Sunday, 24 July 2011

Nova et Vetera

Today has been a beautiful day in London. We spent the morning and early afternoon in Hampstead. I must admit to feeling as if I was waiting for Christmas morning, what with Ian’s hope that the icon will be completed tomorrow. Today’ s mass was full of hearts in the hymns, readings and prayers and I was especially touched by the readings from the First Book of Kings, and St. Matthew’s Gospel. In first reading ( Kings 1: 3: 5, 7-12) we encounter Solomon who wisely asks, in response to an invitation from the Lord, for a ‘heart to discern between good and evil’ and the Lord commends his choice and gives him a ‘ heart that is wise and shrewd as none before has had and none will have after you’. For the past few days I have been reflecting on old Adam in the left hand corner. ( Which is very very important for this icon.) Does Adam not seek to understand the difference between good and evil as well ? The difference is, of course, Adam believes that it is his to ‘take’ : whereas Solomon realizes that an understanding heart is a grace from God: he asks for a wise heart that can discern the difference between good and evil. In the same way that we cannot ‘take’ the Sacred Heart, we have to respond to the invitation to let the fire of God’s love into our hearts. As I reflected on this the second reading from St. Matthew made me think of what this icon I doing: it is helping me to better understand the love of God. In the reading Jesus give us a number of parables as to what the kingdom of heaven is ‘like’. He asks the apostles do they ‘understand’ what he is saying and they reply ‘yes’! Do the apostles have the insight of a Solomon? Do they have hearts which can understand what Jesus is saying? I must admit, that I do not understand what the kingdom of heaven is like from these parables at all! I think, as the priest suggested in his sermon, what it really means is that we can only understand if we are close to Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the light. It is only when we are close to Jesus – that is if his love is burning in our breast- we can understand. We understand through love, through the heart, not the head.

And then Jesus concludes with a statement which, I believe, sums up what this icon is about. ‘A scribe (and an iconographer) who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is LIKE a ‘householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old’. This icon has been very much about bringing out the new and the old from the storehouse of Church tradition and teaching.

Nova et vetera – new and old - was a favourite phrase of Teilhard. And I think that is what the icon does. It connects the old traditions of the Heart of Jesus – traditions going back many hundreds of years – with those which emerged in the 17th -18th centuries together with ‘new’ ways of seeing the Sacred Heart as Christ Omega – the universal Christ. It connects the ‘old’ with the ‘new’ testament and prompts us to think of the Sacred Heart in biblical terms. It makes us think about theologies both ancient and modern. I believe that Ian has written an inspiring icon which provides all who read it and pray with it a window into the profound meaning and continuing relevance of the Church's devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We need to rediscover this 'treasure' if we are to meet the challenges facing the Church. I look forward to seeing the finished work.

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