Friday, 1 July 2011

Feast of the Sacred Heart

It seems such a long time in coming this year , but today (1st July) is the feast of the Sacred Heart. So it gave me a great deal of pleasure to light a candle for Ian today. The prayers, readings and hymns during the mass all illuminated different aspects of the Heart of Jesus – like the many votive candles by the statue of the Sacred Heart itself. Thinking of Ian’s design (SEE 27th June, below) today greatly helped my prayer and enabled me to focus on a few of these dimensions. As this icon is very much on my mind, I was reminded during mass of what the Directory of Popular Piety and Liturgy says about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, because I think it has a good deal of relevance for this project. The Directory ( See HERE ) states that the Sacred Heart of Jesus :

denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being, and his person considered in its most intimate essential: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite charity, principal of the salvation and sanctification of mankind. The "Sacred Heart" is Christ, the Word Incarnate, Saviour, intrinsically containing, in the Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and for his brothers.

In other words, as a 'thesaurus' or 'treasury' it is a lot to take in! It can, as Teilhard observed, rather overwhelm our feeble minds. I reflected on this during mass and it seems to me this is where the role of the artist ( and musician, but that is another issue!) is so important because art can help us to focus our prayer and enter more fully into the mystery. Indeed, the Directory goes on to say:

Popular piety tends to associate a devotion with its iconographic expression. This is a normal and positive phenomenon. Inconveniences can sometimes arise: iconographic expressions that no longer respond to the artistic taste of the people can sometimes lead to a diminished appreciation of the devotion's object, independently of its theological basis and its historico-salvific content.This can sometimes arise with devotion to the Sacred Heart: perhaps certain over sentimental images which are incapable of giving expression to the devotion's robust theological content or which do not encourage the faithful to approach the mystery of the Sacred Heart of our Saviour.

This is the challenge facing Ian in writing this icon. And this is why he needs prayer – and all the candles he can get! I think that the art associated with the Sacred Heart has indeed ‘diminished the appreciation’ of the devotion and has not served to illuminate the theological basis and content of the profound mystery of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. (If anything it can serve to obscure its theological content.) Ian’s design has, I believe, great potential to provide an iconography which can serve to take us beyond the sentimental images and open a window into the deep theological content which the devotion contains. And I continue to pray that the Lord will guide his hands.

And so a simple prayer on this great feast day.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Place your Heart deep in the centre of our hearts
and enkindle in each heart a flame of love
as strong, as great, as the sum of all the reasons
that I have for loving you.

Saint Claude de la Colombiere.

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