Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Sacred Heart of 2017- the shrine in Guernsey

As the year comes to an end  I have reflected on what image of the Sacred Heart has had the most impact on me over the past year.  And without doubt it was an image or rather a space I found whilst in Guernsey in the summer: Le Galloudec Shrine.   By chance we came across a chapel which had been constructed in what had been a German second world war defence building by a man who was determined to transform it from a symbol of hate into a symbol of love.

The Le Galloudec Shrine is located at Fort Hommet at Vazon in what had been a military bunker during the German Occupation of the Island in the Second World War.  A local man, Hubert Le Galloudec, began his remarkable work in work in the 1950s creating a chapel devoted to the Sacred Heart out of  local sea shells.  Sadly it was badly vandalised and was closed in 1971, but  Friends of the Le Galloudec Shrine restored it and opened it to the public in the summer of 2008. Read a BBC report about it HERE.

Of course, the trouble with the reports that are around is that they really don't get it at all!  They describe it as essentially a shrine decorated by Biblical themes, images and symbols. Well it is.  But when you study it in more detail it is apparent that either by accident or design - and I think the latter- old Hubert was making a far more profound statement about the Sacred Heart.  The Shrine is placing the devotion into its Biblical and theological context.  To me it is a simple but eloquent statement of the theology which was expressed by  Pope Pius XI  in Miserentissimum Redemptor in 1928 when he famously said that the Sacred Heart was: " ... a summary of all our religion and, moreover, a guide to a more perfect life contained in this one devotion?".  Furthermore, Le Galloudec seems to addressing the very themes we find in Pope Pius XII's  encyclical Haurietas Aquas published in 1956!   It is not a great work of art, but it is a great example of someone who had the vision and courage to proclaim the relevance of the Sacred Heart to building a civilization of love from the ruins of one which was built on hate and evil.  It is an inspiration for us today as we look out on our world torn apart by the very same forces that built those ugly bunkers.

Hubert Le Galloudec built a shrine.  What can we build? 

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The icon painters of Bethlehem

It was wonderful to hear about the progress of the Icon school in Bethlehem through a Christmas broadcast on the BBC.  Hear it here.
If you want to understand what an icon is all about, you could do no better than listen to the interviews with Ian and his students.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Pope Francis reminds us of the importance of the Feast of the Sacred Heart

As we have noted on this blog, Pope Francis has made important contributions to our understanding the importance of the Sacred Heart for our world today.  In his homily at the mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart (23rd June) at the Casa Santa Marta, he reminded us of how humility is so vital for humanity.   We have to make ourselves small, he urged, if we are to hear the voice of the Lord.

It was reported on Vatican Radio [ read here ]  that he had this to say: :

The Lord has chosen us, He has “mixed Himself up with us in the journey of life,” and has given “His Son, and the life of His Son, for our love.” In the first Reading, taken from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses says that God has chosen us “from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly His own.” Pope Francis explained how God is praised because “in the Heart of Jesus He gave us the grace to celebrate with joy the great mystery of our salvation, of His love for us”; that is, celebrating “our faith.” In particular, the Pope dwelt on two words contained in the reading: “to choose,” and “smallness.” With regard to choosing, the Holy Father said it is not we who have chosen God, but rather, God has made Himself a “our prisoner”:
“He has attached Himself to our life; He cannot detach Himself. He is strongly yoked! And He remains faithful in this attitude. We were chosen for love and this is our identity. ‘I have chosen this religion, I have chosen…’ [we might say]. No, you have not chosen. It is He Who has chosen you, has called you, and has joined Himself to you. And this is our faith. If we do not believe this, we don’t understand the message of Christ, we don’t understand the Gospel.”

For the second word, “smallness,” Pope Francis recalled how Moses said that the Lord had chosen the people of Israel because it was “the smallest of all nations”:

“He was enamoured of our smallness, and for this reason He has chosen us. And He chooses the small: not the great, the small. And He is revealed to the small: ‘you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.’ He is revealed to the little ones: if you want to understand something of the mystery of Jesus, lower yourself: make yourself small. Be mindful of being nothing. And He not only chooses and reveals Himself to the little ones; He calls the little ones: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.’ You that are the smallest – because of suffering, because of fatigue – He chooses the little ones, He is revealed to the little ones, and He calls the little ones. But the great, does He not call them? His heart is open, but the great do not recognize His voice because they are not able to hear it because they are full of themselves. To hear the voice of the Lord, you must make yourself little.”

And thus we come to the mystery of the Heart of Christ, which is not a “holy card” for the devout: the transfixed Heart of Christ is “the heart of revelation, the heart of our faith, because He made Himself small, He has chosen this way”: that of humbling Himself, of emptying Himself “even to death on the Cross.” It is, the Pope said, “a choice for smallness, so that the glory of God might be manifest.” From the Body of Christ transfixed by the soldier’s lance, “blood and water” flowed out, the Pope reminded us; and “this is the mystery of Christ” in today’s celebration of “a Heart that loves, that chooses, that is faithful,” and that “is joined to us, is revealed to the little ones, calls the little ones, makes itself little”:

“We believe in God, yes; yes in Jesus too, yes… ‘Is Jesus God?’ [someone asks.] ‘Yes,’ [we respond]. This is the manifestation, this is the glory of God. Fidelity in choosing, in joining Himself and making Himself little, even for Himself: to become small, to empty Himself. The problem of the faith is the core of our life: we can be so much, so virtuous, but with little or no faith; we must start from here, from the mystery of Jesus Christ, Who has saved us with His faithfulness.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily with the prayer that the Lord might grant us the grace to celebrate in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, “the great acts, the great works of salvation, the great works of redemption.”

Thursday, 15 June 2017

How the gods of this world blind

Today at mass we heard a passage from St Paul's (2nd) letter to the Corinthians.  I must admit I had never really reflected on this passage, but as I listened, the image of the Sacred Heart icon came to mind.  The reading:

2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1,3-6

Even today, whenever Moses is read, the veil is over their minds. It will not be removed until they turn to the Lord. Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit.
Since we have by an act of mercy been entrusted with this work of administration, there is no weakening on our part. If our gospel does not penetrate the veil, then the veil is on those who are not on the way to salvation; the unbelievers whose minds the god of this world has blinded, to stop them seeing the light shed by the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For it is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ.

By referring to Moses and the way in which he would veil his face  when he spoke to the people, Paul  is telling us that it is only when we believe in Jesus that we can see the image of God.  The old covenant was written on stone, the new covenant in Jesus is written in our hearts by the Spirit of God.  But, the 'god' of this world can blind us to seeing the truth.  Instead of our hearts being open to the Spirit that came on Pentecost to the apostles, they remain hard and closed.  The gods of this world have indeed blinded so many.  Just pick  up a newspaper or watch TV and there you can see the consequences of this blinding process.  The world grows darker and darker the more  it rejects and persecutes those who seek to witness to the Good News.  And we see in the faces of those who hate and despise Jesus all the deadly sins that are consuming the world.  We can only pray and hope that the gospel will penetrate the veils of those who 'are not on the way to salvation'.

But, of course, because we believe that Jesus is the icon of the living God we have hope that one day we will all be transformed into the image of Christ. Later he says:

2 Corinthians 4:7-15 

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 
But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God. 

The  unveiled image of God in the face of Christ is therefore our hope.  Whilst the gods of this world blind, the image of the unseen God, from whose  wounded heart the Holy Spirit poured into this world, gives us light to illuminate the darkness.  And, of course, just as Moses's face reflected the light of God, we in our turn are called in all humility to reflect the light and love of Christ - the Alpha and Omega.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

From Pentecost to the Feast of the Sacred Heart

The Feast of the Sacred Heart -  the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, falls 19 days after Pentecost, on a Friday. This year (2017) it falls on the 23rd June.  This date was chosen as it was  given to St Margaret Mary  by Jesus on June 16, 1675. In the vision, Christ asked St. Margaret Mary to request that a Feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated on the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi (18th June).  Looking at the state of the world at the moment, now is a good time to make reparation for the wickedness of humanity in the face of God's great love.

Having taken a break from blogging, this year I will renew my devotion to the Sacred Heart by reflecting on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Sacred Heart in the weeks leading to the Feast. At Pentecost we are reminded of the Sacred Heart by the colour of the vestments worn by the priest: red, the colour of fire and blood as well as of the fire of the Holy Spirit.  In the icon the fire of love and of the Holy Spirit is very prominent, as is the water of the Holy Spirit which flowed from his wounded heart. So as we journey to the Feast of the Sacred Heart I will use the icon to reflect and explore the relationship between the 3 feasts: Pentecost, Corpus Christie and The Sacred Heart.

This pentecost the need for the Holy Spirit is sadly obvious in the world today.  The words read by Cardinal Dolan (although little heeded) at the inauguration of President Trump Dolan from the Book of Wisdom  seems so relevant to the state of the world :

"God of our ancestors and Lord of mercy, you have made all things. And in your providence have charged us to rule the creatures produced by you, to govern the world in holiness and righteousness, and to render judgment with integrity of heart. Give us wisdom, for we are your servants, weak and short-lived, lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws. Indeed, though one might be perfect among mortals, if wisdom which comes from you be lacking, we count for nothing. Now with you is wisdom, who knows your will and was there when you made the world, who understands what is pleasing in your eyes, what is conformable with your commands, send her forth from your holy heavens. From your glorious throne, dispatch her that she may be with us and work with us, that we may grasp what is pleasing to you. For she knows and understands all things and will guide us prudently in our affairs and safeguard us by her glory." ( Wisdom: 9: 1-11) 

The world is always in grave peril when those with power fail to act wisely.   And to do that, requires a humble heart.  It is from the Heart of Jesus,  - the 'never ending source of all virtues' and in which are found ' all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' that we are called to learn humility.  For Jesus shows us what humility of heart looks like. In his TED talk, Pope Francis wisely said this:

“The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you and ruin the other.”

 “Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach. You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.”

Pentecost  is a time for us all to learn anew how  to practice the great virtue of humility.  We take as our guide one whose heart was formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin mother'.  We pray that all those with power will learn to be meek and humble of heart. 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Ian Knowles in the Sunday Telegraph

Good start to 2017! As we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany, it was wonderful to see a big half page spread in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper today reporting on the Bethlehem Icon School.

We all hope and pray that the Icon school in Bethlehem continues to thrive.  (Click on the picture to enlarge.)

Read on line Here 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Advent and the Sacred Heart

I return to the blog after a few months absence after realising yet another dimension of reflecting and reading and icon of the Sacred Heart.  This advent the icon has drawn me into reflecting  on the great 'O' Antiphons that are said/sung in the last seven days of Advent .These are the antiphons
chanted or recited before and after the Magnificat of Vespers.  Their name comes from the fact that they all begin with "O".  The antiphons focus on the names or titles of Jesus:
words:  Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel.

In the middle ages it was discovered that, if you adjusted the order of the names you get  ERO CRAS (I will be, tomorrow).

My advent reading of the icon this year have been aided by a fortuitous recommendation from a friend of a book by Oliver Treanor, Seven Bells to Bethlehem: The O Antiphons, Greenwing 1995.

Treanor begins the journey by focusing on the Blessed Virgin and the Magnificat. One point that I found instructive was the notion that the 'O' antiphons said/sung  before and after the Magnificat remind of her fullness as pregnant with the Son of God. This prompted me to reflect upon the many icons that as us to contemplate the image of pregnant - full of grace - Mary.  Many of these icons make use of very explicit O to remind us of the wonder of the incarnation, and the holiness of Mary.

We use the 'O' a good deal in a variety of contexts, and familiarity does breed contempt.  The antiphons, however, ask us to think far more deeply about 'O'.  And, as Treanor suggests images of a pregnant Mary help us in beginning the last stages of our advent journey.  Advent is in many ways a journey into this 'O'.  The Madonna of the 'O' expresses how Mary is full of God's grace, because she is not full of herself.  In her humility she magnifies God, and not herself.  So as we approach Christmas we have 'O'pen our hearts and minds and let the Christ child in.  When we say or sing 'O' we must try to become like Mary, and create that space wherin the Holy Spirit can dwell.   Each of the titles of the Messiah is an 'O' through which we must enter to make our journey.

Hence, of course, we begin with wisdom.  It also leads us to contemplate other icons, Mary as the seat of wisdom. Mary as the ark of the covenant, as the great exemplar of humility, and God bearer. Sapientia  and  humility have  been an important and recurring theme in my reading of this icon of the Sacred Heart ,  and with the great O antiphons, I find myself once again drawn into praying for humility and wisdom.

17th December.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad
finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:  veni ad docendum nos viam

  (O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High,
that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily
and sweetly:  come to teach us the way of prudence.)

The antiphon of the 18th December also pulls me back into to reflecting on the fire  or furnace of love at the very heart of the icon.

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi
apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti:  veni ad redimendum nos in
bracchio extento.

 (O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who
didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in
Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm.)

I find that these first two antiphons inspire and lead me to contemplate an icon of Christ in terms of ' the root of Jesse and the key of David

December 19

O radix Iesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt
reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur:  veni ad liberandum nos, iam
noli tardare.
(O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the
people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles
shall seek:  come to deliver us, do not tarry.)

December 20
O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:  veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

(O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth:  come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them
that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.)

And in the light of these 'O's , the light and fire in the glow of the icon illuminates splendor of the King of the Universe who came into this world as a baby.

December 21
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae:  veni et illumina
sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

(O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice:  come to give light to them that sit
in darkness and in the shadow of death.)

December 22
O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis
utraque unum:  veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

 (O King of the Gentiles, and desire thereof, Corner-stone that makest of two
one:  come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the

And then as we near the stable and contemplate Mary and Joseph and the Christ child, we behold the great truth: he is God with us!

December 23
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator
earum:  veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.

(O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, and salvation thereof:
come to save us, O Lord our God!)