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  • Writer's picturePhil


The Sixth Station by Hans Feibusch: Saint Alban's, Holborn.

The sixth station of the cross tells of a woman named Veronica from Jerusalem

who, upon seeing Jesus on the Via Dolorosa, offers Jesus her veil to wipe his face.

In popular depictions of this station, Veronica is often seen on her knees, offering her veil with both hands. Christ stretches out to receive the veil, while Simon of Cyrene continues to prop up the Cross. There is no reference to Veronica in the Gospels, but her act of kindness has lived on in legend for centuries.

Veronica - the film "The Passion of the Christ"

The name "Veronica" is a blend of "Vero" - “true” (Latin); and "eikon" - "image"(Greek). If Veronica means “true image,” then it is true to say that Veronica herself displays the “true image” of God. The true image of who God is has a lot less to do with physical appearance than to do with the actions taken for one another, such as Veronica's act of compassion for Jesus.

Jesus states this directly in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 25) , where he states that we will be judged by how we saw the image of Christ in the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, and the naked and acted with compassion. It is this compassion by which Veronica is compelled when she is moved to wipe Jesus’ face. 

We too are called to be compassionate. It is easy to be discouraged by the scale of poverty and need in the world, but each day offers us the opportunity to perform small acts of kindness and generosity. In so doing, we recognise the face of Jesus in our neighbour and he imprints his face on each of us.

In the face of great suffering,

too many of us are erased,

our personalities too weak,

too slight, too insubstantial to endure.

Like poorly dyed cloth, we are bleached

by exposure to cataclysmic forces.

Yet there are others who are defined by suffering,

who find a certain stature,

who gain nobility impossible to ignore.

They reflect this road to crucifixion.

She is the first.

We do not know her name,

only the tag, her pseudonym:

Veronica, ‘the true image’.

Whether on her handkerchief

or her countenance,

it is no matter.

He gives her his features to reflect:

a face cast for endurance not resignation,

facing squarely whatever ordeal is dealt.

His sacred impression is a gift,

Found in countless thousands the world over:

countenances reflecting his features,

carrying courage abroad.

David Matthews, retired teacher, in 2015. He and his wife bought a dilapidated cottage in south-west France and created a country retreat. He also writes.

Jesus, Saint Veronica served You on the way to Calvary by wiping Your face with a towel on which Your sacred image then appeared. May I see Your sacred image in others; recognize their hurts, to stop and join them on their difficult journeys, and to feel the same compassion for them as she did for You. Show me how to serve their needs, and heal their wounds, reminding me that as I do this for them, I also do this for You. Saint Veronica, pray for me. Amen.

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