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I have seen parishes transformed after beginning to venerate the Divine Mercy image on Mercy Sunday.
BY Robert R. Allard
I have seen
parishes transformed after beginning to venerate the Divine Mercy image on
Mercy Sunday. We have found that once a pastor introduces the image, devotion
to Christ takes off. People start learning about the Divine Mercy devotion (see
Culture of Life, page B1 and Travel, page B3) and soon the pastor is hearing
confessions from people who have been away from the confessional for years — or
We let the pastor pick out the
image. There are several versions of the image, and the pastor is the best
suited to select which one fits his parish.
But, sadly, I have also often heard
from people who call me and e-mail me and say, “My pastor doesn’t want that
image in the church.” They say it isn’t appropriate, or that those who aren’t
devotees won’t understand it.
But Divine Mercy Sunday isn’t for
devotees. Jesus is looking for sinners. The Church gives us this special feast
so that as many people as possible can be touched by the beauty and joy of
reconciliation with God — and displaying the image is key to the day’s
What to tell pastors who are unsure
about the image?
The image of the Divine Mercy is the
icon of the risen Lord. The image is like the depiction of Jesus appearing in
the upper room to the apostles and bestowing on them the power to forgive sins.
It is also an image of hope that gives us the assurance that Christ will be
there for us as we draw ever closer in great anticipation and wonder of his
The image of the Divine Mercy
portrays, with its two rays of red and pale light, the re-presentation of the
sacraments of baptism, reconciliation and the Eucharist.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, just
prior to becoming Pope Benedict XVI, in his popular book The Spirit of
The Liturgy, dedicated a chapter on “Art and Liturgy.” His words are
clearly applicable to the Divine Mercy Image.
“On liturgical feasts the deeds of
God in the past are made present,” he said. “The feasts are a participation in
God’s action in time, and the images themselves, as remembrance in visible
form, are involved in the liturgical re-presentation.”
One thinks of the Divine Mercy image
and its closeness to the Gospel of the day.
Cardinal Ratzinger said that “All
sacred images are, without exception, in a certain sense images of the
Resurrection, and for that very reason they are images of hope, giving us the
assurance of the world to come, of the final coming of Christ. It is seen as a
path of hope, into which the images draw us.”
The rays of light form a literal
path of hope — one that leads to Christ’s heart!
He added that “The icon is intended
to draw us onto an inner path, toward the Christ who is to return. Its dynamism
is identical with the dynamism of the liturgy as a whole. We see Christ rightly
only when we say with Thomas: ‘My Lord and my God!’ The light of the first day
and the light of the eighth day meet in the icon. The light that enables us to
see the splendor of God.”
Those words of Thomas the Apostle,
of course, are precisely from the Gospel of Mercy Sunday.
Cardinal Ratzinger continued: “The
image points to the sacraments, above all, to baptism and the Eucharist, and,
in pointing to the sacraments, they are, in a way, contained within them.”
The image of Divine Mercy is nothing
more than a depiction of how the sacraments pour forth from Christ himself.
Ratzinger even spoke about the emptiness of a church where no such image is
present. He wrote about “a new iconoclasm, which has frequently been regarded
as virtually mandated by the Second Vatican Council. The destruction of images
... left behind a void, the wretchedness of which we are now experiencing in a
truly acute way.”
And yet, he wrote, “the complete
absence of images is incompatible with faith in the incarnation of God. God has
acted in history and entered into our sensible world, so that it may become
transparent to him. Images of beauty, in which the mystery of the invisible God
becomes visible, are an essential part of Christian worship.”
Mercy Sunday is part of a devotion
that is built around an image. Isn’t it right that on this day, we should place
before the faithful the image that started it all?
Parishes that have permanently
installed Divine Mercy images are noticing that many parishioners are finding
great consolation and are entrusting themselves to God’s divine mercy and are
urging their family and friends to do likewise.
They are repeating in their hearts
what the picture tells them: “Jesus, I trust in you!”
Robert R. Allard is director of the Apostles of Divine Mercy.