It is not an easy question to answer. Saint Augustine says: “My heart is restless, O Lord, until I rest in you.” (Conf.).
It is not about art. It is an interior movement according to our human nature. Lord Jesus is not seen as he who was in Palestine. He is with us, but He is invisible to our eyes, and our ears cannot hear His word. So exteriorly we don’t see Him. And because of our nature we feel an urge to see Him, and the light that shines from His Holy Face. It is then a religious impulse nurtured by the Holy Spirit.
When we read the Psalter we find so many calls to see the Face of God. One passage will do as example. “It is your face, O LORD, that I seek; hide not your face from me.” (Ps 8b-9a) [This quotation is from the Revised Grail Psalter, formerly known as the “Gelineau Psalms“.]
That restlessness of our heart rises over us from the depth of our humanity seeking to see the face of the Lord, in whose “image and likeness” (Gen 1: 26) humankind was created.
In Italy under the guidance of Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini (born in 1916) a sort of movement to clarify and motivate the devotion to the Volto di Cristo (The Face of God) has been on increasing development in relation with Iconography and religious painting. The International Institute for Research on the Face of Christ has done a wonderful job in collecting slides and digital images of the Face of Jesus, promoting Congresses and publishing beautiful books and a periodical magazine. In certain sense they have promoted the motto “Il Volto dei Volti” (The Face of the faces) of Christ.
Some years back Blessed John Paul II wrote a letter to Cardinal Angelini on the “Face of Christ”. Some quotes seem appropiate.
“I am pleased to extend my cordial greeting to Your Eminence, and I ask you to share it with the distinguished speakers and all who are attending the second congress organized by the International Institute for Research on the Face of Christ.
“This important study conference makes a valuable contribution to the deeper examination of a theme that is central to Christian piety and which boasts sound foundations in Sacred Scripture, in the Patristic tradition, in the constant Magisterium of the Church, in the Eastern and Western liturgy, in theological reflection and in the highest expressions of iconography, literature and art. Continue Reading