Tuesday, 21 April 2015
The Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Part 5.
It, was likewise prohibited under pain of excommunication to reproduce by painting the Holy Image, and we only know of two authentic copies which have been made in times past. One sent in 1249, to the Abbey of Montreuit les Dames, in Tierache by James of Troyes, then chaplain to Innocent IV. and later Urban IV., which is at present venerated in the Church of Notre Dame de Laon; 1 the other given by Gregory XV. in 1621, to a lady of the family of Sforza, who gave it to the professed house of the Jesuits at Rome, where it is at present.
The sovereign Pontiffs appear to have departed a little in these times from their primitive severity. They have allowed to be exposed in different churches of the Catholic world, faithful and authentic reproductions 2 of the Holy Face at Rome, in order to rekindle in the hearts of men, faith and piety almost extinct. We live in an age of coldness and indifference: men are confused by materialism, which dries up the heart and stifles in the soul every germ of religion. " Impiety, corruption of morals, unbridled passions, the contagion of wicked opinions of every sort, all the vices and crimes, the violation of divine and human laws, 3 are everywhere propagated, and to such an extent that not only our holy religion, but even human society are miserably in trouble and confusion." 4
Then nothing is more suitable to stop this torrent of corruption which threatens to draw away by force the entire world than the sight of the Holy Face of our Redeemer. In all places where this devotion is established, piety is enkindled in the souls of men, and with it the love of their neighbour, sweetness, humility, resignation in sufferings, every virtue, in a word, of which our Saviour has given us an example in His Passion. We likewise know that in honouring the Image of our Saviour we honour Himself of whom that Image reminds us; this is why God was pleased to bless this devotion, and make shine forth the wonderful effects of His almighty and holy goodness.
The expositions of the Holy Face in the Vatican Basilica are also more frequent than formerly. They are on the following days :
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany and Whit-Monday, for the brothers of the Arch-Confraternity of the Holy Ghost.
Wednesday of Holy Week, after the Tenebræ.
Many times daring Thursday and Friday of the same week.
Holy Saturday, in the morning after Mass.
Easter Sunday, after the ceremonies, for the Pope, Cardinals, and other persons who took part in them.
The following Monday, before and after Vespers, together with the other relies of the Basilica.
Ascension-day, after Mass.
The 3rd May, the Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross.
The 18th November, the anniversary of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter.
The 18th January, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome.
The 22nd February, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch.
Besides, during the calamities of the Church, as in those of Rome, or the Sovereignty of the Holy See, in times of war, earthquakes, pestilence, the overflowing of the Tiber, &c, the Popes expose the Holy Face and the other great relics; likewise in extraordinary jubilees; penitential processions, and also to implore the divine mercy and heavenly assistance.
When the exposition is made in the presence of the Pope, the blessing is not given from the middle but from the side, in respect for the pontifical majesty, "In majestatis pontificiæ reverentiam."
The edifice which encloses the Holy Relics is exteriorly ornamented by a bas-relief representing the Holy Face; below, placed on a base in a large niche, is the colossal statue in marble of St Veronica, whom Mochi has represented as holding in her hands the Ho!y Face, A door situated at the foot of this statue, opens an entrance to a passage by which you ascend to the niche where are deposited the Holy Relics, and in descending some steps, you enter into what are called the holy Vatican Grottoes. It is in these Grottoes that the bodies of SS. Peter and Paul are; the tombs of a great number of Popes, whose mausoleums are above in the new Basilica; there also are the four subterranean chapels, which, by order of Urban VIII. Bernice formed in the interior of the pillars which support the cupola. He decorated them with marble columns of the Ionic order, and placed on he altar pictures in mosaic of great price.
The picture of the altar of the Holy Face represents Veronica presenting the towel or veil to the Redeemer. On the walls we see, two by two, the Holy Virgin and the three Marys. In the first oval arch, Urban VIII is represented as receiving the design of the our chapels ; in the second, Boniface VIII exposes the Holy Face to Charles II. King of Sicily, and James II King of Aragon, in 1296; the third represents the exposition made by order of Nicholas V to the Emperor Frederic III.
On the walls of the corridor, on the Gospel side, is seen St. Veronica presenting he towel or veil to our Saviour; on the ides, Martha and Magdalen, opposite St. Veronica, preparing to set out for Rome with the holy Relic; on the sides, Mary lie Mother of James, and Mary Salome, the Virgin Mary, and Mary of Cleophas.
The paintings in the arches represent, 1st, St. Veronica showing the holy towel to the people ; 2nd, John VII. with the tabernacle constructed by his piety to preserve the holy Relic; and 3rd, the holy Image shewn to Lewis I, King of Hungary, by order of Pope Clement VI.
If, instead of descending to the holy Grottoes, you wish to go where the exposition takes place, you open a metal door, and, to your left, you ascend by a winding stair to the sanctuary of the holy Relics. They are laid on a credence., enclosed in a closet or niche, which has three locks, the : keys of which are confided to the canons who have charge of the holy Relics. The Holy Face is placed in a distinct reliquary, made with a magnificent crystal frame, silver plated, given the 6th of May, 1350, by three gentlemen of Venice, whose names are preserved in an old registry of the benefactors of the Basilica.
By a remarkable coincidence, another "Venetian., Gregory XVI., with his usual forethought, in 1838, substituted, instead of the thin veil which covered the Relic, a plate of crystal, behind which it can be more easily preserved and admired.
The appearance of this holy Image is sufficient to show us the likeness of our divine Saviour; and the innumerable miracles which are performed, also the great veneration in which it has been held in every age, are sufficient to prove the truth of the Catholic tradition. 5
Piazza, in his " Emerologio di Roma," on the 4th of February, after having given the history of the Holy Face, as we have told it, gives a description of the Holy Face of Rome, in 1713, which was confirmed by Gio-Gregorio, lib. 17, du Pretoire de Pilate.
"We there behold, not without being moved by a profound sentiment of compunction, the head of our Saviour pierced by a crown of sharp thorns, the face covered with blood', the eyes swollen and full of blood, the countenance dark and livid; on the right cheek, as well as the bruises, we behold the mark of the gauntlet of Malchus, 6 who so cruelly struck Him in the house of Anna, and on the other cheek, many spots of spittle; the nose is bruised and bloody, the mouth open and full of blood, the teeth are loose, the beard and hair plucked off in many places."
We have compared this description with the copy which we have the happiness to possess in our chapel, and find in it all these characters of resemblance.
So changed, the Divine Face of our Saviour nevertheless presents a mixture 0f grandeur, compassion, love, and sorrow, which vividly impresses all those who behold it. Under these bruises and spittle, the Christian soul recognizes the majesty of his God, and is moved to repentance at the view of this bloody expiation of his ingratitude, and the soul abandons itself without reserve to a sweet confidence and an ardent love for its Most Blessed Redeemer.
1 The Feast of the Holy Face is celebrated at Notre Dame de Laon, on the Sunday after the octave of SS. Peter and Paul with an immense concourse of pilgrims.
2 The copies are printed on linen, or cotton, or silk, white or red, with the sealed stamp of the metropolitan Canon who guard it, accompanied by a letter of its authenticity.
3 The habit of blasphemy and the violation of the Sunday so common in our days, are wicked outrages against the Holy Face of our Divine Saviour. This is why there are formed in many towns, " Reparative associations" of pious persons, who endeavour, as "new Veronicas," to wipe devoutly by their veneration and their love, the disfigured features of the Redeemer, and merit that our Saviour, in recompense, would impress His Divine Image on their souls. Our Saviour has revealed this devotion to many religious who died in the odour of sanctity, and his Vicar on earth, Pius IX. has said: "Reparation is a divine work destined to save society."
4 The Apostolic letter of our holy Father, Pius IX., convoking the (Ecumenical Council on the Feast of the Immaculate conception, 1869.
5 Giacomo Pamelio, in his annotations on Chapter XH. of the Apology of Tertuliian, says : " Effigies ohristi quam Veronica) in Sudario dedisse truditio est, etiam nunc exstat 'anta in veneratione, ut ilia dobitare posthao non modo onracula non permittant sed nee aspectus ipse,"
6 Giovanni Lanspergio, Horn. 19,De Passione, writes; "Quod Christ facies in eodera impressa Sadario digitorum Te stiga impressa retineat, et aspicientibas monstrat, quod Manila mauu Christo Domino inftixere."