A Living Image (by Val Conlon)
Image of Divine Mercy is alive
In this article I hope to convey my belief that the Divine Mercy Image is a living Image, and that this Icon of Jesus is much more than just a religious painting. This conviction is supported by many passages from the Diary.
Christ’s Revelations about the Image of Divine Mercy
In the revelation of 1934, He called the Image a “vessel” to which people should come to receive graces from the very source of God’s Mercy. In the vision of December 1935, He described it as an instrument, by which He will grant graces to people in need. Therefore the Image is the most important gift Jesus has given to us in this communication from God to the world through Saint Faustina. But I believe that seeking mercy from the image of Divine Mercy without living mercy in one’s own life may have the opposite effect. Jesus said: “This Image is also to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith, is of no avail without works” (742) This is also confirmed by Gospel (James 2.14) “Take the case my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims he has faith. Will that faith save him”?
Vessel of Mercy
Jesus requires Devotion to His Divine Mercy to be a renewal of Christian life and therefore you must be sure your devotion to His Mercy is not hypocrisy. Thus the Image points clearly to the duty of living mercy in our lives, knowing if we live true to our Christian faith we can receive His mercy at will from this vessel, which He has given us as a source of God’s mercy.
The Night of the Vision of Divine Mercy
The first Image of Jesus as Divine Mercy appeared to Helen Kowalska, a 25 year old Polish girl who had taken the name Faustina when she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in August 1925, we know her today as Saint Faustina. She was in her room in her convent in Plock, sometime late in the evening of 22nd February 1931. Her description of the momentous event is recorded in her diary of that day.
Describing the Vision
She said in the evening she was suddenly aware of a figure appearing in her room. She recognised the figure as Jesus, dressed in a white garment. (Diary No.47) His right hand was raised in the gesture of a blessing. His left hand was touching His breast where two bright streams of rays starting from His heart and spreading out as they descended to the floor – one stream was red, the other pale, showing as pale blue in the original painting, as described by her to the first artist who painted this image.
Source of Graces
On this first of many appearances of Jesus the Son of God to St.Faustina, He requested her to have an image painted of what she saw. The image He told her would be a means for great graces bestowed to all who prayed before it and asked for mercy for themselves and others. He told her it should have the signature “Jesus I trust in You” which implied this should be spoken meaningfully when you seek graces through this Image.
Honouring the Image
Jesus wanted this image of Himself as Divine Mercy to be honoured, throughout the world. The importance of this was repeated again and again during His visits to St. Faustina. He also added some extraordinary promises connected with the worship of the image.
Confusion because of Apparition
Some days later St. Faustina told her confessor about this but he did not understand her and interpreted the Saviour’s wish as referring to mean spiritually, He told Faustina to retain the divine image in her soul which would inspire deeds of mercy. But the image Jesus wanted painted had a much greater purpose. Soon after this confession, Jesus addressed her again, repeating His wish to have the Image of Divine Mercy painted (Diary 491).When she mentioned it to her Superior, her Superior asked for proof that this request really came from Jesus and was not just part of her imagination. As a result the Saint asked Jesus for a proof to show the superior but Jesus replied that the extraordinary graces which He would grant through this image would be the proof. (Diary 511)
Painting the Image
In Lent 1933 Jesus emphasised the importance of painting the Image to save many souls. He told St. Faustina that she would be responsible for failing to save many souls if she neglected having the Image painted. When the work on the painting started, Jesus asked St. Faustina to have this Image of the Divine Mercy displayed in public on the first Sunday after Easter. (Diary 88) St. Faustina’s spiritual director, Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko asked about the inscription required on the painting. St. Faustina answered that Christ wanted the words, “Jesus I trust in You” which had been given to her in the first apparition on 22nd February 1931. She also emphasised to Fr. Sopocko that Jesus also explained that the Image was to be a vessel through which all souls would receive graces as if from a fountain of God’s mercy [Diary 327].
My gaze from the cross
At the same time another revelation took place when Jesus explained the meaning of His gaze or facial expression in the image. He said “My gaze from this Image is like My gaze from the Cross,” [Diary 326]. Jesus also said to her that the greatness of the Image was not in the expertise of the artist but in the graces that flowed from it to those who prayed in front of this image and trusted in His Mercy. (Diary 313)
Divine Mercy Image Rays
Blessed Fr. Sopocko also asked St. Faustina to explain the meaning of the rays. During prayer Jesus told her that the two streams of rays denoted the Blood and Water which ran from His side when it was opened by a lance on the cross. The pale rays stand for the Water which cleanses the soul of past sins, and the red rays represent His Blood which He shed for the renewal of souls. (Diary 299) In her Diary St. Faustina records that on the 26th of October 1934, a very special vision of the Image took place. It happened in the convent gardens in Vilnius at 5.50 pm and lasted about four minutes. She saw Jesus in the sky above the Convent looking as He did in the original Image in Plock in 1931.The rays of love and mercy were emanating from His heart were covering the Convent in Vilnius and then spreading out over the whole world. (Diary 87) On the 5th of November 1934 Jesus confirmed the importance of the Image being solemnly blessed and venerated on the first Sunday after Easter as part of the conditions to allow Him grant complete cleansing of the soul on this special day. (Diary 341)
The Connection of the Divine Mercy Image and the Eucharist
The First Vision
In November 1934, St. Faustina experienced a revelation which connected the Image to the Eucharist for the first time. During Holy Mass, when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed before Communion, St. Faustina saw the red and pale rays, as depicted in the Image coming out of the Sacred Host.
The Second Vision
One month later, on the 20th of December, she had a vision where she saw Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament being venerated by Father Sopocko and many other priests and religious and great crowds of lay people. The same rays came out of the Host and then passed through the hands of Fr. Sopocko and then through the hands of the clergy and from their hands to the people, and then they returned to the Host (Diary 344). This is a clear indication of the onus Christ put on priests to help Him dispense God’s mercy.
The Third Vision
At the end of January 1935, while waiting for confession, St. Faustina saw the rays coming out from the monstrance and spreading throughout the Church. Their appearance was bright and transparent like crystal. The revelation lasted the whole service [Diary 370].
The Fourth Vision
On Good Friday, the 19th of April 1935, at 3pm, when St. Faustina entered the chapel she heard the words, “I desire that the Image be publicly honoured” (Diary 414). In her diary she described how she saw Jesus dying on the cross, suffering greatly and the rays spreading out over the world.
The Display of the Image for the First Time
The Image of the Divine Mercy was publicly displayed for the first time at the Mother of Divine Mercy Shrine in Vilnius on 26-28 April 1935 during the celebrations concluding the Jubilee Year on the anniversary of the Redemption of the World. The Divine Mercy Image of Jesus was placed beside the image of Our Lady the Mother of Mercy, as if the Mother was giving her Son to the world once again on the anniversary of His death on the Cross, which redeemed the world.
The First Vision of this weekend
At the beginning of this historic weekend, while Fr. Sopocko was giving a sermon on Divine Mercy, St. Faustina saw the painting come alive and the rays went out over the whole congregation and pierced the hearts of all the people there. (Diary 417)
The Second Vision of this weekend
Then on the Sunday, which was Low Sunday (now called the Feast of Mercy), as the Mass ended, Fr. Sopocko took the Blessed Sacrament and blessed the congregation. But what St. Faustina saw was Christ as He is represented in the Image of Divine Mercy, blessing all the people present. The rays once again spread out over them and then she saw the rays continue to spread out over the whole world. The importance of mercy Sunday was once again demonstrated here.
Vision on Corpus Christi
On the solemnity of Corpus Christi, 20th June 1935, the painting of the Divine Mercy Image was placed in front of the altar. When the Blessed Sacrament was put on the altar, the rays from the Image went through the Sacred Host and spread out over the world. At that moment Faustina heard Jesus say that the rays of mercy would pass through her to the world, just as they had passed through the Host [Diary 441].
Vision of Divine Mercy – Asks for religious convent
On the 29 June 1935, St. Faustina saw Jesus again, as He is represented in the picture. He expressed a desire that a new religious congregation should be founded to help spread devotion to His Divine Mercy (Diary 437).
Vision on the Feast of Christ the King
On the 27th October 1935, during the celebrations of the feast of Christ the King, St. Faustina saw Jesus again in the same way as He is represented in the Divine Mercy Image. It happened during Holy Mass while she was praying that He might be beloved by all the world and that His Divine Mercy would reach into every soul. (Diary 500)
Fr. Sopocko believes in the Image
In the last quarter of 1935 three more revelations concerning the Image of the Divine Mercy took place. In December 1935, Fr. Sopocko got a message from Jesus through St. Faustina telling him to move the painting from the privacy of the convent (where he had left it) to the public church to enable the public to have access to the image and by veneration of it obtain the graces that He intended to flow from it. (Diary 570) This message convinced Fr. Sopocko of the authenticity of the revelations.