Thursday, 3 February 2011

A view from a pew

Yesterday was the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It is also the day when candles are be blessed for use in the Church: it is literally Candle Mass day. After mass, we had what I think is one of the great forms of prayer and devotion in the Catholic Church, the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was wonderful to see so many people there. This is, of course, a devotion which is closely associated with the Sacred Heart. Indeed, as Paul VI said: ‘"The Blessed Sacrament is the Living Heart of each of our churches and it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore the Blessed Host, which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word, Whom they cannot see." I have to confess that although the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was something I did in my youth it was not something a favored as an adult. But over the years that has changed. It struck me yesterday that when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the monstrance it looks very like the image of the heart of Jesus glowing with radiating light. And appropriately we sang ‘Sweet Heart of Jesus’ at the beginning of the adoration. Teilhard wrote a beautiful story/reflection about the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and it is worth reading (HERE in his HYMN OF THE UNIVERSE) . Having undergone radio-therapy I used to feel that the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and having radio therapy were two sides of the same kind of experience. In the adoration you expose yourself to the Sacred Heart of the energy of divine love (as Teilhard would have it) and in radio therapy you are exposed to the energy of radiation. In the former you are exposed to the divine energy at the centre of the cosmos, and in the latter the powerful energy of matter itself. Of course, Teilhard got there before me in his essay on the cyclotron! ( In his book Human Energy.) (Again , worth reading.) So now Ian, I think I see the Sacred Heart in terms of the monstrance. Is that helpful? Not being a theologian or student of world religions I have no idea if this idea we find in the adoration is common in other faiths and in particular in other Christian – especially Orthodox – traditions? But in my mind I think the image of the Sacred Heart and the Monstrance converges. And of course, the great surprise of Pope Benedict's visit in September 2010 was the vigil in Hyde Park and the moving sense of peace and devotion which spread out accross the park and through our television screens. A demonstration of the power of the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as a devotion.

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