Roman documents are known by the first few words of the Latin text. “Misericordiae vultus” refers to the “face of mercy.” Pope Francis means the face of Jesus which reveals to human beings what God thinks of us, loves in us, and how he chose to relate to us:
1. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), after having revealed his name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person [Dei Verbum 4] reveals the mercy of God.
And so Pope Francis begins the document announcing the Jubilee of Mercy. The incarnation is a profound gesture of mercy. Not to minimize the Passion, but the event of the Nativity and God coming among us in human form is a significant gesture of mercy and love. We will be getting a lot of Scripture for the next few posts. Any comments as we commence?
This text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.
Hrm. This passage also makes me think of image as icon, that is, the Orthodox notion of an image “telling” some greater mystery, as it were. (I’m not so elegantly describing it only still on my first cup of coffee.)