I have been reading the icon for awhile with the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner for company. For Rahner as for Teilhard the Sacred Heart is an indispensible symbol of God’s love. And yet, like Teilhard, he believed that it had been rather devalued as a result of certain aspects of the popular devotional practice. Here are a few reflections on what I have taken from Rahner thus far.
|Mosaic in Jesuit College Innsbruck|
Because of this centrality of the Sacred Heart to the gospel message Rahner, like Teilhard wanted to see a renaissance in the devotion on these lines. ( As I understand Rahner, that is.) And like Teilhard, he also saw Sacred Heart as a pivotal aspect of Ignatian spirituality. Indeed, it seems to play a similar integrative role for both men. For Teilhard it is a symbol which allowed to integrate his Ignatian religious and spiritual beliefs with his scientific ideas. For Rahner the Sacred Heart is described as a ‘anti-toxin’ to the essentiall feature of Ignatian spirituality : indifference to the world. Indeed, he argues tha: ‘ if not protected against itself it can be rationalistic, cold, calculating, skeptical, icy, exaggerating the relativism of all things other than God’ (Rahner, Mission and Grace, III: 189).
The sublime gift of indifference is saved from being a deadly poison only when it is received by someone with an adoring devotion to love: someone who dares to have a heart, being an adorer of the Heart. (193) … the ultimate source of love is the Heart of the Lord. And hence Ignatian spirituality can only be healthy if it loves that Heart and loves union with it. Otherwise all that is most sublime in it becomes most deadly.’ (199)
In other words, the Jesuit’s devotion to the Sacred Heart is not an option. It is, as Rahner puts it: the ‘true flowering’ of the devotion. As Fr. Philip Endean S.J. argues, therefore: 'Rahner’s intent was not to destroy Sacred Heart devotion, but to renew it. In the aftermath of Vatican II, however, the Sacred Heart seems to have vanished from public Catholic rhetoric.' (Read here.) It seems to me that the need for renewal in the devotion to the Sacred Heart is more urgent and more necessary than ever before in the Church. From the standpoint of this blog, that renewal must necessarily involve exploring the imagery which has dominated ( and perhaps distorted) the devotion.