The Image of Divine Mercy

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You.” — Diary, 47

Jesus desired that the whole world would learn about His Divine Mercy. This week’s spiritual exercise transports us into the fascinating and intricate journey of the Divine Mercy Image. The marvelous journey involved much attention, prayer, and suffering, as well as a few twists and turns to finally get the Image out to the world. Let’s take a look!

Week 49

We cannot begin to fathom God’s great mercy. God’s mercy is not a new teaching, but Jesus taught it in a renewed way to His bride, His “Secretary of Mercy,” St. Faustina. In His goodness, God has gifted us with new visible signs of His mercy, using His humble instrument, St. Faustina, to carry out the mission of Divine Mercy, passing on to us the majestic image of Divine Mercy to stir our hearts and remind us to call on His mercy. Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, vice-postulator in North America for St. Faustina’s cause for canonization, said, “The image Jesus asked for, therefore, is to be a powerful means by which souls might learn of this — the deepest of all mysteries hidden in His person; and thus they will be encouraged to take advantage of that Mercy which no one will ever be able to fathom, and which the Lord Himself declared through Sr. Faustina to be God’s greatest attribute.”

The Image of Divine Mercy is central to the message of Divine Mercy. The journey of the Image had a few twists and turns. Let’s back up to the evening of February 22, 1931, in Plock, when St. Faustina, a young nun in the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, would see an extraordinary vision. Jesus came to her in her cell, clothed in a white garment. She wrote: “One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast.” She recalled each detail. “From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale.” Completely awestruck and filled with great joy, Sr. Faustina silently kept her eyes fixed on Jesus. After some time, Jesus spoke to her. “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world. 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. I Myself will defend it as My own glory” (Diary, 47-48).

We can only imagine what the young nun felt in those moments. She did write that her soul was “struck with awe” and “great joy.” However, the tremendous weight of responsibility would soon follow, as well as the discouragement she felt because she was not believed when she shared what happened with a select few. Still, this was her mission, and she was determined to carry it out.

Sister Faustina immediately discussed the vision with her confessor, who said, “That refers to your soul. Certainly, paint God’s image in your soul.” She left the confessional and heard the words, “My image already is in your soul. 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.” Jesus gave additional instructions to Sr. Faustina, telling her that He desired that “priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine towards souls of sinners.” He continued, “Let the sinner not be afraid to approach Me. The flames of mercy are burning Me — clamoring to be spent; I want to pour them out upon these souls” (Diary, 49-50).

This young mystic would need to share these instructions with her superiors. She approached Mother Rose and told her all about the vision. The Mother Superior then requested a sign in order to be able to recognize Jesus’ will more clearly. So Sr. Faustina asked Jesus for a sign as a proof “that You are truly my God and Lord and that this request comes from You.” She immediately heard an interior voice, “I will make this all clear to the Superior by means of the graces which I will grant through the Image” (Diary, 51). It would seem that Jesus’ response meant the Image needed to be painted before the proof would come. What a quandary! No one believed her. She eventually tried to turn away from her interior inspirations, but as she wrote in her Diary, God told her “that on the day of judgment He would demand of me a great number of souls” (Diary, 52); in other words, she had to be faithful to her call or else be guilty of the loss of many souls who might have otherwise been saved.

Divine Mercy on Her Shoulders

As mentioned earlier, with this great responsibility weighing upon her shoulders and having to deal with various difficulties relating to the task of getting the Image painted, Sr. Faustina decided that she should ask Fr. Andrasz to dispense her from the responsibilities that came from all her interior inspirations and the duty of painting the Image. We know she did not receive the response she hoped for. He said, “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” (Diary, 52). He also told her that she needed a permanent spiritual director. Sister Faustina was upset that she was not freed from the responsibilities coming from her private revelations. She was also upset by the fact that she did not have a regular confessor. On top of that, she had much trouble discussing the graces she had received. The journey was difficult, and Sr. Faustina doubted she could accomplish what was asked of her.

Sister Faustina asked Jesus to give the graces to someone else because she felt she was wasting them, since she couldn’t put them to use. She said, “Jesus, have mercy on me; do not entrust such great things to me, as You see that I am a bit of dust and completely inept” (Diary, 53). Through it all, Sr. Faustina trusted that Jesus would provide. After all, He had promised her visible help on earth. That came when she went to Vilnius, where she would finally meet Fr. Sopoćko, who would spiritually direct her. At first, this priest was a bit skeptical. As we know, Fr. Sopoćko instructed Sr. Faustina to keep a diary of her experiences. In time, he realized that they were authentic.

The Greatness of the Image is in God’s Grace

Father Sopoćko was very instrumental in getting the Divine Mercy Image painted. But at first, he wasn’t sure if he believed everything Sr. Faustina told him. He admitted, “Finally, because I was curious what the image would be like rather than I believed that Sister Faustina’s visions were true, I decided to start having the picture painted.” He found the artist, Eugene Kazimirowski, to paint the Divine Mercy Image. At first, Sr. Faustina was very sad about the results. Let’s see how Jesus’ faithful servant Fr. Sopoćko explained it. In 1958, Bl. Michael Sopoćko wrote a letter describing the painting and the efforts it took to get the image painted. He wrote:

Upon my request, Mr. Eugene Kazimirowski began the painting of the image on January 2, 1934. Sister Faustina of blessed memory with the permission of the Superior, Mother Irene, came once or twice a week to the painter’s studio (in the company of another sister) and imparted instructions, how this image is to look. For several months the painter was unable to satisfy the author [Faustina], who became sad on that account, and it was at this time that she wrote in her Diary: “Once when I was at that painter’s, who’s painting this image, and saw that it is not as beautiful as Jesus is, I became very sad, but I hid that deep in my heart. When we left the painter, Mother Superior remained in the city to settle various matters, but I returned home by myself, immediately I made my way to the chapel and I had a good cry. I said to the Lord: ‘Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?’ Of a sudden I heard the words: ‘not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush is the greatness of this image, but in my grace.’” ...

The image represents Christ in a walking posture against a dark background in a white garment, girdled by a band [belt, cincture]. With the right hand, raised to the height of the shoulder, He is blessing, and with the left one (with two fingers) He is opening the garment somewhat in the area of the Heart (not visible), from which are coming out rays (on the viewer’s right a pale [colorless] one, and on the left a red one) in various directions, but principally toward the viewer. Sister Faustina called attention to this, that the right hand not be raised above the shoulder, not to bend forward, and only place the left foot forward to indicate movement, that the garment be long and somewhat fallen into folds at the bottom, that the Lord Jesus’ gaze be directed a bit toward the bottom, as it happens when, standing, one looks at a point on the ground a few steps away, that the expression of the face of Jesus be gracious and merciful, that the fingers of the right hand be upright [erect] and freely lie close together, and on the left [hand] — [that] the thumb and index fingers hold open the garment; that the rays not be like ribbons [bands] hanging down toward the ground, but that with intermittent [broken] strips [streaks] they be directed toward the viewer and lightly to the sides, coloring to a certain degree the hands and surrounding objects: that these rays be transparent in such a way that through them the band [belt, cincture] and garment be visible; that the saturation of the rays with redness and whiteness be greatest at the source (in the area of the Heart) and then slowly diminish and vanish [dissolve, fade away].

In the introduction to the Diary, Sr. M. Elzbieta Siepak, OLM, explained, “The image not only represents The Divine Mercy, but also serves as a sign that recalls the Christian obligation of trust in God and of active love toward neighbor. By Christ’s will, the image bears a signature comprised of these words: ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’” She also stated, “‘This image,’ Jesus also declared, ‘is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works’ (742)” (Diary, introduction, xxiii).

The Meaning of the Two Rays

At one point, Sr. Faustina’s confessor asked her to ask Jesus the meaning of the two rays in the image. The saintly sister asked Jesus in prayer. She heard these 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 the 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. I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy (Diary, 299).

Jesus continued:

Ask of my faithful servant [Fr. Sopoćko] that, on this day, he tell the whole world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.

Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy.

Oh, how much I am hurt by a soul’s distrust! Such a soul professes that I am Holy and Just, but does not believe that I am Mercy and does not trust in My Goodness. Even the devils glorify My Justice but do not believe in My goodness.

My heart rejoices in this title of Mercy (Diary, 300).

Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy (Diary, 301).

Saint John Paul II spoke about the two rays of light flowing from Jesus’ Heart and illuminating the world during a homily on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001. He said:

Today the Lord also shows us His glorious wounds, and His Heart, an inexhaustible source of truth, of love, and forgiveness. ... Saint Faustina Kowalska saw, coming from this Heart that was over flowing with generous love, two rays of light which illuminated the world. “The two rays,” according to what Jesus Himself told her, “represent the blood and the water” (Diary, 299). The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha, and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, according to the rich symbolism of the Evangelist John, makes us think of Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5; 4:14). Through the mystery of this wounded Heart, the restorative tide of God’s merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long for true and lasting happiness find its secret.

During World War II, tiny replicas of the Divine Mercy Image were made and distributed in Poland to give hope to people in desperate times. Soldiers concealed them under their clothing. The Eugene Kazimirowski painting of 1934-35 is the original Image of the Divine Mercy, and its creation was overseen by St. Faustina and Fr. Sopoćko. Permission was given by the Archbishop of Vilnius in 1937 for the painting to be hung publicly. After being restored to its original colors and contours, it presently hangs in the Cathedral in Vilnius, Lithuania. Since the original was painted, many other artists have painted their own versions of the Divine Mercy image, and some of the images have received ecclesiastical approval for dissemination to the faithful and display in churches. No version is absolutely perfect because no one can capture exactly the Image of Divine Mercy using paint and brush.

Sister M. Elżbieta Siepak, OLM, poignantly explained the beautiful benefits of venerating the Divine Mercy image in the introduction of the Diary:

When we venerate this image with personal trust in Jesus and perform works of mercy out of love for Him and our neighbor, the Lord fulfills His promise by offering us extraordinary graces. These are: eternal salvation, great progress in the way of Christian perfection, the grace of a happy death, and all other possible graces which people will ask Him with trust. [Then she quoted what Jesus said to St. Faustina:] “By means of this Image I shall be granting many graces to souls; so let every soul have access to it” (Diary, 570).

Something to Ponder

Saint Faustina was given a huge task in transmitting the Divine Mercy message and devotion, a task that included getting the Image painted. Take time this week to meditate upon the Divine Mercy Image. Look at the two rays gushing forth from Jesus’ Heart. Ponder those rays. Pray, “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You!” God’s mercy is unfathomable. Spending time meditating on it and praying for a deeper understanding will certainly aid you in your comprehension. Ponder the possibility of placing a Divine Mercy Image in your home or workplace. Jesus said those who gaze upon the Image will receive great graces.

A Merciful Action

Countless souls are confused and misguided, crippled with worry or fears. Ponder how your works of mercy this week could help alleviate someone’s suffering. Could you possibly tell others about the Divine Mercy Message or Image? 

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK

(To be prayed each day this week.)

Dear Merciful Jesus, You have blessed the world with Your great merciful image.

Please help me to teach others about Your mercy.

Mother Mary, keep me close to Your Immaculate Heart.

Saint Faustina, please pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You!

Amen.

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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