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His Holy Face – by Father Cummings

Apr 12, 2012

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Nothing ever was, ever will be, more attractive than the face of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Especially Christ crucified, Christ who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  That holy face, which the leper was granted to see, which He left on the veil of Veronica is also the face the centurion saw crucified and converted him and make him say, Truly this was the Son of God.  St. Paul says that it’s on the face of Christ that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is made visible.  It’s a noble, humble, wise, brave face.  We in our prayer and in our meditation have to seek out His face.  Just as the psalmist says, Thou has said, ‘Seek ye my face.  My heart says to thee, Thy face Lord do I seek’.  The more we look to Him the more we’ll want to follow Him and imitate Him.  Then we’ll be able to say with St. Paul that great line, Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.


An analogy that’s often used by spiritual writers is that of a magnet.  We’re drawn to Christ and then we want to imitate Him.  We especially meet, and get to know and learn to imitate Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  In fact the rite of ordination contains the line, the most famous part of it, “Imitate what you handle.”  The priest is reminded on that great day that the Holy Eucharist that he holds in his hand is what he must imitate in his life.  Christ is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, just as He was in Galilee, and we can imitate His example; so silent, so meek, so gentle, and most of all so full of self-sacrifice out of love of us.  Moreover, it’s only in receiving this great sacrament, also called the sacrament of love, that we’re given the ability to imitate Christ Jesus, to imitate His love.  It’s not possible to live the Christian life, which Jesus summed up as, love one another as I have loved you, without receiving Holy Communion.  First we have to love like Christ, only then can we go and love others.


So were attracted to Christ, attracted to imitate Christ, but there’s more, we can only imitate Him if we’re transformed into Him.  One of the most famous books of spiritual writing is called the Imitation of Christ.  Within our century another extremely famous book is called Transformation in Christ, because on our own we cannot imitate Him, it’s too great an example to follow.  This holy food we receive in Holy Communion is not like any other food because it does not become part of us, we become part of it.  Regular bread that we eat is transformed into the cells of our body, but in this sacrament when we eat the body of Christ Jesus, He is not transformed into us but we into Him, into members of His Body.  St. Catherine of Sienna once wrote how He touched the lives of lepers, “For us You have made a cavern in your open side, where we might have refuge in the face of our enemies and in this cavern we have come to know your charity.  There we have found the bath in which we have washed our soul’s face clean of the leprosy of sin.”  The leper has his body cleansed on the outside, but we, through the washing of Baptism and the receiving of the Holy Eucharist, are cleansed on the inside.


This is how we are capable of imitating Christ in our exterior actions because He makes us like Him interiorly by grace.  We’re changed in the depths of our souls.  We’re configured to Christ in Baptism and He leaves an indelible mark on our soul so that it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me says St. Paul.  So the moral change in us is preceded by this change in our being.  We have to be transformed into Him and then Christ is seen by the whole world.  The Holy Father said in his Lenten message for this year, “Thus, through charity, Christians make visible God’s love for man revealed through Christ and makes manifest Christ’s presence in the world to the close of the age.  For Christians, charity is not just a gesture or an ideal but is so to speak the prolongation of the presence of Christ who gives Himself.”


That’s the end of this beautiful mystery.  That we’re attracted to Christ, we desire to imitate Him.  He gives us the power by transforming us into Him, and then we’re made so beautiful, the image of God is so restored in us, that we can attract people.  People are attracted to us by our good example.  We must always remember that the leprosy of sin, which is contagious indeed, is not half as contagious as the beauty of goodness, of charity, of the image of Christ which is supposed to shine on all of our faces.  So let us pray that God will transform us, so that we can transform the world.


Credit: Making God the Joy of Our Soul – by Father Mclean Cummings – published by Catholics united for Life – New Hope, KY – permission is not needed to republish.