Sunday, 24 June 2012

Birth of John the Baptist

Some figures in the icon are reasonably self-explanatory.  The presence of the Blessed Virgin is a case in point: it can serve to remind the viewer of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its relationship to the Sacred Heart - as when, following the feast of the Sacred Heart we celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the following day. But the representation of the St. John the Baptist is not so obvious a connection with the Sacred Heart. Indeed, when people look at St. John they often assume it is St John, the beloved apostle, who stood at the foot of cross with the three Marys.  But today's feast gives us pause to think about John the Baptist through the lens of this icon.  I have commented on this elsewhere in the blog but today it struck me that John the Baptist does have really an important role to play in how we can read this image of the  Sacred Heart. First of all,  John presence reminds us that we use his words at mass when we pray in the Communion rite :  'Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world' and ask for mercy and peace. As Teilhard always reminds us, the eucharist is the Sacred Heart.  So John's presence in the icon focuses our mind on the relationship between the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacred Heart. Secondly, John the Baptist  in this icon is reminding us that a devotion to the Heart of Jesus is about (what Teilhard called ) the diminishment of our egos.  We pray that our heart - our very centre - becomes more like his, and that our heart becomes united with His heart.  For us to become fully us, we have to lose our selves.  Only the love of God can complete us and make us whole.   This requires us to become meek and humble of heart.  It requires us to learn from His heart.  And so as we say the 'Agnus Dei', we should also remember his words concerning his humility of knowing that he must decrease, and that Jesus must increase (John 3: 30).   If we are to be united with the Sacred Heart our egos have to diminish so that the Heart of Jesus can increase and expand in us. This is the core message of the Sacred Heart which John here is directing our gaze towards:  He must increase in your heart, and you must decrease.  Devotion to the Sacred Heart is essentially about decreasing and diminishment: the fire of the Sacred Heart can only shine and glow in a humble and  contrite heart.

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