Monday, 27 February 2012

Lent, reparation and expiation

Reading St. Mary Margaret's accounts of her experiences and reflecting on the devotion to the Sacred Heart which spread out from Paray-le-Monial, we are reminded of how central the ideas of reparation and expiation are in our relationship to the Heart of Jesus.  Taking a teilhardian perspective on the Sacred Heart does not mean that we should ignore these aspects of the devotion- but rather put them into a more cosmic or universal perspective.   We only have to read some of Teilhard's prayers to the Sacred Heart to see that reparation and expiation  were part of his devotion: his view was, however, that they should not overshadow or over-sentimentalise the Sacred Heart.    In the Scared Heart we are shown the great truth of our faith: that God is love and that this love is made incarnate in Jesus.   And, Jesus loves us as individuals and wants us to be complete as individuals - but that this can only come about when we are one with him, as HE is one with His  Father.   God loves us with a human heart.  Reflecting upon this over the past few days so many memories stirred in my mind of the times when some kindness or love that I might have done was met with ingratitude, or worse.   The feeling you experience is one of being hurt.   Equally, the times when I have been ungrateful for an act of kindness and love from someone else must have also caused people the same sense of hurt.  What is it that the song says: 'we always hurt the ones we love, the ones we shouldn't hurt at all.' ?    And yet that is what we do time after time.  When we do this we have to make amends, and some how wash away and cleanse  that injury- otherwise it will fester and become a sore and eat like a cancer into our relationship.  God loves us in a way we can understand: with a human heart.  It seems to me that Lent is a time to face up to the hurt we have inflicted - individually and collectively- on the loving heart of Christ.   In any relationship which has been wounded or damaged, the admission that we are sorry and that we will make amends is necessary for that relationship to be repaired.  Lent is a time to reflect on our relationship with a God who loves us with an almighty fire, and yet we remain, in the words of another song ( A fine romance)  as 'cold as yesterday's mashed potatoes'.   Lent is a period to repent of our indifference and coldness and allow our hearts to be open to the fire of God's love.  But to do that we have to ask for the mercy of God and be sorry and make amends.  In Lent we have to starve the self, and starve our sins.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday

At the start of lent we are brought back once again to a very sharp focus on the heart as central to our journey towards Easter.  Just as in our journey to Bethlehem our Lenten journey is also  about the heart.  We go into the desert within so as to return to God with our whole heart.  The first reading at today's mass brought me up short.  The prophet Joel (2: 12-18) calls us back to the Lord with all our heart.  And this must not be just by outward signs of repentance, but a change of heart.:' come back  to me with all your heart'.  It is our hearts that must be broken, and  not our clothes torn. The Psalm, (50) today asks God to 'create a pure heart' and a 'steadfast spirit'.  Repentance must come from the very core of our being: we have to change our heart by keeping in mind the meek and humble heart of Jesus and seek to become one with His heart.

I came across this excellent graphic (on a website for a church in Austin Texas  HERE)  which nicely combines the the sign of the cross made with the ashes and the symbol of the heart. I don't know who designed it, but it is a very good image to use when reflecting on the meaning of  the day and of the Lenten journey.  The cross made of ashes appears on our heads but it must over the coming days penetrate into the very centre and core of who we are.  It leaves a black stain on our forehead, but its purpose is to remind us to purify our hearts by becoming more and more like the Heart of Jesus.  

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Fresco at Paray-le-Monial: Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Reflecting on the importance of St. Margaret Mary, I find myself drawn back to the fresco painted by Luc Barbier once more.  SEE HERE
Blessed Charles in the
Paray-le-Monial  fresco by Barbier
As we know, there is ample evidence to suggest that it is probable that Luc Barbier's fresco was very influenced by Teilhard's ideas about the Sacred Heart (Read Here) .  But it is also clear from the picture that the artist researched the topic extremely well.  Rather uniquely for a picture of the Sacred  Heart he makes us reflect on the communion of saints and prompts us to explore the role of  people other that Saint Margaret Mary.   There are two twentieth century figures represented: Fr. (now Blessed, since 2005)  Charles de Foucauld and  Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey. (Read about Blessed Charles  HERE. )  

 Reading about Blessed Charles I was fascinated to see that Barbier  may well have picked up on the relationship or parallels between de Foucauld and Teilhard.   In his book Christendom Awake: On re-energising the Church in Culture,  (HERE ) Aidan Nichols O.P  draws our attention to the relationship between the role of the Sacred Heart for both men.  He notes that for de Foucauld, and for those who followed him – the  Petits Frères and Soeurs – the Sacred Heart was to be the ‘matrix’ of prayer and spiritual life:

 ..Christ's heart is seen as the source from which human beings can be rejuvenated, to the point of finding their own hearts alive with Christ's love, especially for the wretched, the sick, the poor. For de Foucauld, personal devotion to the heart of Christ is the central and irreplaceable focus of the life of prayer, and, so far from, as is sometimes alleged, leading to a self-indulgent and individualistic piety, it is the essential way in which to affirm the universal scope of the Incarnation. ..

Fr. Nichols argues that Teilhard: 

….was to offer in his own spirituality, as interpreted by cardinal Henri de Lubac, a remarkable theological presentation of de Foucauld's fundamental intuition. If prayer, understood as loving devotion to God in Christ, is truly authentic, then the one who prays will become a channel for Christ's divinising presence, with unlimited ramifications. Prayer is to be at once more personal and more cosmic, more closely related to the entire work of God in creation and transfiguration. According to de Lubac, it was in the context of prayer that Teilhard found his way to a sense of the God of Christian faith which would make sense in a world increasingly aware through scientific discovery of the immensity of the cosmos, and the power to master nature which technology places in human hands. For Teilhard, the inner dynamism of the cosmos, seen in the emergence of man in the evolutionary process, is 'personogenesis', the making of persons, but only the heart of Christ fully reveals and realises the personifying depth of the Creator's love. As he wrote: 'The true infinite is not an infinite of dispersion, but of concentration'. ..In God, for Teilhard, lies the ultra-personal, and ultra-personalising centre. In prayer we place ourselves within this centre's radiance. Indeed prayer is existence in the ambience of this personalising centre of the world. He traced the conflict that was ravaging the world by 1940 mainly to 'the inner fact that men have despaired of this personality of God'. For Teilhard, the sacred heart of Jesus is the point from which the fire of God bursts into the cosmic milieu to set it ablaze with love. In prayer, we relocate ourselves in this divine source, and in contemplating him, contemplate at the same time the destiny of our world. Prayer, precisely through being Christocentric, has a cosmic significance. (pp210-11) (my emphasis) 

But Fr. Nichols also points out that that prayer focused on the heart of Jesus carries with it some dangers.   And here, I think,  he gets at the problem which this icon set out to address: if we are not careful,  the devotion can become very sentimental and detached from the teachings  of the Church as a whole.  And this is also the case for ‘Teilardisme’: 

Where such a spirituality becomes disengaged from the wider theological, historical, sacramental and moral structure found in the Church's doctrine, it rapidly degenerates into a vague mystical benevolence, as with Teilhardisme at its worst, or into the sentimental banalities of many modern prayer cards, with their kittens, butterflies and soporifically trivial uplifting thoughts. 'All you need is love' is both a truth and an untruth, or, rather, it has its properly evangelical truth only in the context of all the dogmas of the Church.  (p214)

The Sacred Heart that was so central to the spirituality and prayer life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and Teilhard and the others represented in Barbier’s fresco  in Paray-le-Monial  - BUT , it must always be situated in and engaged with  wider theological, sacramental, moral teaching of the Church, otherwise it is a devotion which can result in people  becoming detached and not engaged with Catholic dogma.  My own view is that is what Teilhard was arguing.  He wanted to de-sentimentalize the Sacred Heart and get us to see it in a new light: in which case, therefore, we must always remember that the Sacred Heart is central to what Teilhard is saying and Teilhard must always be read from the perspective of the Sacred Heart otherwise it can and does degenerate (rapidly) into new-age mysticism of the very worst kind.   At the same time, we must also keep in mind that Teilhard did not want to abandon the devotion to the Sacred Heart which spread out from Paray-le- Monial : on the contrary, he wanted to see it evolve and become more relevant. Otherwise it would become increasingly irrelevant.   I think he was right about that.   If Christendom is to awake then  we have to become more alive to  the centrality of the Sacred Heart for the great task of re-energizing the role of the church at a time of profound cultural crisis.  And prayer is therefore both a profoundly personal experience, but also one that has cultural and indeed cosmic consequences.  

Fr. Aidan's  words above are worth repeating in the context of both the fresco in the chapel at Paray-le-Monial and in terms of reading our icon:

In God, for Teilhard, lies the ultra-personal, and ultra-personalising centre. In prayer we place ourselves within this centre's radiance. Indeed prayer is existence in the ambience of this personalising centre of the world. He traced the conflict that was ravaging the world by 1940 mainly to 'the inner fact that men have despaired of this personality of God'. For Teilhard, the sacred heart of Jesus is the point from which the fire of God bursts into the cosmic milieu to set it ablaze with love. In prayer, we relocate ourselves in this divine source, and in contemplating him, contemplate at the same time the destiny of our world. Prayer, precisely through being Christocentric, has a cosmic significance.

When we look at the Barbier fresco we can see this 'divine source' pulsing through creation.  The figures in the fresco are inviting us to place ourselves in the presence of  this divine source - as they did.   In our icon the same message is conveyed by fire glowing at the heart of the image and by the fire encircling Christ filling all creation.  And here too we are being invited by the the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist  to 'relocate ourselves' in the source of divine love and energy. 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Seraphim, St Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart (3): Seraph before the altar, pray for us.

I knew that, in time, St Margaret Mary would find her rightful place in our icon.  And she has.   Whilst reading her prayers and the litany in honour of St. Margaret Mary today (READ HERE)   I find that she is called ‘a Seraph before the altar’ !   And thus she joins with her spiritual guide , St. Francis of Assisi,   with the Seraph in  the top left hand corner and now invites us – as the ‘violet in the Garden of St. Francis de Sales’ - to join with them in singing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.’

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Seraphim, St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart (2)

The autobiography of Saint Margaret Mary is a fascinating account of her experiences.  Considering the role which the saint  has played in the promotion of the devotion it might be thought that I have been rather negligent I not reading the icon through the perspective of her writings.  However, as I was determined to allow the icon to unfold in its own time and in its own way I was happy to wait until the time was right to read the icon in the light of St Margaret Mary’s  own words.  Of course, her experiences have been well documented and examined but several points seem to me emphasized more than they are.  The first – which is manifestly brought out by Teilhard – is that she is describes the Sacred Heart in terms of fire rather than in terms of a physical heart.  Her prayers turn to a desire to be consumed by this fire, rather than dwell on the heart as a bloody physical object.  The heart is a burning  furnace that desires to consume all things, and even consumes itself: ‘Behold the Heart , Which has loved men so much, that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself…’  Fire is the predominant image or metaphor which we find in her account.  Not  a  few flames, but a fire that is overwhelming, like the sun.  Hence the passage cited in an earlier post which she describes it as ‘brighter than the sun’ and surrounded by flames of pure love.’  Indeed, she then describes this sun being surrounded by the Seraphim who sing ‘Love triumphs, love enjoys, the love of the Sacred Heart rejoices!’.  They invite her to join with them in a perpetual ‘homage of love, adoration and praise’.

Given this, it is very gratifying that our icon does have a Seraph – unlike so many images of the Sacred Heart.  The word ‘seraph’, of course, derives from the Hebrew word which means ‘to consume with fire’.  In the book of Isaiah (6:6) we learn that their function was – amongst other things – to perpetually  sing the glory of  the Lord God of  Hosts’.  The hymn they sing in Isaiah – known as the trisagion. ( the thrice holy): it is referenced by the Sanctus  - the tersanctus - in the Mass: ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth, Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.) The thrice holy  also occurs in the Book of Revelation (4:8) sung by four seraphs around the Throne of God: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
 Who was and is and is to come!”

So the significance of the presence of the Seraphim in her visions of the Sacred Heart is very important but rather ignored. AND yet,  it serves to remind us that the Sacred Heart is, as the Litany of the Sacred Heart, proclaims:

Holy Trinity, one God,
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father,
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother,
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God,
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty,
Heart of Jesus, sacred temple of God,
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High,
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven,
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity,

The presence of the Seraphim in her devotion to the Sacred Heart indicates that our prayers to the Heart of Jesus are joining with the 'Seraphim's Song to the Heart of Jesus' .  The litany to the Sacred Heart may be read as  a seraphic hymn – like the Sanctus.   The new English translation of the Mass makes this clear in the preface prior to the Sanctus, for example Preface IV of Lent:

Through him the Angels praise your majesty,
Dominions adore and Powers tremble before you.
Heaven and the Virtues of heaven and the blessed Seraphim
Worship together in exultation.
May our voices, we pray, join with theirs
in humble praise, as we acclaim:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory……

So with St. Margaret we can join with the blessed Seraphim and sing:

‘Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory……
Love triumphs, love enjoys, the love of the Sacred Heart rejoices!’

We do find some images which have putti ( supposed Seraphim)  in them.  These just serve to over- sentimentalise the image of the Sacred Heart in a way which simply does not capture what St. Margaret Mary writes about at all!  In her autobiography we get a real sense of the power and energy of what she experienced, and this is reinforced by her account of the Seraphim.  The use of putti as compared with the Seraphim depicted in Eastern icons and medieval images illustrates how Catholic art from the Renaissance just cut itself off from its roots in older Christian representations. Putti, what happened there?!!

If you compare the images (ABOVE, click on image to enlarge) we find of  the Seraphim in medieval images and by Giotto  and those of Christ with the Seraphim in Eastern Orthodox icons with those of the Sacred Heart with putti it is evident how what we read in St, Margaret Mary was turned in dreadful sentimentalised images that in no way express what the Seraphim are about.  The icons completely captures the spirit of the Litany of the Scared Heart: the majesty and power of Christ surrounded by the blessed Seraphim.  Do the images of the Sacred Heart surrounded by cute putti capture it?  No. They wholly and completely lose sight of what we read in  St Margaret Mary or what the Seraphim are supposed embody in the tradition and teaching of the Church!! * 

Click to enlarge
Sacred Heart by Félix Villé, 1895
 WITH SERAPHIM! (Click to enlarge) 
One image we have already mentioned by Félix Villé, however, does capture what St. Margaret Mary says in her autobiography. My picture taken in Paris last year does not do it justice, but we can see, faintly  in the background the images of  Seraphim as opposed to silly putti.  If the painting was cleaned up a bit, I think the images of the Seraphim would be clearer: but you can see they are six winged and powerful angels who are closest to the fire of God's love: and not little baby putti!  Well done Felix!!

*For example, St Thomas Acquinas, in Summa Theologiae:

"The name 'Seraphim' does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius  expounds the name 'Seraphim' according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may consider three things.
"First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God.
"Secondly, the active force which is 'heat,' which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat.
"Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others."

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Seraphim, St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart (1)

St Margaret Mary with PUTTI, not Seraphim!
Carrado Giaquinto, 1765
The reading of St. Francis de Sales  naturally made me take the road to Paray-le-Monial again.  This was prompted by the timely arrival of a kind and thoughtful present from a friend: The Autobiography of St. Margaret Mary, Tan Books, 1986. (HERE )  ( So  thanks Maria!) Reading it today  I noted that she tells us that she imagined, whilst looking at a picture of St. Francis de Sales , that he called her his daughter and that she felt that he had become her ‘good father’: this appears to be before she decided to join the Convent of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial.   What I also find fascinating is that she describes the Sacred  Heart  using the idea of fire and a furnace of love.  I was expecting her imagery to be rather more anatomical, but no. Her description is all about fire and light.  All of this makes the subsequent imagery of the Sacred Heart which came out of the Paray-le-Monial experiences even more perplexing.  Did artists actually bother to READ her autobiography? This emphasis on the Sacred Heart as a fire and a furnace of love is made even clearer in her reference to her vision of the Seraphim.  Our icon is, I think quite a rare example of  showing the Sacred Heart and the Seraphim.  But what is puzzling is why the image of the Sacred Heart and the Seraphim is not more common, given what St Margaret Mary actually wrote : 

Seraphim in the fresco at the
Chapel of the Visitation, Paray-le-Monial
I felt myself wholly rapt in interior and exterior recollection, and at that time, the Adorable Heart of my Jesus appeared brighter than the sun.  It was surrounded by the flames of Its pure love, and encircled by Seraphim, who sang in marvelous harmony: ‘ Love triumphs, love enjoys, the love of the Sacred Heart rejoices!’ These blessed spirits invited me to unite with them in praising this Divine Heart, but I did not dare do so.  They reproved me, telling me they had come in order to form an association with me, whereby to render It a perpetual homage of love, adoration and praise, and that , for this purpose, they would take my place before the Blessed Sacrament.  Thus I might be able, by their means, to love It continually, and as they would participate in my love and suffer in my person, I on my part, should rejoice with them.  At the same time they wrote the association in the Sacred Heart in letters of gold, and in indelible characters of love.  This lasted from two to three hours, and I have  felt the effects thereof throughout my life, both by the assistance I received, and by the sweetness which it produced and continued to produce in me, although I felt overwhelmed with confusion.  From that day I addressed them by no other name, when praying to them, than by that of my divine associates. (pp 102- 103) 

Thus the Seraph in the top left once gain provides an important focus for reading the icon.  It draws our attention to the close association between the Seraphim and the Sacred Heart for St Margaret Mary - BUT, not for the imagery which dominated the devotion inspired by her experiences!!  I am, however, very puzzled as to why this association is not more widespread in the imagery of the Sacred Heart – especially in the light of the importance she attached to the role of the Seraphim??  Where they do make an appearance they tend to be represented by (dreadful, sentimental, cute and terribly kitsch) ‘putti’ rather than by six winged Seraphim.  I wonder How many artists bothered to include the Seraphim in pictures of the  Sacred Heart / St Margaret Mary?  I have not come across too many..thus far.  

A beautiful and powerful prayer by Saint Margaret Mary that  brings out the significance she attached to the Seraphim:

O most loving Heart of my only love, Jesus, not being able to love, honor and glorify Thee according to the extent of the desire which Thou hast given me to do so, I invite Heaven and earth to join with me; I unite myself with the burning Seraphim to love Thee. 

O Heart all burning with love, mayest Thou inflame Heaven and earth with Thy most pure flames and consume all that they contain, in order that all creatures may breathe only by Thy love! Grant me either to die or to suffer, or at least change me completely and make me all heart in order to love Thee, consuming myself in Thy burning ardor.

 O Divine fire, O all pure flames of the Heart of my only love, Jesus, burn me without pity, consume me and I will not resist. Oh! why dost Thou spare me since I deserve only fire and since I am fit only for burning? 

O Love of Heaven and earth, come, come, into my heart and inflame me! O devouring fire of the Divinity, come, descend upon me! Burn me, consume me in the midst of Thy most lively flames which make those live who die in them.

 Amen. *

I think that this is a prayer which is very much in keeping with a teilhardian understanding of the Sacred Heart.  I wonder if he knew it? Probably not,  but it is very close to his own prayers to the Sacred Heart. I feel the icon is reflecting the sentiments of this prayer in so many ways: if I were to put a list of prayers which help us to read this icon I would say this prayer would be high on that list.  A real find, and a real treasure.

(More of her prayers HERE.)*

This is so very nice: because when I see the Seraph in the icon I can remember St. Margaret Mary and recall the payer (above).  It is amazing how that Seraph has assumed such an important place in the icon!  

*Taken from Prayers Composed in Honor of the Sacred Heart by St. Margaret Mary, edited by Monsignor Gauthey, Paris 1951.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Live Jesus! The icon through the lens of the Salesian Tradition.

I am coming to the conclusion that in order to read this icon you have to both go back and understand the evolution of the image and the devotion , whilst always remembering to go forward and think about the future of the  image and the devotion.  I think that Teilhard enables us to think of the future direction, and that St. Francis de Sales is an important person to enable us to understand the history of the devotion, but also he points the way forward.   St. Francis de Sales occupies a central position in the story of the Heart of Jesus.  He drew upon the earlier traditions and teaching of the church, but he was – with St Jane Chantal to have a defining influence of the devotion as it emerged from France in the 17th century onwards and not just on St. Margaret Mary, but on many others, including St. John Eudes.  His influence on St Vincent de Paul and St Louise de Marillac and the Daughters of Charity should also be mentioned: but the spread of Salesian spirituality with its stress upon the heart is without doubt  one of the most significant aspects of the history of the Sacred Heart.  And yet, as I read through my little CTS booklet on the Sacred Heart I can’t find one reference.  This is a shame, because when you explore the Salesian tradition of the heart,  the meaning of the devotion  - and this icon - becomes much clearer.  Dr. Wendy Wright’s book  Heart Speaks to Heart  (see HERE) has been a real revelation and has opened the doors to me with respect to the profound relevance of St Francis de Sales to reading this icon.  Let me just quote a few passages.  She notes that the words we find in St Matthew (11:28-30) are central to St. Francis’s spiritual vision. It is here we learn that Jesus is ‘gentle and humble of heart’ and in whom we find rest.   Dr Wright explains that for St Francis:

Although in essence beyond human description, God can metaphorically be said to be possessed of a Heart that is the source of all love. God’s Heart is life giving, it is a womb, a fountain, a vital restless energy that breathes, pulses and beats..The Godhead itself is thus imagined as a relational dynamic.  In its fullness the Trinity, as it were, spills out of itself and overflows.  Indeed, creation itself is the intrinsic dynamic of Love  that spills out, that gives of itself in abundance.  In addition, the divine Heart imminent in creation acts relationally and dynamically.  As love gives it also receives and is intent on drawing to itself all that it has created.  Thus the Heart of God can be said to love human hearts and to long for union.  P 32

I have to say when I read that passage, I looked on the icon in a new light.  It lead me to explore the work and life of St Francis de Sales, and understand how his teachings had flowed into the devotion and how we need to follow these ideas back to their source in his writings.  Again, as Dr. Wright explains, it is important to remember that for:

Francis de Sales ‘heart’ does not connote merely sentiment, affection, or emotion. Instead it retains its biblical meaning as  the core or centre of the person. Thus ‘heart’ involves intellect and reason as well as affection and will. The human heart, created to know and love God is, like its divine counterpart, dynamic and relational.  It too breathes and beats.  Through inspiration it draws in love.  By aspiration it pours itself out towards its neighbour and its ultimate source.  The human heart, it might be said, is made to beat in rhythm with the heart of God… God’s eternal Heart and the created heart of humankind thus are designed for union. ‘ May God live in my heart for that is what it is made for’ , Francis was quoted as saying. P 33.

So from the perspective of the Salesian tradition we must contemplate the image of the Heart of Jesus as represented in this icon as with the words of Matthew 11: 28-30 always before us.  The heart we see glowing at the centre of a cosmos converging into unity with God’s love is a gentle and humble heart that calls us to be gentle and humble towards others, rather than seek power and domination over them.  Hence Dr Wright emphasizes that:

Salesian discipleship is thus first and foremost about an exchange of hearts.  It is about the practice of ‘living Jesus’ through the cultivation of the little relational virtues [ like gentleness and humility].  Discipleship is the lifelong opening of the heart to be transformed by and inhabited by Jesus’ own gentle heart. P33

St Francis de Sales calls us to ‘Live Jesus’ by allowing Christ to live in our hearts, and that in so doing our heart can become gentle and humble so that we can say, with St Paul, that it is no longer I that live, but  that  Christ lives in me.

As he prays in the Introduction to the Devout Life:

“LIVE JESUS. LIVE JESUS. Yes, Lord Jesus, live and reign in our hearts for ever and ever. Amen!”

This simple prayer perhaps sums up the whole message and meaning of the icon*.

* Just a thought: in the course of writing the icon Ian mentioned his own regard for St Francis de Sales.  Perhaps the influence of the Salesian tradition on the writing of the icon is more significant than I have supposed!