A Picture that Changed My Life

For anyone who knows me, I can see their eyes rolling right now. “There she goes again!” I’ve had these “life-changing” experiences monthly since I entered in 1978.

Seriously, though. At the end of annual retreat this year, I read the explanation of our icon of the Divine Master. I’ve probably read it before. This time, however, it was the “sacrament” or channel of God’s grace in a particular way.

Our spirituality can be summed up in four words: Come. Listen. Learn. Become. We come to learn, to be transformed at the feet of the Master, in order to become Jesus for the world today. But who is this Jesus that we become, and how is it that we walk in the world today as Jesus.

Blessed Alberione left us the answer to these questions, coded, if you will, in an image: the Icon of the Divine Master.

Divine MasterAt the heart of a busy district of Rome, just a short distance from the Basilica of St. Paul, stands the Queen of Apostles Sanctuary, built in 1954 at the express wish of Fr. James Alberione. In the Sanctuary’s left side altar we find the traditional icon of the Divine Master (an oil painting on canvas by artist Fausto Conti). This icon embodies Fr. Alberione’s vision of Jesus Master Way, Truth and Life.

Its Door-shaped Frame: The icon of Jesus Master is depicted within a door-shaped frame. This “door” opens his disciples to the mystery of Jesus Master. It is a bright, straight and visible path…drawing us toward the Divine Master and leading us toward the Invisible. It is the “form” Jesus Master offers his disciples to help them “conform” themselves to him.

I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture…. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:9-10)

Around the Frame, the Four Evangelists: The evangelists are standing, available to the Master. They listen to him and are ready to follow him. The symbols of the evangelists are the traditional ones of the Gospel.

The figure of Jesus Master: The full figure (not just the head and shoulders) of Jesus Master appears at the center of the picture. The complete Christ…is presented to the complete person.

For us, Christ is the Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the unifying center in whom every human being and the whole of history find complete fulfillment. (Const. 7)

Our Risen Master bears the Signs of his crucifixion on his hands and feet: The marks left by the nails in the hands and feet of our crucified Master show us that he gives and communicates himself to humanity by means of the cross.

Christ came into the world to do the will of the Father…becoming obedient even to death on the cross. (cf. Const. 51)

Jesus’ clothing: The complete figure of the Divine Master represents the humanity of Christ; his white tunic stands for his availability to the Father; his red mantle indicates his role as Teacher, his sandals symbolize his entire mission—the commitment taken on by the missionary/evangelizer.

Preaching the Gospel gives me nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion and I should be in trouble if I failed to do it! (I Co. 9:16)

His raised hand: Jesus’ hand is raised in the attitude of one who teaches with authority. He asks that we heed him, our Master:
Come to me.
Listen to me.
Learn from me.
Become like me (cf. Jn. 1;39; Mt 11:28-30)

The Book: The open book in Jesus’ left hand bears the words that he used to describe himself: “Ego sum Via et Veritas et Vita”   “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”

These words are the core of our Pauline Spirituality.

The Pauline Family has a single spirituality: to live the Gospel in an integral way; to live the Divine Master inasmuch as he is Way, Truth and Life; to live him as his disciple St. Paul understood and lived him. (UPSIII, p. 187)

The halo and the shining cross: Jesus’ halo and the light eradiating from the cross and from him figure indicate the glory of the risen Christ. The shining cross forms a background for the figure of Jesus Master and irradiates a light that banishes the shadows engulfing the world (the globe at his feet). Jesus is our crucified and risen Master, the Living One in all his glory. He is the perpetual Light of the world; the true Light for every human being.

I am your Light and I will use you in order to enlighten. I give you this mission and I want you to carry it our. (AD 157)

Jesus’ feet on the globe: Jesus, his feet resting on the world, is depicted in the act of walking. His left foot rises to take the symbolic first step away walking. His left foot rises to take the symbolic first step away from Alba/Italy. Jesus taught us that we must not wait around; we must set out. He is an itinerant Master/Evangelizer.

The world, partially surrounded by clouds, symbolizes the need of all humanity for Christ’s salvation.

The invocation “Jesu Magister Via et Veritas et Vita”: At the foot of the icon are the words: Jesu Magister Via et Veritas et Vita: this is the Word we listen to, meditate on and transform into intercessory apostolic prayer.

Conclusion: The icon of Jesus Master presented by our Founder to the Pauline Family is a life-oriented synthesis of our charism.

I am with you, that is, with your Family, which I have willed, which I nourish, of which I am part, as the head. Do not hesitate, even if there are many difficulties! Rather, let me stay with you always: do not sin. (AD 156)

by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP





Jesus, Divine Master, Spirituality


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