We celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday today. It is a special day to reflect on the ever flowing merciful love of God. Over 80 years ago, an image was painted in an attempt to illustrate God’s mercy. Here are 5 interesting questions and answers about this beautiful Divine Mercy artwork.
1. What is the Divine Mercy image?
The Divine Mercy image is a depiction of Jesus based on a vision that St. Faustina had in 1931.
Jesus is shown raising his right hand in blessing and with his left hand on his chest, from which flow forth two rays: one red and one white.
The rays streaming out have symbolic meaning: red for the blood of Jesus (which is the Life of Souls), and pale for the water (which justify souls) (from Diary – 299). The whole image is symbolic of charity, forgiveness and love of God, referred to as the “Fountain of Mercy”. The depictions often contains the message “Jesus, I trust in You!”
Source: Akin, Jimmy. “9 Things You Need to Know About Divine Mercy Sunday.” National Catholic Register, 4 April 2013.
2. What did Jesus say about the image?
When our Lord appeared to Sister Faustina, she gazed intently at the Lord in silence. Her soul filled with awe, but also with great joy, and Jesus said to her: Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You (Diary, 47).
I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You (327). I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world (47).
And later, after the image was painted he told her:
“Already there are many souls who have been drawn to My love by this image. My mercy acts in souls through this work” (1379).
Source: Kowalska, Faustina: (1987) Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Stockbridge, MA: Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception
3. Who painted the Divine Mercy Image?
St. Faustina’s spiritual director was Father Michael Sopocko. He entrusted the painting of the Merciful Jesus to local polish painter Eugeniusz Kazimirowski. Sister Faustina visited the painter’s studio to give some instructions and tell the artist about details of the image.
Father Sopocko did his best to make sure that the painted image precisely followed her instructions. The image was complete in 1934.
Source: “History of the First Image of Merciful Jesus.” The Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus
4. Why did St. Faustina cry when she saw the artwork?
It is reported that Sister Faustina wept in disappointment and said to the Lord:
“Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?” Then she heard these words: “Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace” (Diary, 313).
“If Kazimirowski failed at painting the Divine Mercy, then we have to say that Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and da Vinci failed. Every artist also fails to render Christ, but succeeds in pointing us in the direction of Christ.”
Source: Hadacek Chaplin, Lori. “Film Uncovers Mystery of Divine Mercy Painting.” Catholic Digest
5. Why are there so many different Divine Mercy images?
For decades, the original sacred image was hidden/neglected due to World War II and the subsequent Soviet occupation. Some of the notable places, in which it awaited its public return, was in an attic, a warehouse, and an abandoned church.
During the original image’s absence, other versions were created in order to assist in the continuation of spreading the message of Divine Mercy.
Many different versions of this image have been painted, but our Lord made it clear that the painting itself is not what is important. Remember the Lord said “Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace” (Diary, 313).
So, no matter which version of the image you prefer, you can be assured that it is a vehicle of God’s grace if it is revered with trust in His mercy.
Original image after years of deteroriation, and then after restoration
A fitting way to close is with one of the prayers from the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which beautifully describes this inexhaustible mercy which flows from our Lord:
You expired Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelope the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.