Friday, 1 April 2011

First Friday reflections

Ian, I continue to reflect on the Sacred Heart of Naur, and find that it is indeed proving a window - as an icon is usually understood. In particular my mind is drawn to the globe which contains the fire of the Sacred Heart. And a window is a wholly appropriate metaphor. In an earlier blog I talked about the role of a heuristics in the way in which human beings make sense of their world. And, the more I use this heuristic of the Sacred Heart in an active way – something which I found difficult with the traditional image – the more do I seem to see things for the first time. I am not sure what to say about an icon in this respect. I have deliberately NOT read very much about icons as I wanted to experience and learn the language by doing ( that is heuristic learning, after all) rather than just reading. So, what I say now may be complete nonsense: and I welcome your correction. It seems that as a window, an icon can serve to provide a way of looking OUT and IN at one and the same time. As I reflect on the image I seem to be deepening my understanding of the meaning of the Sacred Heart but also deepening my understanding of myself. It is as if it is less of a window than a mirror. What I see seems to reflect back at me. I have no idea if this is what an icon is supposed to do, or if that is generally held to be their role in the formation of a spiritual life. As I say, I have deliberately tried to read as little as possible, and just use this journey of ours as a way of finding out. But that is how I feel.

This morning provided a good example, which I am still trying to think through. It is a first Friday of the month. (April 1st!). On receiving communion this morning the image of that ball of fire was very much in my mind. As a walked back to my pew I realized that I had experienced two kinds of cancer. The first was in my body which had been treated by radio therapy, etc., but the other was in my heart and soul: the cancer of the self. And I also realized that the latter was far more destructive than the former. The prayer that Teilhard used came to mind as I knelt down:

Lord, lock me up in the deepest depths of your heart; and then, holding me there, burn me, purify me, set me on fire, sublimate me, till I become utterly what you would have me be, through the utter annihilation of my ego.

When we ask the Sacred Heart to unite with us we are, it seems to me, asking for the cancer of the self to be burnt away, for our hearts to be made whole and clean and free of ‘me, me, me’. The cancerous growth of the self is what, above all, threatens our relationships with other human beings ( and other life forms) and with God, the creator. Indeed, the cancerous growth of the self is the most dangerous of all problems which threatens the very existence of life on this planet. To receive the Sacred Heart in holy communion is like receiving an energy which is able to reduce, shrink, and ultimately ‘annihilate’ the dangerous and life threatening growth of the self and of self-love. But we have to open ourselves to this powerful energy of love. Heart calls to heart. We can take communion every Sunday, but if we do not open ourselves to this energy, self-love can continue to grow and ( as it were ) metastasise and damage and destroy us and all those we should love. I think that is what Teilhard is talking about when he says that harnessing the energy of love is akin to the discovery of fire. When we pray to be united with the Sacred Heart of Jesus we are, I now believe, praying for our self-love to be exposed to the consuming almighty power of God’s love. As our love of self shrinks, so our love of God and our love of our neighbour can grow. That is what the Sacred Heart is saying to us: if only we listen to that call.


  1. On the theme of connections and DWP's blog today, I reflect that this morning, at our Lent Group we looked at Jonah's prayer inside the belly of the whale: 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. 8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. 10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

    when Jonah admits his failure to follow through what he was called by God to do. He is ultimately saved from himself and lovingly restored by God to fulfill his purpose.
    Jonah like us all have our reasons often for not litening to God: be it fear of what that may entail, or simply selfish stubborness. Jonah reminds us that when we are called to go where angels fear to tread, our trust in 'the consuming almighty power of God's love' will carry us through.

    And Jesus says (Matthew 12:38-40) Then some of the scribes and Pharisses said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

    Be Jonah prophet or parable, he is of great significance.

  2. Nikki, thanks fro taking time to write this comment. You are right, of course. When I find some time I will re-read the Bible on Jonah. I always felt very sympathetic to Jonah. It is about trust, and in my mind it always connects with the episodes of Jesus walking on the water and calming the rough sea. David