Blessed Fr. Sopocko
Between the Image and the Reality
Blessed Michael Sopocko: Mercy Image Signifies the Means to Wholeness in God
God cannot be reduced to our conception of Him. We can imagine God, but our idea is limited. How can we see Him as He is? He is eternal. We will die. He is omniscient. We know little. He is everywhere. We can only be in one place at any given time.
Given the blunt instrument of language, the nearest we can come is to accept the Gospel writer when he says, "God is love." Thoughts of God, focused and refined into prayer, bring grace. From grace comes comfort. Images, though, are not necessarily useful. It would do us no good to worship an image, but we benefit when we behold an image of God, held steadfastly, while never mistaking what we see for actual divinity. An image of God is no more God than a set of blueprints is a magnificent cathedral.
This thought introduces a teaching on the image of The Divine Mercy by Blessed Michael Sopocko, confessor and spiritual director of St. Faustina. Blessed Michael, convinced in the truth of what the young nun was telling him, commissioned a painting of the image Sr. Faustina said Jesus asked her to paint. He knew the importance of having this image.
Here is what Blessed Michael wrote in 1958:
The image of Jesus as The Divine Mercy represents Christ in a walking position clothed in a long, white garment, girded with a girdle. The gaze of our Lord's eyes is somewhat lowered (as on the cross). With His right hand, He slightly draws aside the garment in the vicinity of His heart, from which spring forth two rays, the red ray on the [viewer's] left, the pale (the color of water) on the right.
These rays signify the Blood and Water, which flowed from the opened side of Jesus on the cross. From that time on, they gush forth from the divine Heart of the Savior in the form of graces purifying the soul from the stains of sin (in the sacraments of Baptism and Penance). They shield the soul from the just anger of the heavenly Father. Whoever lives in their light, that is, whoever duly avails himself of the Christ-instituted Sacraments ... him the just hand of God will not touch.
As we gaze upon the [image of The Divine Mercy], we are reminded of Holy Baptism with all its salutary effects and of the Sacrament of Penance and the words of absolution [that] proclaim to us God's reconciling mercy. It also recalls to our mind indulgences, which are extra-sacramental remission of the temporal punishment [of sin], and likewise reminds us of the Sacrament of Holy Orders instituted during the Last Supper and completed by our Lord after His resurrection when he appeared to the Apostles in the Cenacle.
Therefore, the [image] represents to us the deepest mysteries of Easter: imparting to the Apostles the Holy Spirit, who henceforth will operate in the Church, rule it, regenerate sinners to a new life, anoint prophets, and apply the merits of Christ's sufferings and death to individual souls.
The [image] represents the infinite Divine Mercy and arouses the faithful to its imitation by personal works of mercy. The ejaculatory prayer inserted beneath the picture — "Jesus, I trust in you!" — instills into our souls trust in God in difficulties, hope and courage amidst dangers, and renders the soul magnanimous in its service to God.
Rebirth through the Trinity
In his discussion of the image of The Divine Mercy, Blessed Michael explains how the picture of Jesus recalls the Gospel saying "that must be born in the waters of Baptism to a new supernatural life."
This is a common theme that appears throughout much of Blessed Michael's writing — the need to be spiritually reborn in and through Christ. Blessed Michael draws a parallel between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity in heaven "and of the three on earth: the spirit, water, and blood which left the dead body of Christ on the cross."
His point? Spiritual rebirth is achievable through the merciful sacrifice designed by God the Father, accomplished by God the Son, and made manifest to us on earth by God the Holy Spirit.
Between the image and the act falls the shadow of God, obscure to us here on earth but one day to be perceived at Light.
Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of "Dan Valenti's Journal" at thedivinemercy.org.