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Thursday, 28 February 2013
So we can recall some of the words of Benedict on those most important devotion of the Church.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000, p61
In the Heart of Jesus, the center of Christianity is set before us. It expresses everything, all that is genuinely new and revolutionary in the New Covenant. This Heart calls to our heart. It invites us to step forth out of the futile attempt of self-preservation and, by joining in the task of love, by handing ourselves over to him and with him, to discover the fullness of love which alone is eternity and which alone sustains the world. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, (Behold the Pierced One, 1981)
In the pierced heart of the Crucified, God's own heart is opened up; here we see who God is and what he is like. Heaven is no longer locked up. God has stepped out of his hiddenness. That is why St John sums up both the meaning of the Cross and the nature of the new worship of God in the mysterious promise made through the prophet Zechariah (cf. 12:10). 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced' (Jn 19.37). Joseph Cardinal Ratizinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000, p48
From : ADDRESS TO PILGRIMS FROM THE DIOCESE OF VERONA ITALY Saturday, 4 June 2005
the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: only in this inexhaustible source of love will you be able to find the necessary energy for your mission.
The Church was born from the Heart of the Redeemer, from his pierced side, and she is ceaselessly renewed in the sacraments.
May it be your concern to draw spiritual nourishment from prayer and an intense sacramental life; deepen your personal knowledge of Christ and strive with all your might for the "high standard of ordinary Christian living" which is what holiness is, as our beloved John Paul II used to say.
ON OCCASION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF
THE ENCYCLICAL "HAURIETIS AQUAS, 2006'
To the Most Reverend Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
By encouraging devotion to the Heart of Jesus, the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas exhorted believers to open themselves to the mystery of God and of his love and to allow themselves to be transformed by it. After 50 years, it is still a fitting task for Christians to continue to deepen their relationship with the Heart of Jesus, in such a way as to revive their faith in the saving love of God and to welcome him ever better into their lives.
The Redeemer's pierced side is the source to which the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas refers us: we must draw from this source to attain true knowledge of Jesus Christ and a deeper experience of his love.
Thus, we will be able to understand better what it means to know God's love in Jesus Christ, to experience him, keeping our gaze fixed on him to the point that we live entirely on the experience of his love, so that we can subsequently witness to it to others.
Indeed, to take up a saying of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, "In the Heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbour".
Thus: "The true reparation asked by the Heart of the Saviour will come when the civilization of the Heart of Christ can be built upon the ruins heaped up by hatred and violence" (Letter to Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus for the Beatification of Bl. Claude de la Colombière, 5 Moreover, not only does this mystery of God's love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself.
The deepest meaning of this devotion to God's love is revealed solely through a more attentive consideration of its contribution not only to the knowledge, but also and especially to the personal experience of this love in trusting dedication to its service …
…When we practise this devotion, not only do we recognize God's love with gratitude but we continue to open ourselves to this love so that our lives are ever more closely patterned upon it. God, who poured out his love "into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (cf. Rom 5: 5), invites us tirelessly to accept his love. The main aim of the invitation to give ourselves entirely to the saving love of Christ and to consecrate ourselves to it (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 4) is, consequently, to bring about our relationship with God.
This explains why the devotion, which is totally oriented to the love of God who sacrificed himself for us, has an irreplaceable importance for our faith and for our life in love.
Adoring contemplation of the side pierced by the spear makes us sensitive to God's salvific will. It enables us to entrust ourselves to his saving and merciful love, and at the same time strengthens us in the desire to take part in his work of salvation, becoming his instruments.
The gifts received from the open side, from which "blood and water" flowed (cf. Jn 19: 34), ensure that our lives will also become for others a source from which "rivers of living water" flow (Jn 7: 38; cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 7).
…Thus, looking at the "side pierced by the spear" from which shines forth God's boundless desire for our salvation cannot be considered a transitory form of worship or devotion: the adoration of God's love, whose historical and devotional expression is found in the symbol of the "pierced heart", remains indispensable for a living relationship with God (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 62).
As I express the wish that the 50th anniversary will give rise to an ever more fervent response to love of the Heart of Christ in numerous hearts, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Most Reverend Father, and to all the Religious of the Society of Jesus, who are still very active in promoting this fundamental devotion.
Posted by DWP at 14:41
Sunday, 24 February 2013
In the light of earlier posts, just a quote which I think is a perfect reflection to bring to this image of the Sacred Heart.
H. E. Manning. The Glories of the Sacred Heart, 1895, pp162-3 READ HERE
More than ever before, this Lent the Church - from the very top to the very bottom- needs to return with a sense of urgency to the devotion to the Sacred Heart and humbly pray ' Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.' Now, with the church in crisis and flux we must place ALL our trust in the loving and merciful Heart of Jesus. The Church must look outwards to the problems of a deeply materialistic and secular world and draw all its strength from energy of God's love that radiates from the very heart of God. 19th century London was fortunate in having a leader like Cardinal Manning who understood the problems of his day and also understood how solving those problems required us to be close to the Heart of Christ. We so badly need people in the Church today who have - like Manning - a vision of the Sacred Heart at the heart of the Church's mission.
Posted by DWP at 10:56
Sunday, 10 February 2013
Yesterday in Wales it was the feast of St. Teilo (who was one of St. David’s monks at Mynyw - St David’s) - and St. Teilo's day proved to be an absolutely fascinating Saturday. I spent a ‘quiet day’ praying with icons at the very beautiful Church of St. John the Divine in Richmond. (See HERE ) In my last blog I mused about angels on the Northern Line, and I can now state that yesterday there were indeed angels on the Northern Line since I packed up the icon of the Sacred Heart to join some of Ian’s other icons in Richmond for this event. One thing that you can only really appreciate when you live with an icon is how it captures and 'uses' light. It becomes 'alive' in a way no other form of art I know does! So, it was great to see it come alive in the light of a Church dedicated to St. John.
The icons were arranged as an iconstasis before the altar, and then after some collective morning prayers, they were distributed around the church for people to spend time praying with the icons. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. ( Despite the fact that I missed most of the Wales-France rugby match ! )
I must confess that my immediate thoughts on such a cold wet day were ' how on earth did David and Teilo pray in cold water?' David was famous for praying up to his neck in cold water (in Welsh he is called ‘Dewi Ddyfrwr’, David the Water drinker). Alas, I think I could never have made it as one of David’s monks as I was rather cold despite the golden glow of the icons! But after a while I warmed up and began to enter into the kind of silence and stillness that icons seem to generate or radiate. In my experience icons have this effect of ‘ordering the world around it’ (did Ian say this?) in a way that I am unable to explain. In the home the icon creates and atmosphere of silence and peace that is at times quite tangible. An icon - in my experience - can perhaps be described as a spiritual tool which helps to create the silence and peace necessary for prayer to work or happen. It is as if you project all your noise and disquiet at them and they reflect them back to you as silence and peace. (Rather like a heat pump or engine turns hot into cold and vice versa. ) Prayer requires us to be still and quiet and icons have a (strange) power to create a silence and a sense of peace of a very special kind. Later, in another talk, Ian gave an illustration of the kind of power which icons can have in the context of his ( now famous) icon of ‘The Virgin Mother of the Church, or Our Lady of the Wall ) which he painted a few years ago in Palestine. ( ABOVE, left ) ** You can read about it HERE
I think that icon’s show us that God orders the world in silence, and not with the kind of power we see exercised in our world. Silence allows God into our lives and an icon helps us to cultivate the silence which is necessary if God’s power and grace is to enter into our lives. An icon helps us to see ( as Teilhard was fond of saying) Christ in all things.
My own experience of reading and living with this icon of the Sacred Heart has, I think, been about allowing the icon to work in ways that sometimes baffle me as it tends to send me off in directions which are not those I would naturally choose to take. An example of this has been the way the icon has prompted me of late to think and reflect about humility of the heart ( Jesus tells us to learn from His meek and humble heart) and the role of angels. Invariably when it does lead me all over the place it takes me to a point where things just come together. It is just very disconcerting really. So it was during the day at St . John the Divine. I felt very closely drawn to praying with Ian’s utterly beautiful icon of St. Michael. And, for the first time, I sensed the humility of Michael, and the importance of humility in the battle against all the evils of this world - the most potent of which is pride. Michael – ‘Who is like God?' – reminds us that we are strong when we are wholly and completely open to God’s grace. Pride makes us weak, and humility makes us strong. I picked up the helpful notes left by the icon, and there it was all explained to me. How come I never got that before now! And, reflecting on this insight naturally made me turn to the icon of the Virgin, who is full of grace, and especially to ‘ Our Lady of the Wall’ and that dreadful snake creeping along the wall. And then you realize what powerful things icons can be! God does indeed speak in the silence ( 1 Kings, 19: 18).
This morning I was on the rota to read at mass. ( My turn comes around every month or so. ) To my surprise, I had to read Isaiah 6: 1- 2, 3-8) which is all about the Lord of Hosts and the six winged seraphim ( the subject of a few recent blogs) and the humility of Isaiah before the Lord. The next reading was about the humility of St Paul, ( 1 Corinthians, 15: 1-11) and in the Gospel we encounter the humility of Peter: ‘ Leave me Lord; for I am a sinful man’ (Luke 5: 1-11). I felt that, in some strange and unexpected way, my morning of praying with icons had just helped to clear up so many confusing thoughts and ideas. It shows what can happen if you shut up, stop thinking, and open your heart to the deep silence glowing from the icon.
I suppose that is why St. David and St Teilo found praying in cold water a way of becoming more open to God's Word and Will. The cold opened them to the silence of the divine. Perhaps icons are a kind of cold water for the soul: they help us to be silent and help us to become more open and attentive to God's presence in the visible world? Yes , my quiet day in St John the Divine was so very worthwhile and as energizing as the cold black water of Mynyw! Thank you so much to all those who made it possible. Must do it again sometime.
**Prayer to Our Lady who brings down walls:
|Ian's icon of the Lady of the Wall|
Posted by DWP at 13:35
Friday, 1 February 2013
More to the point, I thought, are there angels in the modern Church? It is interesting that in my local Church that was built in the 1990s - to replace an earlier structure which was beyond repair- I can’t find any angels ( well images of angels) at all! Perhaps their absence in this modern building (I think that there was an angel or two in the old one) is indicative of the fact that angels no longer have the kind of place they had a generation or so ago. Although we mention the angels in prayers and in the Mass, and read about them in scripture, we ( that is me) tend to put them to the back of our minds and not think about them. But we should, as Catholics, renew our appreciation of their absolutely central role in our faith. The Catechism makes it clear enough:
350 Angels are spiritual creatures who glorify God without ceasing and who serve his saving plans for other creatures: "The angels work together for the benefit of us all" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 114, 3, ad 3).
351 The angels surround Christ their Lord. They serve him especially in the accomplishment of his saving mission to men.
352 The Church venerates the angels who help her on her earthly pilgrimage and protect every human being.
I confess, however, that I did not give them much thought until the icon came into my life. And yet, when you consider scripture and the teachings of the Church, it is apparent that we should and indeed must re-discover the importance of angels in our spiritual life. Indeed, as Benedict XVI reminded us a few years ago (2nd October 2011, on the Feast of the Guardian Angels) : 'Dear friends, the Lord is always near and active in human history and follows us with the unique presence of his angels, that today the Church venerates as ‘guardian’; in other words, those who minister God’s care for every man. From the beginning until death human life is surrounded by their constant protection.’
The Sacred Heart is about God’s desire to have a personal relationship – a heart to heart relationship – with us as individuals. Jesus is ‘God with us’, Emmanuel. The presence of the angels in the icon serves to remind us that God is near us, and walks with us: hence we all have a kind of messaging or communications system we call our ‘guardian angels’. Sitting on the underground it is amusing to see practically everyone playing with their phones and tablets. I plead guilty to this addiction. And there is something really annoying about not being able to send and receive emails and texts and all the rest of it deep underground. But angels go where wifi is unable to tread. My phone does not work on the underground, but my angel does – if only I am open to his messages, as the ‘texts’ that God is sending us. I should check my angelic texts and emails as much as I do my electronic messages. I should be as aware ( actually, of course, more aware) of heavenly space as I am cyberspace!
|Dore's illustration of Dante and the love which 'moves the sun and the other stars'|
Saint Margaret Mary – in her autobiography - writes about forming an association with the Seraphim so that together they might perpetually praise the Divine Heart. Thus, as we share in the body and blood of Christ and as we kneel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament we must think of how we are actually joining with the angels closest to the ‘Sacred temple of God’, the ‘ tabernacle of the Most High’ and the ‘burning furnace of charity’ ( as the Litany describes the Sacred Heart). In praying to the Sacred Heart we join with the ‘Burning ones’ aflame with the Love of God, in singing ‘Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus’ * The devotion to the Sacred Heart is therefore a kind of association with the burning ones. In living a life in which the Sacred Heart is the centre of our existence, we walk with the angels, and they with us. We share the same purpose: to set creation on fire with the Love of God.
So, looking for angels this morning – the first Friday of the month- I found I was more open to their presence as a result of meditating on the angels in the icon. Angels in scripture often appear – like Raphael – in an unexpected form. As I looked at the wooden statue of the Sacred Heart in my church this morning I did not see the Seraphim, but I did notice that alongside is a fire-alarm! I wonder if that was intentional? We pray that our hearts will be set aflame with the love of God and to be consumed by this love. From now on I have a feeling that the fire alarm will serve to remind me that (like St, Margaret Mary) we offer our prayers to the Heart of the Saviour in association with ‘the burning ones’. Thus it it has been a working week which was about looking for angels, but instead, surprise, surprise, what I actually found was a fire alarm. Or does it just look like a fire-alarm?
* Acquinas in the Summa notes: (in the First Part, 5th article.)
"The name 'Seraphim' does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius .. expounds the name 'Seraphim' according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may consider three things. "First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God. "Secondly, the active force which is 'heat,' which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat.
"Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others."
Posted by DWP at 12:14