Thursday, 9 June 2011

June Prayer to the Sacred Heart (8): A prayer for an Iconographer

It is so good to know that Ian is back in the UK after his travels. I am very much looking forward to seeing his exhibition in London this weekend.

I have to confess that when we started this project I had absolutely no idea as to what it would involve. My feeling now is that trying to think about my Catholic faith in terms of images has been a kind of pilgrimage. Yes, that is what this is! It is a pilgrimage not to a place or a space, but to a concept or idea as expressed in an image. I have not been to the Holy Land – like Ian - or to the shrine of a Saint. I have not journeyed to Paray-le-Monial. Mine has not been a kind of Chaucerian pilgrimage to Canterbury – a ‘hooly blisful martir for to seke’. But it has been about a journey to an image which helped me when I was ill: ‘ that hem, hath hoplen whan that they were seeke’. I rediscovered the Sacred Heart as a result of being ‘seeke’: but it was something that, despite being an image with which I had grown up, was in truth, a strange land for me. I prayed the prayers to the Sacred Heart, but did not know what they meant. Chaucer says that pilgrims were ’pierced by nature in their hearts’ to go on pilgrimages ‘to distant shrines known in foreign lands’ ( So priketh hem nature in hir corages; thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages..for to seken straungen strondes, to ferne halwes , kowthe in sundry landes’. )

As I have journeyed to this icon - which Ian will be writing in this month of the Sacred Heart - I have been telling stories – just like Chaucer’s pilgrims. And I suppose that is what a pilgrimage is: travelling to a place when we are ‘seeke’ in mind and body telling stories on the way so as to make sense of what the journey of your life has been. Although a pilgrimage is to ‘straugen strondes’ - strange lands- it is also a journey to home. A pilgrimage is a journey to a special place that is your spiritual home. It is the place that you take your sickness: the home where you hope and pray to be healed.

As I wrote that last line, the words of a hymn by Francis Stanfield came into my head:

O Sacred Heart,
Our home lies deep in thee
On earth thou art an exile's rest
In heaven the glory of the blest;
O Sacred Heart.

And there you have it. This pilgrimage to an icon of the Sacred Heart has been about finding my way home. And I think that that is why it was so important to Teilhard as well. His journey was to take him to ‘straugen strondes’ but also into exile far from the Church he loved wholly and completely, but was sadly not ready for his ideas. And yet he was only journeying on a ‘road less travelled’ to the Sacred Heart - which appeared to diverge from the path then acceptable to Rome . His journey ended where it began – in his mother’s love of the Sacred Heart. He never left home. And, I suppose, neither have I.

But, evenso, this pilgrimage has been bewildering at times. As a pilgrimage should be. And so, I sympathize with what Ian says in his recent post:

All of this is literally mind shattering. I find my head fragmenting into shards trying to comprehend all of this and hold some sort of sense from it, but it is literally beyond the pallid little mind I have, mortal creature that I am.

Yes, the journey to the Sacred Heart is one heck of an adventure and the most challenging of pilgrimages! The reason for this is obvious. It is ‘mind-shattering’ BECAUSE we are on a journey into what Benedict calls the ‘core’ of Christian belief. When we reflect on and pray to the Sacred Heart we are contemplating the totality - THE CORE - of the mystery of what Ian describes as the ‘ centre of the God’s power as experienced in our world and transforming it, as creative and redemptive. In the Person of Jesus, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this comes to its apex, its Omega Point..’ ‘the meeting point of the Creation with its Creator and Redeemer’

And so we are at one with Teilhard in saying:

" Our Lord's Heart is indeed ineffably beautiful and satisfying: it exhausts all reality and answers all the soul's needs. The very thought of it is almost more than the mind can compass

So, the prayer for today is for 'mind shattered' Ian.

Dear Lord, Enlighten and direct Ian's soul, heart and spirit. Guide his hands that he may worthily and perfectly write an icon of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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