God's mercy was connected with Jesus Christ graphically by referring to parables, in particular to those of the good shepherd and the merciful Samaritan. The scenes of the crucifixion were also deemed pictures of God's mercy. Subsequently, various renderings of paintings of the Sacred Heart were created. The image of Merciful Jesus widely used today comes from the revelations of Sister Faustina. From her "Diary", it can be read, "In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand (was) raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord; my soul was struck with awe, but also with great joy. After a while, Jesus said to me, Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and (then) throughout the world" (No. 47). The image was mentioned in the "Diary" many times.
Father M. Sopocko asked E. Kazimierowski to paint the image. Even as work was in progress, the painted image of Christ seemed to Sister Faustina not as beautiful as she saw Him. Moreover, when, at the subsequent vision, weeping in the chapel she said to Jesus, "Who will paint You as beautiful as You are? She heard the words, 'Neither in the beauty of the paint, nor the brush is the greatness of this image, but in My grace'" (No. 313). This image of Divine Mercy was unveiled for first public adoration on April 26 to April 28, 1935 in the sanctuary of Ostra Brama in Wilno. Thereafter, other similar pictures appeared which prompted the question: Which one of these pictorial renderings comes closest to the vision of Sister Faustina? In order to avoid fraud, the Congregation for the Faith, issued a decree on March 6, 1959, banning the propagation of devotion to Divine Mercy according to the suggestions of Sister Faustina.
Father M. Sopocko thought Sister Faustina's vision of Christ corresponds exactly to the vision described by St. John (Jn 20:10-21). It is the resurrected Christ, as He appeared to the gathered apostles when He bestowed on them the power of the Holy Spirit for the redemption of sins. For this reason, Father M. Sopocko did not feel bound by the verdict of the Holy Office and he continued to proclaim the truth about Divine Mercy and adore the picture of the Merciful Jesus.
According to Father M. Sopocko, the essential attributes of this image are:
- The posture of the Savior is in a walking-stopping position, as when walking we stop to greet somebody, the left leg forward and the right one slightly bent in the knee.
- On both legs and hands, the scars must be visible.
- The right hand must be raised to shoulder level for blessing with the palm open, the left hand must touch the garment in the area of the invisible Heart, from where two intensely colored rays radiate - pale on the right side as seen by the viewer, and red on the left side.
- These rays illuminate the space and the floor tile and partially the hands.
- Jesus' line of vision should be the same as it was from the cross, directed down, as noted in Sister Faustina's diary.
- The background must be dark, as it is at dusk, with a barely perceptible door in the background of which in the vision, the door was not a part.
- Under the image must be the inscription: "Jesus, I trust You" (Biblioteka Milosierdzia, seria A, t.2:161-162).
The meaning behind this picture in the worship of Divine Mercy must be understood in the same way as any other picture. That is, it is not the canvas or the frame that is honored, but the object Whom the image symbolizes. A picture is not a sacrament. It is a sign referring to a defined reality. In this case, the importance of the inscription: "Jesus, I trust You" because it shows the purpose of looking at the image. This purpose is the "awakening of trust in God through the Intermediary, Jesus Christ" (Fr. M. Sopocko).
A picture is a sign that helps to arrive at the revealed truth. What an inspired writer presents through words, a painter renders with his brush. Pictures used to be called "Biblia pauperum". However, it must be added, that sometimes pictures help convey the truth of God more clearly than words do. An icon from the early ages of Christianity belongs to the sources of theology. The image of Divine Mercy is of relatively modern times. Nevertheless, it is confirmed through the revelations of Sister Faustina. Its description should gradually become iconology. From the external picture, one must ascend to what is spiritual. Viewing should transgress into contemplation, and contemplation to prayer. The trust, to which Jesus Christ encourages us, constitutes the foundation of life for the believer, who knows that God desires to have him close to Himself always.
Bishop Edward Ozorowski - Dialogues on Divine Mercy