Development of the image
PICTURE OF MERCIFUL JESUS
On February 22, 1931, while staying at Płock, Sister Faustina received Jésus’ order to paint a picture according to a model that was shown to her (cf.Diary 47).
The Saint tried to fulfill the command, but not knowing painting techniques, she was unable to do it by herself. Still, she did not give up the idea. She kept returning to it and sought help from other sisters and from her confessors.
A few years later her superiors sent her to Vilnius (Wilno), where her confessor, Rev. Prof. Michael Sopoćko, interested to see what the picture of a hitherto unknown theme would look like, asked the painter Eugene Kazimierowski to paint the picture according to sister Faustina’s directions. The picture was finished in June 1934 and hung in the corridor of the Bernardine Sister’s convent near St. Michael’s Church in Vilnius, where Father Sopoćko was rector.
In 1935, during the celebrations concluding the Jubilee Year of the Redemption of the World, the image of The Divine Mercy was transferred to the Ostra Brama [“Eastern Gate” to the city of Vilnius] and placed in a high window so that it could be seen from far away. It was there from April 26 to April 28. By permission of Archbishop Romuald Jalbrzykowski, on April 4, 1937, the image was blessed and placed in St. Michael’s Church in Vilnius.
In 1944, a committee of experts was formed, at the order of Archbishop Jalbrzykowski, to evaluate the image. The experts’ opinion was that the image of The Divine mercy, painted by E. Kazimierowski was artistically executed and an important contribution to contemporary religious art.
There are several characteristic features of this original image . Against a plain background, Christ is shown walking, with a narrow halo around His head, and his eyes slightly downcast, as if He were looking from above at the spectators. His right hand is raided in a gesture of blessing; while His left hand is opening the robe at His Heart (not shown), from which two rays of light issue, a pale one to the viewer’s right, a red one to the left. The light of these rays shines through the hands and the robe.
In 1943, in Lwow, at the request of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, Stanley Batowski painted another image, which was placed in a side altar of the community chapel at No. 3/9 Zytnia Street in Warsaw. During the Warsaw uprising, this chapel (and with it the image) was burned.
Batowski’s image was very much liked by everyone. Encouraged by this, the Superior General of the Community of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy asked Batowski to paint another one for the house in Cracow, where the new form of devotion to The Divine Mercy was already expanding. The image was painted and sent to Cracow on October 6, 1943.
In the meantime, the superior of the Cracow house had been approached by the painter Adolf Hyla, who offered to paint some sort of picture for the sisters’ chapel as a votive offering for having survived the war. The superior, Mother Irene Krzyzanowska, after consulting with the senior sisters and Father Andrasz, S.J., suggested that Mr. Hyla should paint the image according to Sister Faustina’s directions. For that purpose, he was given the description (taken from Sister Faustina’s Diary) along with a small copy of the image painted by Eugene Kazimierowski.
The image was finished in Autumn of 1943 and brought to the Cracow house. Batowski’s image arrived at the same time. For this reason a problem arose - which of the images should be kept in the sisters’ chapel? It was settled by Cardinal Sapieha, who by chance happened to be present there. He inspected the two pictures and said, “Since Hyla has painted his picture as a votive offering, that picture should stay in the sisters’ chapel.” He blessed the picture and ordered that it be hung.
To this day the picture remains in the side altar to the left of the main entrance, in the Chapel of the Congregatrion of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy at No. 3/9 Siostry Faustyny Street in Cracow, and is held in reverence as the image painted under the direction or Sister Faustina Kowalska. People from all over Poland and from abroad come to this image of Merciful Christ to beg for needed graces. There are many votive offerings, and copies of the image are found all over the world.
S. Batowski’s picture was placed in the Church or The Divine Mercy at Smolensk Street in Cracow. Over the years, many other painters have painted images of The Divine Mercy, based on either existing representations or on Saint Faustina’s Diary.
Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Mariam Press, Stockbridge MA, USA, 2006, Footnote # 1 p.647-649.
The image of the Divine Mercy originates from a vision that Sister Faustina had in Plock on February 22, 1931. In that vision, Christ expressed His desire to have such an image painted and that the words in the signature beneath it be: “Jesus, I trust in You.”
The image represents the Risen Christ, whose hands and feet bear the marks of the crucifixion. From His pierced Heart, not visible in the image, two rays issue forth: red and pale. When asked about their meaning, Jesus explained: “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 a lance on the Cross.” (299)
In other words, these two rays signify the Sacraments, and also the Holy Church born of the pierced side of Christ, as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, of which water is a symbol in the Scripture. Jesus said, “Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him.” (299)
The image, then, portrays the great mercy of God, which was fully revealed in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, and is manifested in the Church most effectively through the Holy Sacraments. The purpose of this image is to serve as a vessel for obtaining graces, and to be a sign which is to remind the world of the need to trust in God and to show mercy toward our neighbor. The words found in the signature beneath the image, “Jesus, I trust in You!” speak of an attitude of trust. The image, Jesus said, “is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works.” (742)
The veneration of this image is based on confident prayer joined with deeds of mercy. Jesus attached the following promises to the veneration of the image thus understood: the grace of salvation, great progress on the road to Christian perfection, the grace of a happy death, and all other graces and temporal blessings which people who practice mercy will ask Him for with trust.
Jesus told Sister Faustina, “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)
“By means of this Image I shall be granting many graces to souls; so, let every soul have access to it.” (570)
“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.” (48)
“The flames of mercy are burning me. I desire to pour them out upon the human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them! My daughter, do whatever is within your power to spread devotion to My mercy. I will make up for what you lack. Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace.” (1074)
“Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy.” (300)
“My daughter, speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end of times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them.” (848)
“Before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice...” (1146)
« THE DIVINE MERCY» P. 10-12© (images) La Congrégation des Soeurs de Notre-Dame de la Miséricorde