Wednesday, 1 June 2011

June: the month of the Sacred Heart

Today is the 1st of June. And in London, it is ‘bursting out all over’! It is a beautifully sunny day. June is traditionally the month which is dedicated to the Sacred Heart. The feast of the Sacred Heart – which is a ‘solemnity’ in the Catholic Church - is celebrated on the Friday 19 days after Pentecost. So, this year it will actually be in July. ( The first of July - one of the latest I can recall.) This is therefore an important part of the journey towards a better understanding of the Sacred Heart. Over the next four weeks, therefore, I will blog a daily reflection on the devotion, and I think I will try to focus on the treasury of prayers which have been used over the years. I hope that these prayers will be a source of inspiration to Ian as he works on the icon in the weeks to come.

But before that I would like to just tidy up a few loose ends in relation to Teilhard and Dante because it raises a number of interesting issues. In simple terms, reading Dante from a Teilhardian perspective prompts us to see how central for both men was the role of love. For both it is the Love of God which fills and energises the whole of creation. Human history is a story which culminates in Christ becoming all in all. Indeed, this is why Dante called his great work a COMEDY. He uses this word in the ancient sense of a comedy as a drama which has a happy ending: order emerges from the apparent confusion and chaos. For Dante human history has a point and a purpose and at the close of the Divine Comedy he describes what that point and purpose is: our ultimate unity with the source of all love: God. So too, for Teilhard, evolution is not a tragic story: it is not meaningless and pointless. Teilhard’s vision is one of evolution as a divine comedy and not a tragedy! The story of evolution is the story of love. It has a point and purpose. What draws us on, as in Dante, is the energy - the gravitational / convergent pull - of love. Teilhard’s prayer is for humanity to be united to the centre – or heart – of creation. As in Dante, the only way in which humanity can be united to that sacred centre is by being open to the energy of love. When we read Dante we see what happens ( in the Inferno and in Purgatory) when human beings fail to harness that energy, and become driven by the love of self, rather than open to the love of God. At the end of the Divine Comedy Dante beholds the Trinity and sees at the centre of the centre the image of Christ. It helps us visualize what Teilhard saw in the Sacred Heart. As he put it in a letter to Lucile Swan in 1941, the (Pinta) image of the Sacred Heart is :’ a vague representation of the universal “foyer” of attraction which we are aiming for.’ Dante equally finds it impossible to give anything more than a vague or rough and inadequate description of what he imagined as with his poet’s eyes he looked into the heart of the Trinity, nothing less than: ‘l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle’. It is this love - a cosmic energy - that moves the sun and all the stars which Teilhard asks us to contemplate when we gaze upon an image of the Sacred Heart. This month, June, is the month when we must look upon that blazing fire of love and try to open ourselves to its power. It is the month of the Sacred Heart whose feast we will celebrate on the first of July in the light of Pentecost: when the Holy Spirit appeared as fire to the apostles.

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