Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Image of Merciful Jesus - Vilnius (Lithuania)

"I offer people a vessel with which they are to keep
coming for graces to the fountain of mercy.
That vessel is this image with the inscription:
Jesus, I trust in You" (Diary, 327).
"By means of this Image I shall be granting many graces,
so let every soul have access to it" (Diary, 570).

Vilnius (Lithuania)
Płock, Poland "February 22, 1931
In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing; the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, and the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord; my soul was struck with awe, but also with great joy. After a while, Jesus said to me, "paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You".
(...) I promise that the soul that venerates this image will not perish. I also promise victory over its enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. (...) I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; That Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy. I desire that priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine towards the souls of sinners. Let the sinner be not afraid to approach Me. 
(...) Once, exhausted because of these various difficulties that had befallen me because of Jesus speaking to me and demanding to paint this image, I made up my mind to approach Father Andrasz before my perpetual vows, and to ask him to dispense me from all these interior inspirations and from the duty of painting this image. After having heard my confession, Father Andrasz gave me this answer:
"I will dispense you from nothing, Sister; it is not right for you to turn away from these interior inspirations, but you must absolutely – and I say, absolutely – speak about them to your confessor; otherwise you will go astray despite the great graces you are receiving from God. For the present you are coming to me for confession, but understand, Sister, that you must have a permanent confessor; that is to say, a spiritual director". I was very upset by this. I thought that I would get myself free from everything, and it turned out quite the opposite - an explicit command to follow the requests of Jesus. And now, still another torment, as I had no permanent confessor.
(...) But the goodness of Jesus is infinite; He had promised me visible help here on earth and a little while later I received it in Vilnius, in the person of Father Sopoćko. I had already known him before coming to Vilnius, thanks to an interior vision. One day I saw him in our chapel between the altar and the confessional and suddenly heard a voice in my soul say "This is the visible help for you on earth. He will help you carry out My will on earth" (Diary, 47-53).
The task set by Lord Jesus for Faustina was beyond her human capabilities since she lacked even basic art skills. She tried to obey the God's Will by seeking help from one of her co-sisters to paint the image. But that did not work.
On the one hand, she was being urged by Lord Jesus to complete the work and, on the other hand, she faced disbelief of confessors and supervisors. This resulted in great personal suffering for Sister Faustina. During her stay in P‎‎‎lock (over 2 years), and then in Warsaw, Sister Faustina kept thinking about the outstanding request from Lord Jesus, the more so because He was showing her the importance of this task in God's plans.
"Suddenly, I saw the Lord who said to me: Know, that if you neglect the matter of the painting of the image and the whole work of Divine Mercy, you will have to answer for a multitude of souls on the day of judgment" (Diary, 154).
After taking her perpetual vows, Faustina was moved to the convent in Vilnius (May 25, 1933). Here, she met the help she was promised – her confessor and spiritual director, father Michael Sopoćko, who undertook the attempt to complete the request of Lord Jesus.
"Driven more by curiosity about how the image will look, rather than the faith in the truthfulness of these visions, I asked the fine painter Prof. Eugeniusz Kazimirowski to paint the image" (Father Sopoćko, “Memoirs”).
Father Sopoćko in part introduced the mission of Sister Faustina to the painter and swore him to secrecy. When painting the image of Merciful Jesus this esteemed and well-educated painter gave up his own artistic vision in order to paint diligently what he was told to by Sister Faustina. She came to the painter’s atelier at least once a week for six months to point out the additions and necessary corrections. She aimed for the image of Merciful Jesus to be exactly the same as it was shown to her in her vision.
In painting the image she was assisted actively by Father Sopoćko – the founder of the work, who, at the request of the painter, was posing wearing an alb.
Their time spent together on the painting became an opportunity for a more insightful understanding of the essence of the image. Any disputes were resolved by Lord Jesus Himself (Diary 299; 326; 327; 344). The conversation between Sister Faustina and the Lord Jesus about the painted image was very meaningful:
"When I visited the artist who was painting the image, and saw that it was not as beautiful as Jesus is, I felt very sad, but I hid this deep in my heart. (…) Mother Superior stayed in town to attend to some matters while I returned home alone. I asked myself, is it as beautiful as You are? Then I heard these words: neither in the beauty of the colour, nor in the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace" (Diary, 313).
From this conversation emanates the honesty of the person gifted with a supernatural grace, who saw - in her mystical experiences - the beauty of the resurrected Savior (see Memoirs of Father Sopoćko). Many times did Lord Jesus appear to Faustina in such a form as presented in the image (Diary 473; 500; 560; 613;657;1046), and He also made numerous requests for this painting, which He sanctified with His living presence, to be made available for public veneration.
Thanks to the efforts of Father Sopoćko, on April 26-28, 1935, the image of the Merciful Savior, displayed in the window of a gallery near to the chaplet of the Mary, Mother of Mercy at the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, was for the first time venerated publically during the festive ceremony ending the Jubilee of the 1900th anniversary of the Redemption of the World. On the final day of the celebrations – it was the first Sunday after Easter – the service was attended by Sister Faustina. The homily on the Divine Mercy was delivered by Father Sopoćko, just as requested by Lord Jesus.
"For three days it was exposed and received public veneration. Since it was placed at the very top of a window at the Gate of Dawn (Ausros Vartai), it could be seen from a great distance. During these three days, the closing of the Jubilee of the Redemption of the World was being celebrated, at the Gate of Dawn, marking the nineteen hundred years that have passed since the Passion of our Savior. I see now that the work of Redemption is bound-up with the work of mercy requested by Our Lord" (Diary, 89).
The jubilee celebrations at the Gate of Dawn constituted for Sister Faustina a sign and the fulfillment of the graces promised earlier – a public apparition of the power of the Divine Mercy.

The present view of the chaplet and gallery at the Gate of Down
(see the Icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Down)
"When the image was displayed, I saw a sudden movement of the hand of Jesus, as He made a large sign of the cross. In the evening of the same day, (...) I saw the image going over the town, and the town was covered with what appeared to be a mesh and nets. As Jesus passed, He cut through all the nets..." (Diary, 416).
„When I was in the Gate of Dawn attending the ceremony during which the image was displayed, I heard a sermon given by my confessor. This sermon about Divine Mercy was the first of the things that Jesus had asked for so very long ago. When he began to speak about the great Mercy of Our Lord, the image came alive and the rays pierced the hearts of the people gathered there, but not all to the same degree. Some received more, some less. Great joy filled my soul to see the grace of God" (Diary, 417).
"Toward the end of the service, when the priest took the Blessed Sacrament to bless the people, I saw Our Lord Jesus as He is represented in the image. Our Lord gave His blessing, and the rays extended over the whole world. Suddenly, I saw an impenetrable brightness in the form of a crystal dwelling place, woven together from waves of brilliance unapproachable to both creatures and spirits. Three doors led to this resplendence. At that moment, Jesus, as He is represented in the image, entered this resplendence through the second door to the Unity within" (Diary, 420).
On April 4, 1937 with the permission of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Vilnius Romuald Jałb‎rzykowski, the image of the Merciful Savior was blessed and placed in Saint Michael’s Church in Vilnius, next to the high altar. At that church, beautifully exposed in an impressive gilded frame, it was venerated and given numerous votive offerings; it was diffusing sanctity and the Divine Mercy devotion quickly spread beyond the borders of Vilnius. Miraculously, irrespective of physical limitations, it reached millions of people all over the world.
"In her later correspondence, Sister Faustina writes to Father Sopoćko:
"God let me know that he is pleased with what has already been done. Immersed in prayer and God's intimacy, I have experienced great peace in my soul about this work as a whole. (…) And now, with regard to these pictures (small copies), (...) People are buying them a little and many souls have experienced God’s grace through this source. As with everything, this will take time. These pictures are not as beautiful as the big painting. They are bought by those who are attracted by the grace of God..." (Cracow, February 21, 1938).
As a result war (1939-1945) and the annexation of Lithuania by the USSR, the image of Merciful Jesus became inaccessible to pilgrims for several decades. Despite numerous dangers (it was hidden in the attic, many times rolled-up, stored in inappropriate conditions (dampness and freezing), terribly restored), thanks to Divine Providence, the painting miraculously survived the era of Communism.

During his pilgrimage to Vilnius, on September 5, 1993, Pope John Paul II prayed before
the image of Merciful Jesus at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. In his homily
to the faithful he called this image

The first image of Merciful Jesus since 2005 has been worshipped at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Vilnius.

Perpetual adoration at the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Vilnius

In the history of apparitions, there is only one known case of Lord Jesus expressing His wish to paint the picture with the image of Himself. He Himself presented and approved the artistic vision of the image – showing many times to Sister Faustina His living presence in such a form as it is reconstructed in the painting. Moreover, promising the special graces to the worshippers of the image – He made the painting of extraordinary religious value.

"I offer people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces
to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the inscription:
Jesus, I trust in You" (Diary, 327).
"By means of this Image I shall be granting many graces,
so let every soul have access to it" (Diary, 570).
“I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.
I also promise victory over its enemies already here on earth,
especially at the hour of death” (Diary, 47).
"The two rays [in the image] denote blood and water. The pale ray stands for the water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the blood that 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 (...). Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him" (Diary, 299).

"When he began to speak [Father Sopoćko] about the great Mercy of Our Lord, the image came alive and the rays pierced the hearts of the people gathered there..." (Diary, 417).


According to the statements of Father Sopoćko (preserved on tapes), he gave Sister Faustina a free-hand in co-operating with the fine painter. At the same time, in his statements and the writings he left, he confirms that the image was painted precisely according to her instructions. The Holy Image of the Savior memorized by Sister Faustina was delivered with due diligence, proof of which is the fact that the image from the painting matches identically the dimensions of the person shown in the Turin Shroud.

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