Saturday, 4 June 2011

June Prayers to the Sacred Heart (3) : Prayer before an Icon of St Paul

When we think about prayer and the Sacred Heart we naturally return to the role of images. Indeed, of all Catholic traditions, none place more emphasis on the importance of displaying an image than that of the Sacred Heart. ( Apart from the Divine Mercy.) Indeed, the ninth promise given to St Margaret Mary is that Christ will bless the places in which the image is exposed and honoured. Teilhard himself had a picture of the Sacred Heart on his desk: it was apparently the only piece of ‘pious’ art he possessed. The whole point of this project is to try and see the Sacred Heart in a different way – a way that seeks to capture what Teilhard believed the Sacred Heart symbolized. But to do that, I think we need other icons! In this regard I have always been fascinated by the Orthodox tradition of the ‘ikonstasis’, or icon corner. I first saw them in the homes of Greek friends and neighbours when I was growing up. And I think that Catholics and other Christians can learn so much from the ‘icon corner’. Perhaps an icon of the Sacred Heart should find a home within an ikonostasis? Because, in thinking about prayers to the Sacred Heart inspired by Teilhard one thing is clear to me more than any other: in addition to the icon of the Virgin, we also must turn to an icon of St Paul. The Virgin is important to Teilhard’s idea of the Sacred Heart because - as we saw in the blogs on the ‘Eternal Feminine’ – Mary points the way and leads on and up to Jesus. But for Teilhard, the Sacred Heart MUST also be viewed through the perspective or window (icon) of St. Paul. The Sacred Heart as Christ Omega is the Jesus we find in Paul’s letters. If we are to understand what Teilhard saw in the Sacred Heart – and furthermore WHY it was so crucial to the future of Christianity – we must look at the Sacred Heart through an icon of St Paul. When we do this, Teilhard’s vision of the Sacred Heart becomes much clearer. In simple terms prayer to the Sacred Heart should be inspired by St. Paul. That is really what Teilhard is saying.

A few days before he died, on Maunday Thursday 1955, he wrote down what he considered to be the essence of what he believed. It begins: ‘St. Paul – the three verses: En pasi panta Theos’. The three verses are 1. Corithians xv: 26, 27, and 28.’

In these verses we are asked to see the Sacred Heart as both personal and Cosmic. The universe has a loving heart that desires our love, so that we may be complete. This heart has given all for us, and invites us to respond.

26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For he has put all things in subjection under his feet. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

When we pray to the Sacred Heart it must – from this Pauline perspective – be to pray for us to be united to Christ who is the very centre and heart of the Cosmos - of all things. We pray for the Parousia: when God will become all in all. The Sacred Heart pulls us towards this centre. We just have to open our hearts, as Jesus opens his. We have to lose our hearts to find ourselves in Christ. To pray is to adore. And to adore the Sacred Heart is, as Teilhard says:

to lose oneself in the unfathomable, to plunge into the inexhaustible, to find peace in the incorruptible, to be absorbed in defined immensity, to offer oneself to the fire and the transparency, to annihilate oneself in proportion as one becomes more deliberately conscious of oneself, and to give of one’s deepest to that whose depth has no end…

And thus our prayer for today joins with Teilhard in his Pauline vision.

Disperse, O Jesus, the clouds with your lightning! Show yourself to us as the Mighty, the Radiant, the Risen! Come to us once again as the Pantocrator who filled the solitude of the cupolas in the ancient Basilicas! Nothing less than this Parousia is needed to counter-balance and dominate in our hearts the glory of the world that is coming into view. And so we should triumph over the world with you, come to us clothed in the glory of the world.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (London: Fontana 1964), pp. 127-9.


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