29 November 2016

The desire of prophets and kings

The Lord Jesus says to his disciples today, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it" (Luke 10:23-24). What was it these prophets and kings desired to see and hear?

The Prophet Isaiah said, "I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him" (Isaiah 8:17). King David prayed, "Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your merciful love" (Psalm 31:16)! The prophets and kings, then, longed to look upon the face of God and to hear his voice.

This desire to look upon God's face runs like a thread through all of the texts of the Bible, in both the Old and the New Testaments. After Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, a group of Greeks approached the Apostle Saint Philip and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21). Does not this same desire reside deep within our hearts, as well? Do we not also wish to see Jesus, to look upon what kings and prophets desired to see?

We know that this desire will be granted to us with the Second Coming of Christ Jesus, which we now await with eager expectation in these days of Advent. Saint Paul says, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face" (I Corinthians 13:12). The Apostle Saint John says, "they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads" (Revelation 22:4).

With the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Lord God has indeed revealed his Face to us in Jesus the Christ. This is why Jesus said to  Saint Philip, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). The ancient desire of prophets and kings to see the face of God has been granted in the Son of God and of Mary.

What is more, the Lord Jesus has left us a foretaste of the Beatific Vision of his Holy Face on a piece of byssus, once housed in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome and now housed in the Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello:

This Face is the desire of prophets and kings. Knowing that this Face is our deep desire, as well, the Lord, in his merciful love, he has left an image of his Face for us, to gaze upon, to marvel at, and to ponder until he comes again in his glory with his angels (cf. Matthew 25:31). It is this veil that the Apostle Saint Peter found in the tomb (cf. John 20:6-7). When he looked upon this handkerchief, Saint John "saw and believed" in the Resurrection of the Lord (John 20:8).

Let us, then, in these days of Advent, cry out to the Lord with the words of the hymn, "O Come, Divine Messiah":
Dear Savior, haste!Come, come to earth.Dispel the night and show your face,and bid us hail the dawn of grace.
O come, divine Messiah;the world in silence waits the daywhen hope shall sing its triumphand sadness flee away.
May the Lord come quickly. May he not delay. May he grant us the full vision of the beauty of his Face!

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