The Vessel of Graces – Divine Mercy Image
The Image of Divine Mercy is far more than just a religious icon or painting. Although it was painted by a man, it was not imagined by a man. The Image is a painting of a vision of Jesus which Jesus deliberately designed so that this Image would become a part of the new devotion to Divine Mercy in the life of the Catholic Church. He appeared to St. Faustina in the form in which He appears in the Image and instructed her to have the vision painted with the words “Jesus I Trust in You” inscribed on the painting.
The Image has many purposes within the new devotion to Divine Mercy. Jesus revealed that the Image would draw many souls back to His love and mercy and would protect everyone who dwelled in the shelter of the rays emitting from His Merciful Heart. But He also described it as a “Vessel of Graces” to which people could come to and seek His love, mercy and graces for the hardships of their life. The Image is meant to be a source of comfort, solace, hope and miracles for those who genuinely venerate His infinite mercy and unending compassion for us all.
The original Image was painted under the instruction of St. Faustina with the support of Fr. Michael Sopocko, by an artist called Eugene Kazimirowski in Fr. Sopocko’s parish house in Vilnius. Although it is a beautiful picture of Jesus, St. Faustina was not happy with the painting because she said it did not capture the beauty of Jesus. Jesus put her heart at rest on this matter by telling her, “Not in the beauty of the colour, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this Image, but in My grace”. (Diary 313)
Although the Image has many functions, one of its main purposes is to be a “vessel of graces” for people. So when we are praying before the Image of Divine Mercy, we can be confident that we are praying in the actual presence of Jesus. The Image has many different parts. The first is that Jesus’ eyes are looking downwards towards us. This is a point which St. Faustina specifically made to the artist and Fr. Sopocko. Jesus later told St. Faustina that, “My gaze from this Image is like My gaze from the cross”. (Diary 326)
The second part of the Image is that Jesus’ right hand is held in the motion of a gesture to make a blessing. There are many occasions in the Diary when St. Faustina sees Jesus make the sign of the cross to bless people. St. Faustina described one of these blessings by writing, “Jesus made a sign of the cross with His hand, and this blessing was reflected in the souls like a flash of light”. (Diary 1048) This is a central feature of the Image so it is fitting that as we pray before the Image of Divine Mercy we should ask Jesus to bless us, our family and friends, our community, our country and the whole world. There is no limit to Jesus’ power and goodness and His desire to grant graces to souls.
The third most significant part of the Image are the rays which are emitting from the Heart. We know from the Diary of St. Faustina that Jesus revealed to her that His Heart is the same as in the devotion to the Sacred Heart for Jesus showed it to her. She wrote in her diary, “Today, I saw the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the sky, in the midst of a great brilliance. The rays were issuing from the Wound in His side and spreading out over the entire world”. (Diary 1796)
The fourth most important part of the Image are the rays which are coming from His Merciful Heart. Initially St. Faustina’s spiritual director, Fr. Sopocko, was confused as to what these rays represented, so he asked her to ask Jesus for an explanation of the meaning of the rays. That evening during prayer, she heard the following words, “The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls… These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him”. (Diary 299)
The fifth most significant part of the Image are the position of the feet of Jesus in the Image. St. Faustina stated that you could see the wounds the nails made on His feet and that His left foot was more forward than the right foot which meant he was coming to us, with His mercy.