It is Thy Face, O Lord, that I seek.."
“Of Thee my heart has spoken: ‘Seek his face.’ It is Thy face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not Thy face” (Ps 26:8-9).

O Most Beautiful Face
Of my Savior,
I adore Your Divine Beauty,
Hidden from me now,
Yet known somehow
In the depths of my soul.
I sit before You,
Beneath Your Loving Gaze.
I gaze back,
Only the Sacred Host,
Yet knowing
That it is into the
Eyes of my Beloved Savior that
I see,


May Jesus be blessed!
Blessed be the Holy Face of Jesus!
Blessed be the Holy Face of Jesus in the majesty and beauty of its celestial features!
Blessed be the Holy Face in all the words coming from its divine mouth!
Blessed be the Holy Face in all the looks escaped from its adorable eyes!
Blessed be the Holy Face in the transfiguration on the Thabor!
Blessed be the Holy Face in the fatigues of its apostolate!
Blessed be the Holy Face in the sweat if its agony!
Blessed be the Holy Face in the humiliations of its Passion!
Blessed be the Holy Face in the sorrows of death!
Blessed be the Holy Face in the brightness of the Resurrection!
Blessed be the Holy Face in the splendors of the everlasting light!

Since His Ascension from the Mount of Olives, the Holy Face of Jesus fills the vision of the Church. The Holy Ghost brings to our remembrance all that Our Lord said by compelling us ceaselessly to seek His Face. This is why the Church sings on this Sunday After the Ascension: “Listen to my voice, Lord, when I cry to Thee, alleluia. True to my heart’s promise I have eyes only for Thy Face; I seek Thy Face, O Lord! Turn not Thy Face away from me, alleluia, alleluia” (Psalm 26: 7-9).
When the history of the pontificate of Saint John Paul II is written by a generation to come, there is no doubt that his insistent and consistent focus on the Face of Christ will emerge as a grand spiritual theme, a recurrent motif, and a spiritual gift to the Church. Over the years of his long pontificate, Saint John Paul II’s personal fascination with the Holy Face of Jesus became a pastoral imperative. Already in 2001, he drew the eyes of the Church to the Face of Christ. At the closing of the Holy Door on January 6th of that year he said: “Christianity is born, and continually draws new life from this contemplation of the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.”

Growth in Holiness
Linked to the mystery of the Face of Christ and, for Saint John Paul II, inseparable from it, is growth in holiness: “May the Lord grant that in the new millennium, the Church will grow ever more in holiness, that she may become in history a true epiphany of the merciful and glorious face of Christ the Lord.”
Universal Call to Holiness
In Novo Millennio Ineunte, Saint John Paul II developed his teaching on the Face of Christ. Clearly, for Saint John Paul II, this is more than another devotion proposed to the piety of the faithful. It is, rather, a way of presenting and living the whole of the Christian life, a way of responding to what the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium presented forty years ago as “the universal call to holiness.” Karol Wojtyla was a bishop of the Second Vatican Council; as bishop of Rome, he sought to deepen and develop the central intuitions and core teachings of that Council. His call to contemplation of the Face of Christ is fully intelligible only within that context and in relation to the Council’s universal call to holiness. Holiness is a simple adhesion to the designs and desires of the Heart of Christ on us, a “yes” to what the Heart of Christ has reserved for us, a “yes” to what the Heart of Christ would give us at every moment.

The Oldest Views and Literary Data on the External Appearance of Jesus
The Description of Publius Lentullus
**The following was taken from a manuscript in the possession of Lord Kelly, and in his library, and was copied from an original letter of Publius Lentullus at Rome. It being the usual custom of Roman Governors to advertise the Senate and people of such material things as happened in their provinces in the days of Tiberius Caesar, Publius Lentullus, President of Judea, wrote the following epistle to the Senate concerning the Nazarene called Jesus.

"There appeared in these our days a man, of the Jewish Nation, of great virtue, named Yeshua [Jesus], who is yet living among us, and of the Gentiles is accepted for a Prophet of truth, but His own disciples call Him the Son of God- He raiseth the dead and cureth all manner of diseases. A man of stature somewhat tall, and comely, with very reverent countenance, such as the beholders may both love and fear, his hair of (the colour of) the chestnut, full ripe, plain to His ears, whence downwards it is more orient and curling and wavering about His shoulders. In the midst of His head is a seam or partition in His hair, after the manner of the Nazarenes. His forehead plain and very delicate; His face without spot or wrinkle, beautified with a lovely red; His nose and mouth so formed as nothing can be reprehended; His beard thickish, in colour like His hair, not very long, but forked; His look innocent and mature; His eyes grey, clear, and quick- In reproving hypocrisy He is terrible; in admonishing, courteous and fair spoken; pleasant in conversation, mixed with gravity. It cannot be remembered that any have seen Him Laugh, but many have seen Him Weep. In proportion of body, most excellent; His hands and arms delicate to behold. In speaking, very temperate, modest, and wise. A man, for His singular beauty, surpassing the children of men"
The letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar
This is a reprinting of a letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar describing the physical appearance of Jesus. Copies are in the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C.

A young man appeared in Galilee preaching with humble unction, a new law in the Name of the God that had sent Him. At first I was apprehensive that His design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews. One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning against a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily have suspected so great was the difference between Him and those who were listening to Him. His golden colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance. What a contrast between Him and His bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions! Unwilling to interrupt Him by my presence, I continued my walk but signified to my secretary to join the group and listen. Later, my secretary reported that never had he seen in the works of all the philosophers anything that compared to the teachings of Jesus. He told me that Jesus was neither seditious nor rebellious, so we extended to Him our protection. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and to address the people. This unlimited freedom provoked the Jews -- not the poor but the rich and powerful.
Later, I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with Him at the Praetorium. He came. When the Nazarene made His appearance I was having my morning walk and as I faced Him my feet seemed fastened with an iron hand to the marble pavement and I trembled in every limb as a guilty culprit, though he was calm. For some time I stood admiring this extraordinary Man. There was nothing in Him that was repelling, nor in His character, yet I felt awed in His presence. I told Him that there was a magnetic simplicity about Him and His personality that elevated Him far above the philosophers and teachers of His day.

Now, Noble Sovereign, these are the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth and I have taken the time to write you in detail concerning these matters. I say that such a man who could convert water into wine, change death into life, disease into health; calm the stormy seas, is not guilty of any criminal offense and as others have said, we must agree -- truly this is the Son of God.
Your most obedient servant,
Pontius Pilate

1. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.
Neither the New Testament nor the writings of the earlier post-Biblical Christian authors have any statements regarding the personal appearance of Jesus, thus contrasting sharply with the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha and especially with the works of the Gnostics. In the "Shepherd" of Hermas (ix. 6, 12) the lofty stature of the Son of God is emphasized, and according to the Gospel of Peter he even towered above the heaven at his resurrection. Gnostic influence is betrayed by visions in which Christ appears as a shepherd, or the master of a ship, or in the form of one of his apostles, as of Paul and of Thomas, or again as a young boy. In the Acts of Andrew and Matthew he assumes the figure of a lad, and the same form is taken in the Acts of Peter and Andrew, in the Acts of Matthew, and in the Ethiopic Acts of James. Manazara is healed by a youth in the Acts of Thomas, and a beautiful lad appears to Peter and Theon in the Actus Vercellensis, which also mentions the smile of friendship in the face of Jesus. A handsome youth with smiling face appears at the grave of Drusiana in the Acts of John, but certain widows to whom the Lord restored their sight saw him an, aged man of indescribable appearance, though others perceived in him a youth, and others still a boy. The youthfulness of Christ is also mentioned in the life and passion of St. C棩lus and the vision of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas ascribed to the risen Christ the face of a youth with snow-white hair.

2. The Church Fathers.
The early Christian authors were by no means concordant in their opinions of the personal appearance of Jesus. Some, basing their judgment on Isa. Iii. and liii., denied him all beauty and comeliness, while others, with reference to Ps. xlv. 3, regarded him as the most beautiful of mankind. To the former class belong Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Isidor of Peluaium, Theodoret, Cyril of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Cyprian. Origen declared that Christ assumed whatever form was suited to circumstances. It was not until the fourth century that Chrysostom and Jerome laid emphasis upon the beauty of Jesus. While Isidor of Pelusium had referred the phrase, "Thou art fairer than the children of men" in Ps. xlv. 2, to the divine virtue of Christ, Chrysotom interpreted the lack of comeliness mentioned in Isa. liii. 2 as an allusion to the humiliation of the Lord. Jerome saw in the profound impression produced by the first sight of Jesus upon disciples and foes alike a proof of heavenly beauty in face and eyes. From the insults inflicted upon Jesus Augustine concluded that he had appeared hateful to his persecutors, while actuallly he had been more beautiful than all, since the virgins had loved him.
3. Other Data.
The Problem of the life passion of St. C? us, and the external appearance of Jesus possessed but minor interest for the Church Fathers, although the Catholic Acts of the Holy Apostles ascribe to him an olive complexion, a beautiful beard, and flashing eyes. Further details are first found in a letter to the Emperor Theophilus attributed to John of Damascus (in MPG, xcv. 349), which speaks of the brows which grew together, the beautiful eyes, the prominent nose, the curling hair, the look of health, the black beard, the wheat-colored complexion, and the long fingers, a picture which almost coincides with a hand-book on painting from Mt. Athos not earlier than the sixteenth century. In like manner, Nicephorus Callistus, who introduced his description of the picture of Christ (MPG, cxlv. 748) with the words, "as we have received it from the ancients," was impressed with the healthful appearance, with the stature, the brown hair which was not very thick but somewhat curling, the black brows which were not fully arched, the sea-blue eyes shading into brown, the beautiful glance, the prominent nose, but brown beard of moderate length, and the long hair which had not been cut since childhood, the neck slightly bent, and the olive and somewhat ruddy complexion of the oval face. A slight divergence from both these accounts is shown by the so-called letter of Lentulus, the ostensible predecessor of Pontius Pilate, who is said to have prepared a report to the Roman Senate concerning Jesus and containing a description of him. According to this document Christ possessed a tall and handsome figure, a countenance which inspired reverence and awakened love and fear together, dark, shining, curling hair, parted in the center in Nazarene fashion and flowing over the shoulders, an open and serene forehead, a face without wrinkle or blemish and rendered more beautiful by its delicate ruddiness, a perfect nose and mouth, a full red beard of the same color as the hair and worn in two points and piercing eyes of a grayish-blue.
II. Literary Data on the Oldest Pictures of Jesus:
(1) A handkerchief embroidered with the figures of Jesus and his Apostles, and made, according to legend, by his mother, is said to have been seen by the monk Arculfus during his residence in Jerusalem (Adamnan, De Locis sanctis, i. 11 [12]). (2) In his account of his visit to C泡rea Philippi, Eusebius mentions (Hist. eccl. vii. 18) a group of statuary in brass which consisted of a kneeling woman and a man standing with his hands stretched out toward her. Local tradition saw in this a figure of Jesus and the woman healed of an issue of blood, who was said to have come from C泡rea Philippi. This legend was accepted by Eusebius, Asterius Amasenus Photius, Sozomen, Philostorgius, and Macarius Magnes, the last-named calling the woman Beronike. The actual meaning of the group is uncertain. Some have seen in it an emperor and a province, possibly Hadrian and Judea while others have regarded it as Ƴculapius and Hygeia, a view which is vitiated by the fact that no mention is made of the serpent-staff characteristic of statues of the god of healing. It is entirely possible that the group actually represented Christ and either the woman with an issue of blood or possibly the woman of Canaan who implored him to heal her daughter. (3) According to Iren浳 (H沼/i>., I., xxv. 6), pictures of Christ were possessed by the Gnostic sect of Carpocratians, who crowned them with garlands like the pictures of philosophers--Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, and others--while, according to the Carpocratians, Pilate had a portrait of Jesus painted during his lifetime, and the Carpocratian Marcellina possessed a picture of Christ which she honored, like those of Paul, Homer, and Pythagoras, with prayer and incense. (4) The Emperor Alexander Severus had a picture of Jesus; it must have been, however, only an ideal portrait, like those of Apollonius, Abraham, Orpheus, and others, which were also included in his lararium (Lampridius, Vita Alex. Sev. xxix.). (5) A brass statue of the Savior was erected by Constantine the Great before the main door of the imperial palace of Chalce (Theophanes in MPG, cviii. 817). (6) A picture of Jesus "painted from life" was possessed by the Archduchess Margaret which may be the same one as 's altar-piece of St. Luke at Brussels (M. Thausing, p. 420, Leipsic, 1876).

While the portraits just mentioned were prepared by human agency, there were others to which a supernatural origin was ascribed. To this category belong (7) a picture at Camulium in Cappadocia, apparently on cloth and perhaps a copy of that of Edessa (see below). It was mentioned at the second Nicene Council and was carried to Constantinople by Justin II., where it was regarded as so sacred that a special festival was instituted in its honor, and it was frequently carried in war as a potent icon (J. Gretsei opera, xv. 196-197, Regensburg, 1741). (8) In the war against the Persians the General Philippicus had a picture of Christ which the Romans believed to be supernatural in origin, and the same portrait served to quell a mutiny in the army of Priscus, the successor of Philippicus. This icon was apparently on cloth, and was a copy of an original which was frequently confounded with a portrait in Amida, although the latter is expressly said to have been painted, and was, consequently, natural in provenience (Zacharias, MPG, Ixxxv. 1159). (9) A Syriac fragment mentions a picture of Jesus painted on linen and found unwet in a spring by a certain Hypatia shortly after the Passion. This portrait left a miraculous imprint on the napkin in which it was wrapped, and one of these pictures found its way to C泡rea while the other was taken to Comolia (possibly identical with the city of Camulium already mentioned), although a copy was later found at Dibudin (?) (Lipsius, Die edessenische Abgarsage, p. 67, n. 1, Brunswick, 1880). (10) About 570 a linen mantle was shown at a church in Memphis which bore the impress of the Savior's face and was so bright that none could gaze at it (Antoninus Martyr, De locis sanctisxliv.). (11)Byzantine literature frequently mentions pictures of Christ impressed on bricks. According to a legend which presents several slight variations, the portrait of himself which Jesus had sent to Abgar at Edessa was believed to have been walled up to save it from the attack of King Ananun and to have been rediscovered in 539 together with a brick which bore a miraculous copy of the original (Georgius Cedrenus, ed. Bekker, i. 312, and others). (12) The patriarch Germanus, when forced to leave Constantinople, is said to have taken with him a picture of Christ which later came into the possession of Gregory II. (G. Marangoni, Istoria dell' oratorio di San Lorenzo, pp. 78 sqq., Rome, 1747). (13) The cloth with a picture of Christ presented by Photius to the hermit Paul at Latro in the ninth century was merely a copy of a miraculous original, although only he to whom the gift was made was able to perceive the portrait, others seeing only the cloth (Gretses, ut sup. p,186). (14) More important than all other statements concerning the oldest pictures of Christ is a passage of Augustine (De trin. viii. 4), stating that the portraits of Jesus were innumerable in concept and design.
III. Extant Pictures of Jesus.
1. Portraits Ostensibly Authentic:
1. Portraits by Painters, Sculptors, etc.

(1) The paintings of Luke, of which the best known are two at Rome. One of these is in the chapel Sanctus Sanctorum, although the statement that Luke painted a portrait of Jesus dates only from medieval times, the monk Michael, the biographer of Theodore of Studium, being one of the earliest sources. In the last quarter of the twelfth century the legend of Luke was interwoven by Wernher of Niederrhein with the tradition of Veronica (see below). Luke, in answer to Veronica's entreaties, is said to have made repeated attempts to portray Christ, but his endeavors were unsuccessful. Jesus then impressed the image of his face upon the handkerchief of Veronica. Another picture ascribed to Luke and painted on cloth is in the Vatican library, while a third is said to have been placed in the cathedral of Tivoli by Pope Simplicius. Other pictures are likewise ascribed to a similar provenience, and very late traditions even attribute statues of Christ to the chisel of Luke. [In the church of San Miniato at Monto, in the environs of Florence, Italy, is shown a portrait of Christ, attributed to Luke.] (2) To Nicodemus is ascribed a statue of the crucified Christ carved in black cedar and preserved in the Cathedral of Lucca. Its design shows that it dates at the earliest from the eighth century, although tradition states that the model of Nicodemus was furnished by the impress of the Savior's body on the linen cloths purchased to cover the corpse at the descent from the cross. (3) A "true and only portrait of our Savior taken from an engraved emerald which Pope Innocent VIII. received from Sultan Bajazted II. for the ransom of his brother, who was a captive of the Christians," frequently reproduced in photograph is in reality the copy of a medal which may have been cut at the command of Mohammed II., and which is, at all events, of comparatively modern date. (4) The mosaic in the Church of St. Praxedis in Rome, which is exhibited on festal occasions, is by no means one of the earliest Christian mosaics, although tradition regards it as a present to Pudens from the Apostle Peter.
2. Alleged Supernatural Pictures.
Alleged supernatural pictures may be divided into those which represent the entire figure of Jesus, and those which give only his face. (1) Clothe of medieval date containing more or less clear outlines of the figure of a man, all claiming to be the "napkin" in which Jesus was wrapped in the grave and on which his image was impressed, were formerly found in Chamb鲹, and until the end of the eighteenth century, in Besan篮, while they still exist at Compi觮e and Turin, the latter "napkin" being declared authentic by a bull of Sixtus IV. Far more famous, however, are the cloths which bear only the impress of a head or face and of these one of the best known is (2) the picture of Edessa, or the Abgar picture. According to the Doctrine of Addai and Moses of Choren, Hanan, the envoy of the king of Edessa, painted a portrait of Jesus and took it to his royal master. Evagrius, on the authority of Procopius, states that Christ sent to the king a picture of miraculous origin. The legend apparently arose about 350, and may well have been based on an actual painting which remained at Edessa till 944, when it was brought to Constantinople by the Emperor Romanus I. Its subsequent fortunes are uncertain, although various cities laid claim to its possession, especially Genoa, Rome, and Paris, the first-named city advancing the most probable arguments for authenticity and receiving the confirmation of Pius IX. (see ABGAR). This picture shows only the head of Jesus, but legend also knows a full-length Edessene portrait on linen produced by contact with the body of Christ. It is mentioned by Gervase of Tilbury in the beginning of the thirteenth century, who bases his statement on ancient sources and says that it was exhibited on festivals in the chief church of Edessa, and that on Easter it shows Jesus successively as a child, boy, youth, young man, and in the ripeness of years. (3) One of the choicest treasures of the Roman Church is the handkerchief of Veronica, which is shown only on special occasions, particularly in Passion Week. This portrait is said to have been transferred in 1297 by Boniface VIII. from the Hospital of the Holy Ghost to St. Peter's in Rome, where it reposes behind the statue of St. Veronica. The picture, which is now much faded, shows an elliptical face with a low-arched forehead, in marked contrast with the long nose. The mouth is slightly open, and the scanty hair is visible only on the temples. The beard on the cheeks is thin, but is stronger on the chin, where it ends in three points, while the mustache is more conspicuous for color than for strength. The eyes arched by scanty brows, are closed, and, combined with features distorted by agony and stained with blood complete the picture of a martyr pale in death. From the point of view of esthetics and the history of art, the picture is probably Byzantine. Although one would expect the picture of Veronica to be regarded as the napkin which covered the head of Christ, there is no tradition as to its origin, although a mess of medieval legends connects it with the name of a woman.
These may be divided into two classes. In the older group, apparently written shortly before the ninth century, Veronica appears as the woman afflicted with an issue of blood, who had a portrait of Jesus either painted by herself or at her bidding, or else impressed by Christ himself upon a piece of cloth. The second form of the legend sprang up in France and Germany in the course of the fourteenth century and superseded the older version before 1500. According to this tradition, Veronica gave the Savior a handkerchief on his way to Golgotha, and received it back impressed with his features. Further amplifications of the tradition stated that the napkin was brought to Rome by John VII., or even during the reign of Tiberius, while it is certain that Celestine III. prepared a reliquary for it. At all events, what is clear is that during the medieval period Rome possessed a cloth picture of Christ, which was apparently supposed to be the miraculous impress of the head of Jesus in the sepulcher. It is significant, moreover, that it bore the name sudarium before the rise of the legend of the handkerchief given Christ to wipe his face on his way to the cross, nor was it until the twelfth century that the name of Veronica even began to form a part of the tradition, a connection suggested by a popular etymology of Veronica as Vera *?* ("true image"), This legend of Veronica gave rise to a tendency of art which reached its culmination in D��, who represented the napkin of Veronica and the Savior with a crown of thorns, combining the suffering in the face of Jesus with the loftiness and the majesty of the Son of God, (4) The picture of Christ in the apse of St. John Lateran at Rome is supposed to have been miraculously produced when the church was dedicated by Pope Sylvester, although it is in reality a mosaic of recent date.

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