Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Sacred Heart and the Public Square

Seeing the pictures of Ian applying the gold leaf to the board was a really exciting moment. It was as if the board had suddenly become alive! This feeling prompted me to remember why I thought it was important to ‘go public’ with this project. I am no theologian or artist and I have come to this icon as some-one who might be described as a ‘lukewarm’ Catholic who happened to be a professor of public policy. I kept my faith in a nice little private box which was quite separate from my concerns about public problems and policy. I came to realize,however, that in doing this I was actually contributing to the problem: I had seen economic and other problems as essentially about the application of rationality. However, it slowly occurred to me that so many of our problems have their roots deep in our spiritual or religious malaise. The Sacred Heart , I came to believe, was somehow pointing the way forward for a messed-up world that seems to lack a faith in the future. I wrote a piece about this in the the Catholic Herald last year. See HERE.

Looking at Ian’s work I am SO GRATEFUL that he agreed to make what is an intensely private and spiritual process open to the public gaze. The fact that we are now heading towards 6,000 hits on this blog is a sign that it has stimulated an interest and has served as a kind of metaphor for bringing the Sacred Heart into the public square. To use Benedict’s words (which I have put up on the blog) I believe that Ian is showing us why we urgently need sacred images to enable us to ‘learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified.’ Thus the image of the Sacred Heart becomes increasingly relevant to our age: we have to stop thinking about it as some old image from the past which has little or no relevance for our future. On this point I can refer readers of this blog to Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith’s blog on ‘ The Sacred Heart should be a rallying cry against secular society. HERE ’

Fr. Alexander concludes his piece in terms that I warmly endorse:

There is far too much talk of God in the abstract, I find, these days, especially from unbelievers. But God is never in the abstract. He is a Person. Knowledge of God is best gleaned through the flesh of Jesus. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is a good reminder that we should not let the enemies of religion set the agenda. They might want to talk about a God whom they do not believe in, but who we do not recognise either. We need to reply by talking about the God who is love, the Incarnate Son. Interestingly the Catholics who have most resisted de Christianisation – the brave folk of the Vendée and the Cristeros in Mexico – all took the Sacred Heart as their rallying cry. So should we.

And that is also what Teilhard believed: the Sacred Heart (in quo sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae) embodies a theology which points the way to ‘Les directions de l’avenir’ – a Christianity of the future. Hopefully, this icon will, in some small way, contribute to clarifying that theology and thereby make it more relevant to the challenges we face in a world in which public problems are increasingly complex, global and inter-connected . Above all Teilhard realized that this globalized ('planetizing') world needs a 'Cosmic Christ': a Sacred Heart to 'build the earth'. As Blessed John Paul said in 1994: 'From the Heart of Christ crucified is born the new humanity redeemed from sin. The man of the year 2000 needs Christ's Heart to know God and to know himself; he needs it to build the civilization of love". If we are to 'build the earth' and 'build the civilization of love ' we need to centre our personal lives and our public affairs around Christ's Heart.

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