This year has been one which I have devoted to exploring - or searching for - the Sacred Heart. In truth I had no idea what this was to mean, or where it would take me. But looking back over the past 12 months it has been perhaps the most transformative period of my life. And I don’t think this blog is the place to document this. However, it is enough to say that I have experienced how very powerful the devotion is as a way of providing a focus for ones daily spiritual life: and having started I realize that my journey has only just begun! The Sacred Heart is indeed the summary of our Catholic faith, and the rediscovery of its role in the life of the Church seems to me absolutely necessary for the Church in the 21st century. I cannot imagine how I would have undertaken this journey without the icon as a focus and a map. So I am very much in debt to Ian for undertaking the commission. A year on I know that I have barely scratched the surface. Reading the icon has been like climbing up a mountain and feeling exhilarated by looking down on how far I have come, only to appreciate that I am merely on the foothills looking up at the mountain peak towering above. Or it is like I have just entered my interior castle and heard the sound of the divine milieu calling me to find the centre?
A while ago I came across a copy of Auguste Valensin’s Joy in the Faith*. Valensin and Teilhard were both Jesuits and the greatest of friends and his book serves to remind me that thus far I have spent little time actually exploring the role of the Sacred Heart in the Jesuit tradition. Today I read a passage in Valensin’s book which prompts me to begin the new year by taking a new (Jesuit) path towards the ‘desire of the everlasting hills’. Valensin observes that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the ‘image and expression of the Father’s heart’. He reflects on the fact that the gospels record that Jesus was often moved to tears and that ‘He allows himself to be conquered by his tender love.’ Valensin prays;
Jesus, as You have wept for others rather than yourself, allow me to follow your example! May a full nature flourish within me..’ (Joy in the Faith, Desclee, New York, 1958, pp 99-101)
That seems a good prayer and a good sign post for the coming year.
* La Joie dans la Foi, Paris 1955)