise, and, seeing the Veil, exclaims with admiration: “Oh! my Lord. Jesus Christ True God, it is thus then that Thy Holy Face has been preserved.”
Piazza, who wrote in 1713, describes the Holy Face thus: “The Head of Christ is everywhere transpierced with thorns. The Forehead is bleeding, the Eyes swollen and bloodshot, the Face pale and livid. Upon the right Cheek the cruel mark of the blow given by Malchus, with his iron gauntlet, sorrowfully attracts attention, the same as the spittle of the Jews and the stains on the left Cheek. The Nose is flattened and bleeding; the Mouth open and filled with blood; the Beard torn in several places, and the Hair is also torn on one side.”
The facsimile of the Holy Face sent from Rome corresponds with the above description.
For a long time it was forbidden, under pain of excommunication, to produce copies of the Holy Face. Since 1848, under the pontificate of Pope Pius IX, authorised copies have been printed on linen, cotton or silk. They are impressed with a seal, which is a guarantee that they are authentic and are true copies of the real Holy Face. They have also touched the Lance and Spear and the Wood of the True Cross. It may be added, the copies marked with the seal have the same privileges as the miraculous Holy Face itself.
We know from the writings of the saints that all through the centuries devotion to the Holy Face of Our Lord was practised in the Church. But it was in the middle of the last century that a fresh impetus was given to it.
Extract from Cardinal Newman’s “Meditations on Christian Doctrine” . . . I see the figure of a man, whether young or old I cannot tell. He may be fifty, or He may be thirty. Sometimes He looks one, sometimes the other. There is something inexpressible about His Face which I cannot solve. Perhaps, as He bears all burdens. He bears that of old age also. But so it is: His Face is at once most venerable and most child-like, most calm, most sweet, most modest, beaming with sanctity and with loving kindness. His eyes rivet me and move my heart: His breath is all-fragrant and transports me out of myself. Oh! I will look upon that Face for ever and will not cease!
And I see suddenly someone come to Him. and raise his hand and sharply strike Him on that heavenly Face. It is a hard hand, the hand of a rude man, and perhaps has iron on it. It could not be so sudden as to take Him by surprise, who knows all things past and future, and He shows no sign of resentment, remaining calm and grave as before; but the expression of His Face is marred : a great weal arises, and in a little while that all-gracious Face is hid from me by the effects of this indignity, as if a cloud came over it.
A hand was lifted against the Face of Christ. Whose hand was that? My conscience tells me: “Thou art the man.” I trust it is not so with me now. But, O my soul, contemplate the awful fact. Fancy Christ before thee, and fancy thyself lifting thy hand, and striking Him! Thou wilt say: “It is impossible: I could not do so!” Yes, thou hast done so. When thou didst sin wilfully. then thou hast done so. He is beyond pain now: still, thou hast struck Him, and, had it been in the days of His flesh, He would have felt the pain. Turn back in memory. and recollect the time, the day, the hour, when, by wilful mortal sin, by scoffing at sacred things, or by profaneness, or by acts of impurity, or by deliberate rejection of God’s voice, or in any other devilish way known to thee, thou hast struck the All-Holy One!
O injured Lord, what can I say? I am very guilty concerning Thee, my Brother: and I shall sink in sullen despair if Thou dost not raise me up. I cannot look upon Thee: I shrink from Thee: I throw my arms around my face: I crouch to the earth. Satan will pull me down, if Thou take not pity. It is terrible to turn to Thee: but, O, turn Thou to me, and so shall I be turned to Thee. It is a purgatory to endure the sight of Thee, the sight of myself-I, most vile-Thou, most holy. Yet, make me look once more on Thee, whom I have so incomprehensibly affronted, for Thy Countenance is my life; my only hope and health lies in looking on Thee, whom I have pierced. So I put myself before Thee: I look on Thee again: I endure the pain in order to the purification.
O my God, how can I look Thee in the Face when I think of my ingratitude, so deeply seated, so habitual, so immovable-or rather so awfully increasing? Thou loadest me day by day with Thy favours, and feedest me with Thyself, as Thou didst Judas, yet. not only do I not profit thereby, but I do not even make any acknowledgment at the time. Lord, how long? When shall I be free from this real, this fatal, captivity? He who made Judas his prey has got hold of me in my old age, and I cannot get loose. It is the same, day after day. When wilt Thou give me a still greater grace than Thou hast given me-the grace to profit by the graces which Thou givest? When wilt Thou give me Thy effectual grace, which alone can give life and vigour to this effete, miserable, dying soul of mine? My God, I know not in what sense I can pain Thee in Thy glorified state; but I know that every fresh sin, every fresh ingratitude I now commit, was among the blows and stripes which once fell on Thee in Thy Passion. O, let me have as little a share in those Thy past sufferings as possible. Day by day goes, and I find I have been more and more, by the new sins of each day, the cause of them. I know that, at best, I have a real share in solido of them all, but still it is shocking to find myself having a greater and greater share. Let others wound Thee, let not me! Let me not have to think that Thou wouldst have had this or that pang of soul the less, except for me. O my God, I am so fast in prison that I cannot get out. O Mary, pray for me.