The Image of Divine Mercy

In this article I hope to convey my belief that the Divine Mercy Image is a living Image, and that this Icon of Jesus is much more than just a painting. My conviction comes from the many passages in the Diary telling us this.

Christ’s Revelations about the Image of Divine Mercy

In the revelation of 1934, Jesus said the Image is a vessel to which we should keep coming to receive graces. He called it the very source of God's Mercy. In the vision of December 1935, He described it as an instrument, by which He will always grant graces.

If this is the case and Jesus always keeps His promises, then the Divine Mercy Image must be a most important presence in our lives, a living gift Jesus has given to a world, so in need of God’s Mercy.

But seeking mercy through the image, without being compassionate and merciful in our own lives may have a negative effect. Jesus said: “This Image is also to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith, is of no avail without works” (Diary 742) This is also confirmed by Gospel "Take the case my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims he has faith. Will his faith save him"? (James 2.14)

Vessel of Mercy

Jesus requires Devotion to His Divine Mercy to be a renewal of Christian life and therefore we must be sure our devotion to His Mercy is sincere. Thus the Image points clearly to a duty of being merciful in our own lives, knowing if we live true to our Christian faith we can receive His mercy at will.

The Night of the Vision of Divine Mercy

The first Image of Jesus as Divine Mercy appeared to Helen Kowalska, a 25 year old Polish girl who had taken the name Faustina when she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in August 1925, we know her today as Saint Faustina. She was in her room sometime late on the evening of 22nd February 1931. Her description of this momentous event is recorded in her diary of that day.

Describing the Vision

She said in the evening she was suddenly aware of a figure appearing out of the darkness. She immediately recognised the figure of Jesus, dressed in a white garment. (Diary No.47) His right hand was raised in the gesture of a blessing. His left hand was touching His breast where two bright rays emanated from His heart spread out as they descended to the floor - one ray was red, the other pale.

Source of Graces

On this first of His many appearances to St.Faustina as Divine Mercy, He asked her to have a painting made of this image. This image He told her would be a means of great graces bestowed on all who prayed before it for mercy for themselves or for others. He told her the Image should have the signature "Jesus I trust in You" which also implied that these words should be spoken after you pray in front of the image, to obtain the grace you ask for.

Honouring the Image

Jesus wanted this image which He called the fount of His Mercy to be exposed throughout the world. The importance of this was repeated again and again during the revelations about God’s Mercy and He emphasised the extraordinary promises connected with the worship of Jesus as Divine Mercy.

Confusion because of Apparition

Some days later St. Faustina told her confessor about this revelation but he did not understand her and interpreted the Saviour's wish differently. He told Faustina he thought Jesus meant to paint this image in her mind which would inspire her to deeds of mercy. But immediately afterwards Jesus addressed her again, emphasising His wish to have the Image of Divine Mercy painted on canvas and exposed first in her chapel and then throughout the world.(Diary 491).When she told this to her Superior, her Superior asked for proof that this request came from Jesus and was not just her imagination. As a result the Saint asked Jesus for a proof to show the superior but Jesus replied that the extraordinary graces which He would grant through this image would be the proof. (Diary 511)

Painting the Image

In Lent 1933 Jesus emphasised the importance of painting the Image, as it would be a means to save many souls. He told St. Faustina that she would be responsible for many souls if she neglected having the Image painted. When the work on the painting started, Jesus told her he wanted it displayed in public on the first Sunday after Easter. (Diary 88)

St. Faustina's spiritual director, Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko asked about the inscription required on the painting. St. Faustina answered that Christ wanted the words, "Jesus I trust in You" which had been given to her in the first apparition on 22nd February 1931. She also emphasised to Fr. Sopocko that Jesus also explained that the Image was to be a vessel through which all souls would receive graces as if from a flowing fountain. [Diary 327].

My gaze from the cross

At the same time another revelation took place when Jesus explained the meaning of His gaze or facial expression in the image. He said “My gaze from this Image is like My gaze from the Cross,” [Diary 326]. Jesus also said to her that the greatness of the Image was not in the expertise of the artist but in the graces that flowed from it to those who prayed in front of it and trusted in His promise. (Diary 313)

What the Rays stand for

Blessed Fr. Sopocko also asked St. Faustina to explain the meaning of the rays. During prayer Jesus told her that the two streams of rays denoted the Blood and Water which ran from His side when it was opened by a lance on the cross.

The pale rays stand for the Water which cleanses the soul of past sins, and the red rays represent the Blood which He shed for the renewal of souls. (Diary 299) In her Diary St. Faustina records that on the 26th of October 1934, a very special vision of the Image took place. It happened in the convent gardens in Vilnius at 5.50 pm and lasted about four minutes.

She saw Jesus in the sky above the Convent looking as He did in the original Image in 1931. The rays of love and mercy emanating from His heart were covering the Convent in Vilnius and then spreading out over the whole world. (Diary 87)

On the 5th of November 1934 Jesus confirmed the importance of the Image being solemnly blessed and venerated on the first Sunday after Easter as part of the conditions to allow Him grant complete cleansing of the soul on this special day. (Diary 341)

The Image and the Eucharist:

The First Vision

In November 1934, St. Faustina experienced a revelation which connected the Image to the Eucharist for the first time. During Holy Mass, when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed before Communion, St. Faustina saw the red and pale rays, as depicted in the Image coming out of the Sacred Host.

The Second Vision

One month later, on the 20th of December, she had a vision where she saw Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament being venerated by Father Sopocko with many other priests and religious and great crowds of lay people. The same rays came out of the Host and then passed through the hands of Fr. Sopocko and then through the hands of the clergy and from their hands to the people, and then they returned to the Host (Diary 344). This is a clear indication of the onus Christ put on priests to help Him dispense God’s mercy.

The Third Vision

At the end of January 1935, while waiting for confession, St. Faustina saw the rays coming out from the monstrance and spreading throughout the Church. Their appearance was bright and transparent like crystal. The revelation lasted the whole service [Diary 370].

The Fourth Vision

On Good Friday, the 19th of April 1935, at 3pm, when St. Faustina entered the chapel she heard the words, “I desire that the Image be publicly honoured and venerated” (Diary 414). In her diary she described how she saw Jesus dying on the cross, suffering greatly and the rays spreading out over the world.

The Display of the Image for the First Time

The Image of the Divine Mercy was publicly displayed for the first time at Ostra Brama the ‘Mother of Mercy’ Shrine in Vilnius on 26-28 April 1935 during the celebrations concluding the Jubilee Year on the anniversary of the Redemption of the World. The Divine Mercy Image of Jesus was placed beside the image of Our Lady the Mother of Mercy.

To Fr .Sopocko it seemed as if the Mother was giving her risen Son to the world once again on the anniversary of His death on the Cross, where His suffering and death won Divine Mercy from the Father and redeemed the world, all graphically displayed in this painting.

The First Vision of this weekend

At the beginning of this historic weekend, while Fr. Sopocko was giving the homily on Divine Mercy, St. Faustina saw the painting come alive and the rays going out over the whole congregation and piercing the hearts of all the people there (Diary 417) which it now does in the church on the Feast of Mercy.

The Second Vision of this weekend

Then on the Sunday, which was Low Sunday (now called the Feast of Mercy), as the Mass ended, Fr. Sopocko took the Blessed Sacrament and blessed the congregation. But what St. Faustina saw was Christ as He is represented in the Image of Divine Mercy, blessing all the people present. The rays once again spread out over them and then she saw the rays continue to spread out over the whole world. The importance of mercy Sunday was once again demonstrated here.

On the solemnity of Corpus Christi, 20th June 1935, the painting of the Divine Mercy Image was placed in front of the altar. When the Blessed Sacrament was put on the altar, the rays from the Image went through the Sacred Host and spread out over the congregation. At that moment Faustina heard Jesus say that the rays of mercy would one day pass through her to the world. [Diary 441].

On the 29 June 1935, St. Faustina saw Jesus again, as He is represented in the picture. He expressed a desire that a new religious congregation should be founded to help make the image and devotion to His Divine Mercy known (Diary 437).

Vision on the Feast of Christ the King

On the 27th October 1935, during the celebrations of the feast of Christ the King, St. Faustina saw Jesus again in the same way as He is represented in the Divine Mercy Image. It happened during Holy Mass while she was praying that He might be beloved by all the world and that His Divine Mercy would reach every soul. (Diary 500)

In the last quarter of 1935 three more revelations concerning the Image of the Divine Mercy took place. In December 1935, Fr. Sopocko got a message from Jesus through St. Faustina telling him to move the painting from the privacy of the convent (where he had left it) to be displayed in his church to enable the public to have access to His mercy by veneration of the image and the graces that would flow from it. (Diary 570) This was the message that convinced Fr. Sopocko of the authenticity of the revelations.


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