Turn Not Thy Face Away From Me, O My God…
“Turn not thy face away from me, O my God, but look upon me with pity and compassion,”
We feel assured that if our Heavenly Father but turns His face towards us, His hands will be stretched forth to save us. If His face bends above us, it is because His Heart is inclined to receive us.
A truly noble and most touching devotion is that of the Holy Face of Our Lord. We cannot meditate on the mysteries of our rosary without contemplating our Lord’s beautiful humanity, and prostrating ourselves before it, as we behold it everywhere manifesting His ineffable divinity.
In the first joyous mystery, as in the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Face is hidden from the eyes of man, yet from the bosom of the Virgin Mother, as from the tabernacle, went forth the radiance of its glance to illumine the world, and to show it where to find peace and joy. Mary, Queen of Charity, wends her way over the hills of Judea for the Visitation of Saint Elizabeth, and carries with her the Holy Hidden Face. Vain and worthless the deed of charity or the word of kindness that has not the face of Jesus hidden within it.
Multitudes of meritorious deeds are done with unmeriting zeal; the Holy Face is not stamped upon them; the effigy of the world is there instead, and the Supreme Judge renders to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; when He finds the supernatural motive He beholds upon the coin of human acts the face of His Son, and then does he render to God the things that are God’s, and to the child of God, eternal merit.
The shepherds of Judea and the wise men from afar enter the stable at Bethlehem, and behold! they find between them and the majesty of the Divinity only an infant’s face. What a subject for meditation is that soft, dimpled cheek, that small, but nobly arching-brow, that quivering baby mouth, those infantine but farseeing eyes! The face of a babe screening the beatific vision of a God! Not less deep are the thoughts awakened, as we contemplate Holy Simeon gazing upon that same dear little face, on the occasion of the Presentation, or as we, with Mary and Joseph, discover the divine Boy disputing with the Doctors in the Temple, while they, astounded at the wisdom of His answers, gaze with awe upon His face, failing to see the Supreme Giver of the Law in this its youthful interpreter.
Thus the beads have slipped through our fingers, and the Hail Mary has dropped from our lips, while our eyes have been fixed on the Holy Face in its beauty. In the next five mysteries we behold it in its disfigurement; bathed in a bloody sweat; beaten and spit upon; mantled with a blush of shame, in the scourging; haggard with pain, in the crowning with thorns; bent toward earth in the weary way to Calvary; turned heavenward, in the crucifixion, and again earthward, when the cross stands erect. What food for devout thought and tender meditation. No trace here of Bethlehem’s innocent loveliness, or of Nazareth’s boyish beauty; no promise, but faith in His wood, of the glory of the Resurrection. Divinity veiled by a face of flesh was wonderful indeed, but Divinity, veiled by a wounded, disfigured, bloodstained face—even more by a livid, dead face—this is almost inconceivable, yet before the crucifix we bow and express our faith, while our soul is filled with fear at the thought of what we creatures dare to do before the Face of our God. How shall we dare to behold that Holy Face that brought salvation to us, and we turned away and fell in love with death, and kissed deformity and sins? Sore need we have to say our rosary, and to prostrate ourselves, in each of its mysteries, at the feet of Him whom we entreat to turn towards us His Holy Face.
A Dominican Sister (1892)