The Importance of the Holy Face Devotion in the Twenty-First Century
[beginning excerpt from our booklet on this profound reparative devotion]
"I seek Veronicas to wipe and venerate My Divine Face which has but few adorers…"
Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus is as ancient as devotion to the Crucified Lord. This pious custom began with the offering of a holy Jewish woman’s veil to wipe the spittle, dirt and blood from the countenance of Our Lord during His agonizing journey to Calvary . The reward for her courageous act of mercy was the impression of His Face on her veil. The Image of Our Lord in His Passion is so detailed that it is written:
"A deep feeling of compunction is felt on beholding the head of the Savior pierced with thorns; the bleeding brow, the eyes swollen and filled with blood, the teeth loosened, the beard and hair torn off in many places, the face livid and blackened; on the right cheek, and seen through the bruises, is the print of the gauntlet of Malchus, who cruelly struck him in the house of Anne; on the other cheek, stains of spittle and mud; the nose bleeding and broken; the mouth open and filled with blood."
Shortly after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, this relic was brought from Jerusalem to Rome by Veronica. Tiberius Caesar learned from Pilate of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. He had heard of the cloth of Veronica and its miracles. He sent his ambassadors to Jerusalem to ask for this miraculous image to obtain a cure. Veronica would not allow this relic to be taken from her so she carried it to Rome in a reliquary. This image obtained the cure for Tiberius. Because of this, Tiberius wished to put Jesus on the same level as other pagan gods but was not allowed as the Roman Senate believed it was not right to give homage to man as God.
This precious Image has been under the safekeeping of all the Pontiffs from the time of St. Veronica’s death. It was first bequeathed to Clement I., fourth successor to St. Peter, and held in their possession up to our present Pontiff.
In the early years of the Church, it was hidden in the Catacombs to ensure its safety from the persecutors of the Faith. When the persecution ended, the relic was brought back into the Churches of Rome for veneration. It was encased in a special niche in St. Peter’s Basilica along with the other Holy Relics of the Passion which include the Lance of Longinus and the Relic of the True Cross. Up until recent times, this relic was rarely seen by the faithful as it was held in such great esteem. Kings and Queens who gave allegiance to the Pope were allowed special privileges and indulgences to venerate this Holy Image. "In times of suffering and calamity, and during the ‘Holy Years,’ the people flew to this precious relic as a powerful palladium, crying, ‘Oh God, show thy face, and we shall be saved!’ Many miracles were obtained in favor of this devotion. The Church has always granted reluctantly the removal of the veil, which covers the precious Image; it was only permitted at distant intervals, and dates were kept in the archives of the Vatican noting this great event and the edict sanction"
In more recent times, most especially in the 1800’s, veneration of this Image has become more popular due to the fact the popes of this time desired that "the faith of the people, so tepid and relaxing, may become reanimated to devotion."
"We are living in a time of so much infidelity and immorality, the contagion of false opinions, the licenses, crimes, and violations of divine and social laws have reached such a climax, that not only our holy religion, but human society is perverted and miserably upset." (Apostolic Letter of our Holy Father Pius IX., convoking the Ecumenical Council to Rome, on the 'feast of the Immaculate Conception, 1869)
Part 1 to be continued tomorrow....