Wednesday, June 15, 2016



Photo: R. Massaro-Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine North Jackson, Ohio

When one enters an Eastern Catholic Church or Greek Orthodox Church, it is customary to venerate the icon placed before the sanctuary and the altar. Normally, one bows, then kisses the icon. It is proper to kiss the image of the hands and the feet of Christ or the Holy Mother of God. One does not kiss the face of the one represented in the icon. While giving a lesson to our Carmelite community, I mentioned this fact. It fostered a discussion on why one does not kiss the face on an icon. I offered that perhaps it's just more reverent to kiss the feet or the hands of a holy person, as an act of humility. We were sorry that our Byzantine priest and brother in Carmel was not present at this meeting to teach us about this.  

At the next opportunity, I asked Father about this tradition. He asked me, "Who kissed Jesus on the face?" Of course. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. So, that is the reason an icon of Jesus is not venerated with a kiss on the face.

The Byzantine Church has a beautiful preparatory prayer for Holy Communion in which this very act of betrayal is mentioned:

O Lord, I believe and profess that you are truly Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Accept me as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God; for I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief I confess to you: Remember me, O Lord, when you shall come into your kingdom. Remember me, O Master, when you shall come into your kingdom. Remember me, O Holy One, when you shall come into your kingdom. May the partaking of your Holy Mysteries, O Lord, be not for my  judgment or condemnation, but for the healing of soul and body. O Lord, I also believe and profess that this, which I am about to receive, is truly your most precious Body and your life-giving Blood, which, I pray, make me worthy to receive for the remission of all my sins and for life everlasting. Amen.

This meditation on venerating icons can be used for an examination of conscience. At the end of the day, we can ask ourselves, how did I betray the Lord today? Was it in my speech? Did I gossip? Did I ruin someone's good name and reputation in the eyes of another?

Did I betray the Lord by giving in to judgmental thoughts about people, places, and situations?

Did I leave the door of my heart unguarded and sin against charity and purity?

Did I betray the Lord in my actions by showing anger and impatience with someone? Did I betray the Lord by being afraid to show that I am a Christian, a Catholic? Was I afraid to pray in public, afraid to be a witness at work or with friends?

Jesus tells us:

Whoever acknowledges me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever disowns me before men I will disown before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 11:33)

Let us not lose heart if we have deeply and even gravely grieved the Lord. 

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. (Psalm 145:8)

If we are truly sorry, he bathes us in the ocean of his mercy. And we are free to begin anew.We only have to look at the life of St. Peter who betrayed the Lord three times. He was truly repentant, even to the point of weeping over his betrayal. The Lord forgave him completely and put all of his trust in Peter to lead the Church.

When we have betrayed the Lord in any given situation, we can return to his good graces by going to Confession and reciting a simple and heartfelt prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!  Jesus, I trust in you! Yes, I trust in you to forgive me and to help me, a poor sinner.

Let us pray for each other.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS

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