James Day, a campus minister at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, in Catholic Exchange finds acheiropoieta – images of mysterious origins – encouraging in our era.
In the third millennium, the face of God has become an archaic relic, entire generations having turned its back on it. Christ is now an acceptable cartoon while Catholic-raised artists and writers ignore encouragement to follow the footsteps of Michelangelo, Dante or Mozart. The Incarnation and Resurrection have gone from the world’s greatest events to childish after thoughts. Facebook five hundred years ago might have been a collection of Veronica images from Edessa to Oviedo.
And yet, in spite (or precisely because of today’s visual ego) the Veronica, the Shroud of Turin and the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, three images known as acheiropoieta—“not made by human hands”—captivate the imagination of all people of goodwill. That images of mysterious origins continue to catch our dulled eyes is both a telling sign of God the Artist’s eternal masterwork and a divine invitation to conversion.
The search for the face is newly enabled:
The search for the face of God dominated the Old Testament, most especially in the Psalms. “Your face, Lord, do I seek!” intones Psalm 27. Modern technology has immensely aided the psalmist’s longing by providing an outlet for close scrutiny of the acheiropoieta images, whether it be Juan Diego’s tilma in Mexico City or the ancient Shroud in Turin. It was a photographic negative that uncovered the figure of a man in the Shroud in 1898, just as digital photography today has transmitted the Holy Face in Manoppello to the rest of the world.
Serious problems can arise when the search is not for the face of God:
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