How time flies! Here we are in the second week of February, and within 12 hours Lent begins! This Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is often referred to as Mardi Gras which means "Fat Tuesday, "Pancake Tuesday', or Carnival, and is often associated with great license for excesses of the flesh. For those following the King of Kings, not so!
Today is a day that is now widely associated with devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, as given to Discalced Carmelite nun Sr. Mary of St. Peter. Our Lord Himself revealed to this humble religious sister that Devotion to His Holy Face is a means of making reparation for blasphemies against His Most Holy Name, as well as against Communism, profanation of the Sabbath, and other grave untruths against the faith. One such prayer given to Sr. Mary is as follows: ETERNAL FATHER, we offer You the Holy Face of Jesus, covered with blood, sweat, dust and spittle, in reparation for the crimes of communists, blasphemers, and for the profaners of the Holy Name and of the Holy Day. AMEN.
Devotion to the Holy Face would bring great comfort to our Heavenly Father,and furthermore appease and comfort the Sacred Heart of Jesus from which a torrent of graces flow for the salvation of sinners. Specifically, the Golden Arrow Prayer provides great comfort similar to St. Veronica's Veil placed upon His Holy Face during the Passion.
MAY THE MOST HOLY, MOST SACRED, MOST ADORABLE, MOST INCOMPREHENSIBLE AND UNUTTERABLE NAME OF GOD BE ALWAYS PRAISED, BLESSED, LOVED, ADORED AND GLORIFIED, IN HEAVEN, ON EARTH AND UNDER THE EARTH, BY ALL THE CREATURES OF GOD, AND BY THE SACRED HEART OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, IN THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR. AMEN.
This devotion was revealed as the highest of devotions by Our Lord who promised souls who practice it that they will 'fly like eagles' in interior prayer and union with Him. This brings me to the Bread of the Presence, or Bread of the Holy Face. In the Old Testament, three times a year the priests in the Temple would “remove the Golden Table of the Bread of the Presence from within the Holy Place so that the Jewish pilgrims could see it.” (Exodus 34:23; 23:17) Then the priest would elevate the holy bread before the people saying, “Behold God’s love for you!” The Bread of the Face [which is how this is translated in Hebrew from lehem ha panim], was a sign of God’s love because it was a sign of His everlasting covenant. “…this holy bread was a living visible sign of God’s love for his people, the way earthly people could catch a glimpse of the ultimate desire of their hearts: to see the Face of God and live, and to know that He loved them.” “And just as the old Bread of the Presence was also the Bread of the Face of God, so now the Eucharist would be the Bread of the Face of God.” Since the Israelites were told that 'no one can see the face of God and live," this was a means of experiencing His Holy Countenance or His Holy Face just as Moses did on Mt. Sinai. This is the precursor to the Holy Eucharist, which enables us as Catholics to encounter Jesus fully in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It reveals His Holy Face to us and it is through His Holy Face that we enter into a covenental relationship with God. [For more information on this see Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper, by Dr. Brant Pitre.]
Therefore, we as Carmelites are once again summoned to the heights of Mt. Carmel to experience intimacy and union with Our Lord and to commune with His Holy Face, through the most personal of exchanges - the partaking of Our Lord Jesus' Eucharist as a fully transformative and immersive exchange of the essence of our very selves. As we devote ourselves to His Holy Face, He transforms our hearts. Let this Lenten season be fruitful and efficacious, as we stare into the eyes of our Savior, and comfort His Face in so many afflictions and modern-day rejections. Amen.