Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Sacred Heart : Fire and Water

In his design notes Ian wrote:

'At the Lord’s feet gushes forth seven springs of Life Giving water, just as water gushed forth from the temple in the vision of Ezekiel, the waters of life that water the earth with sweet water that brings the barren trees to bloom and the desert to spring forth, the waters of grace and new life that are the treasure of the Church. This is also representative of the gift of drink which Christ promises in the book of Revelation to those who are thirsty (Rev. 21:6). Hence the seven rivers represent the seven sacraments, the number which itself speaks of completion and fullness. The rivers burst forth from the Divine sphere into the square of the created order.'

This part of the icon is quite straight forward: Christ as ‘living water’. Having lived a few days with the icon my thoughts have centred on this theme of water and as with the other aspects of the icon it is rich in material for reflection and prayer. But here are just a few initial thoughts. The Sacred Heart is very much about fire and it is especially so in this icon. But it is also about water. One of the defining documents on the Sacred Heart is Pope Pius XII’s encyclical `Haurietis Aquas: on the devotion to the Sacred Heart’ (1956). It begins:

"You shall draw waters with joy out of the Savior's fountain." These words by which the prophet Isaias, using highly significant imagery, foretold the manifold and abundant gifts of God which the Christian era was to bring forth, come naturally to Our mind when We reflect on the centenary of that year when Our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, gladly yielding to the prayers from the whole Catholic world, ordered the celebration of the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Universal Church….The Church, rejoicing in this inestimable gift, can show forth a more ardent love of her divine Founder, and can, in a more generous and effective manner, respond to that invitation which St. John the Evangelist relates as having come from Christ Himself: "And on the last and great day of the festivity, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and let him drink that believeth in Me. As the Scripture saith: Out of his heart there shall flow rivers of living waters.' Now this He said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in Him." For those who were listening to Jesus speaking, it certainly was not difficult to relate these words by which He promised the fountain of "living water" destined to spring from His own side, to the words of sacred prophecy of Isaias, Ezechiel and Zacharias, foretelling the Messianic Kingdom, and likewise to the symbolic rock from which, when struck by Moses, water flowed forth in a miraculous manner.

Read Haurietis Aquas in full here.

Thus, as with other parts of the icon, this section serves to connect the Sacred Heart with scripture and prompts us to reflect on how Jesus came to set fire to the world, but was also the source of living water. As we reflect on this our minds naturally remember the wedding at Cana when Jesus turned the water into wine, and how he was baptised in water by John – above right. But also of how blood and water flowed from the wound made by the soldier’s lance. ( And other parts of scripture concerned with water. )

As I am just starting to live with this icon, it strikes me that it is providing a powerful focus for prayer - especially in how the different elements connect with one another.

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