This weekend you may see a picture in your parish church entitled “The Divine Mercy.” The special indulgences given to this day carry, as one of their requirements, the veneration of the Divine Mercy image.
What does it mean to venerate an image? We regard with great respect and reverence the memory of the person portrayed in the image. At times, we as Catholics are accused of worshipping our images. People carry pictures of their loved ones. This does not mean they worship the picture, but it reminds them of the person they love.
The image of the Divine Mercy originated from a vision that St. Faustina had on Feb. 22, 1931. She attempted to sketch the image with charcoal on canvas, but had little success. It was through the efforts of Fr. Michael Sopocko, Sr. Faustina’s confessor, that she shared her vision with a more accomplished artist Eugene Kazimierowski. He painted the first image of the Divine Mercy. It is said that Fr. Sopocko himself, posed as Jesus for the image, wearing an alb. Regardless of how beautiful Kazimierowski’s work was, when Sr. Faustina saw his picture she was rather disappointed. She said the rendering did not even come close to the beauty she actually had seen.
This first image of The Divine Mercy is not the one that has become the peoples’ favorite. This honor goes to Adolf Hyla. He painted his Divine Mercy in gratitude to God for his family surviving World War II. In his rendering, Jesus appears to be approaching and looking directly into your eyes. In later reproductions, the country landscape Hyla used as the background was removed since it was deemed “non-liturgical.”
If the image you view depicts Jesus standing in front of an arched doorway, with a more pronounced halo, it was created in 1982 by American artist Robert Skemp.
Regardless of which version you view, take time to closely look at important details. You will see the risen Christ — remember the Easter octave — with his hands and feet bearing the marks of his Passion and death. His right hand may be raised in blessing, or extended toward you.
Notice the rays, one red, the other white to blue in color. These rays flow from the heart of Jesus. The red stands for the blood of the Eucharist, while the white/blue represents God’s mercy to us in the sacraments of baptism and penance, sacraments that wash us clean.
At the base of the picture are the words, “Jesus I trust in you.” One reason we celebrate Mercy Sunday is to be renewed in the belief that in the midst of any anxiety, discouragement or fear we may have, we can place our trust in Jesus to lead us through.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.