“Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace.”
On April 30, 2000 Pope John Paul II recognized Mary Faustyna Kowalska as a saint, numbered among the souls in heaven. At the same time he fulfilled one of Saint Faustyna’s requests, that the second Sunday of Easter be reserved to honor and commemorate God’s infinite mercy.
Why the second Sunday of Easter?
On the Second Sunday of Easter the Church traditionally remembers the first appearance of Jesus to His disciples after His resurrection. It is on this occasion that Christ establishes the Sacrament of Reconciliation, popularly referred to as confession.
We are creatures of both flesh and spirit. We have a physical earthly life and as well as a spiritual “divine” life. These two lives are intimately connected and when one suffers, the other is also affected.
Our spiritual life, our spiritual well being, is sustained by our relationship with God. When we have mortal sin on our conscience, a sin of serious nature that we have knowingly and obstinately indulged in, that sin damages our relationship with God. As a result of this damage, this weakening of our bond with God, our spiritual life begins to die and we are threatened with the loss of the sanctifying grace we received at Baptism. Eventually the death of our spiritual nature would affect our physical life as well. This is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is sometimes called the sacrament of the dead.
Through sin we become spiritually dead and live a darkened existence. But today Christ establishes the Sacrament of Reconciliation and imparts to His apostles and their successors the power to forgive sins in His name. Through this sacrament we are absolved of the mortal sin that separates us from God and sanctifying grace is restored to us. We partake of the divine life of Jesus and share in the vitality of the Resurrection of the dead. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, like Baptism, restores us to life and light.
That Christ gave us this sacrament demonstrates to us His mercy. If we trust in Him, He will never abandon us.
Saint Faustyna Kowalska recorded in her diary several visions in which Christ appeared to her and spoke with her. Through these visions Our Lord directed the nun to foster a devotion to His Divine Mercy.
In the popular image of Divine Mercy, Jesus raises His right hand in blessing. His left hand touches his breast from which pours two rays of light, one white and one red. According to Saint Faustyna, Jesus Himself instructed the nun to create an image along this pattern. Having little to no artistic skill, Faustyna was promised that she would receive help in executing this image.
In 1933 Faustyna was sent by her superiors to the city of Vilnius. There she met the painter Eugene Kazimierowski. It was Kazimierowski who painted the first image of Divine Mercy, the only rendering that Faustyna ever saw. She was never satisfied with the painting. Even though she visited the artist frequently and guided him as he painted, she never felt the painting captured what she saw in her visions.
After many attempts to “get it right,” Faustyna recorder in her diary that Jesus told her, “Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace.”
Five years after her death, Adolph Hyla executed his own version of Divine Mercy as a devotion in gratitude for having survived World War II. Although it differs from Kazimierowski's painting in small details, It is Hyla's version that has come to be known throughout the world.
It is easy for us as artists, especially those who create devotional and liturgical art, to attach too much importance to the work of our hands. We are called upon to develop our talents and gifts to the highest skill we are capable of. Our vocation is one of Beauty, reflecting the Beauty of holiness and the holiness of Beauty. It is our work to render images of beauty fit to be offerings to God. Even so, it is important to remember that, at best, we can only direct hearts and minds to God. Ultimately it is not the beauty of the image we create that saves, but the grace of God working through us, directing our work as Faustyna directed the work of Kazimierowski.
As artists we have a unique role in maintaining the spiritual health of the faithful.
In the ancient world many of the afflictions we suffer were mysteriously linked to sin. It was thought that turning away from God resulted in all manner of physical and psychological maladies. But Jesus extends His mercy to the world by sending His apostles out to heal the sick and drive out unclean spirits. The followers of Christ perform many signs and wonders among the people all in the name and through the grace of Jesus.
The Lord of Life, who holds the keys to death and the netherworld, gives us life through His sacraments, administered to us by His Church.
As Children of God, we are called to be like Him. How can we demonstrate His mercy in our everyday lives? How can we help to spread that mercy throughout the world? We can start by reconciling our relationships that have become strained or broken. Let us follow in the footsteps of Christ and take the first steps towards healing the divisions among us.
Divine Mercy Sunday
Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org and can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com