Friday, 31 January 2014

Icon at Lichfield Cathedral

The Sacred Heart icon is currently at Lichfield Cathedral as part of an exhibition of Ian Knowles' work  displayed throughout the Cathedral.

  The exhibition will be open from Sunday 2 February to Thursday 27 February 2014.  For details go Here.  

Ian will be giving two lectures, for which there will be a retiring collection, on Saturday 8 February (10:30 – 12:00) and Wednesday 26 February (13:15 – 14:15). A five day course of icon writing will also take place from 10 – 14 February. 
Spaces for the course are limited to 12, and the cost of the week is £225 inclusive of tuition, all necessary materials and refreshments. For further details and to book a place contact Alex Nicholson-Ward on 01543 306240 or email .

The exhibition will conclude with Ian as artist in residence at Cathedral on the 27th February. Come to see him at work, and feel free to ask questions, or just sit and watch!

Exposition of Icons – Sunday 2 February – Thursday 27 February

Lecture 1 – ‘Icons as Liturgical Art: An introduction to icons’ – Saturday 8 February, 10:30-12:00 with option to stay for 12:30 Eucharist. (Retiring collection)

Iconography Writing Workshop – Monday 10 February – Friday 14 February 

Lecture 2 - 'Fire from the ashes: Icons & the Holy Land' – Wednesday 26 February, 13:15-14:15. (Retiring Collection)

Artist in Residence – 27 February

Friday, 24 January 2014

Feast of St Francis de Sales

Today we celebrate the life of St Francis de Sales whose importance to the development of the devotion to the Sacred Heart has been noted previously on this blog. It is a good day to say one of his prayers.

May thy heart dwell always in our hearts!
May thy blood ever flow in the veins of our souls!
O sun of our hearts, thou givest life to all things by the rays of thy goodness!
I will not go until thy heart has strengthened me, O Lord Jesus!
May the heart of Jesus be the king of my heart!
Blessed be God.

The offertory prayer at mass today  is especially  relevant:

O lord kindle in our hearts that divine fire of the Holy Spirit  with which you wonderfully inflamed the most gentle soul of Saint Francis de Sales. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Holy Name of Jesus

The first Friday of 2014 - 3rd January - fell on the day we remember the Holy Name of Jesus.  Sadly, the celebrant at mass did not mention it, but it got me thinking. How come I had not really thought about the name 'Jesu' right at the top of the icon, and the Greek letters over the face of Christ?  It also appears in the hand of Christ - Christ's right hand is shown in a pose that represents the letters ΙϹ, Χ, and Ϲ. Yes, of course, it reminds of the Litany of the Sacred Heart - but it should also prompt us to reflect on the name of the Saviour.

It has been the practice of Christians for many centuries to honour the Holy Name of Jesus. Thus, above Christ Omega we find the letters IC and XC.   These represent the first and last two  letters of  the name of Jesus Christ in Greek: ΙΗΣΟΥΣ   ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ   resulting in ΙΣ   ΧΣ. In medieval Greek it was common to use the so-called 'lunate sigma' -  'C' rather than ‘Σ’.   

In the Catholic tradition the form IHS - which takes the first three letters of the Greek word for Jesus -  ΙΗΣ - the Σ being substituted with S, or sometimes C. As we pray and honour the Holy Name, it is good to ask for the help of the saint who is most closely associated with promoting the name  and its iconography, IHS) : the Franciscan,  Bernadine of Siena (1380- 1444). The IHS symbol of St. Bernadine was, of course, adopted by Teilhard’s order, the Jesuits.We find the Holy Name in this form on Pope Francis's  coat of arms.

However  it is written the Holy Name is there for a purpose in the icon and should be a focus for prayer and reflection. Strange I have never really thought about until the first Friday mass.  The name of Jesus is nowadays so often spoken in vain – as a common expression of surprise or as a swear word.  The icon invites us to pray this Holy Name. As St Paul says: "God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bend; in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  As we can see in the icon we can see under the name of Jesus all the universe, and beneath them every knee bending and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord.

The Catechism tells us that, when we pray,

 ..the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. the divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity the Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: "Jesus," "YHWH saves." The name "Jesus" contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray "Jesus" is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him….The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and "brings forth fruit with patience." This prayer is possible "at all times" because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus. The prayer of the Church venerates and honors the Heart of Jesus just as it invokes his most holy name. It adores the incarnate Word and his Heart which, out of love for men, he allowed to be pierced by our sins. Christian prayer loves to follow the way of the cross in the Savior's steps. the stations from the Praetorium to Golgotha and the tomb trace the way of Jesus, who by his holy Cross has redeemed the world. ( Catechism, 2665- 2669) ( My emphasis. )

Interesting, therefore, that the devotion to the heart of Jesus and the name of Jesus are so closely intertwined.

Monday, 6 January 2014

The Epiphany

As we reflect on the arrival of the wise men, I  think it is important to also keep in mind the sense of the cosmic significance of Jesus that we find – above all – in St Paul. (‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible’. Col 1: 15-16)   Interestingly, Pope Benedict – perhaps showing his Teilhardian side once again  – observes in his book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives:

If these wise men, led by the star to search for the king of the Jews, represent the movement of the Gentiles toward Christ, this implies that the cosmos speaks of Christ, even though its language is not yet fully intelligible to man in his present state. The language of creation provides a great many pointers. It gives man an intuition of the Creator. Moreover, it arouses the expectation, indeed the hope, that this God will one day reveal himself. And at the same time it elicits an awareness that man can and should approach him. But the knowledge that emerges from creation, and acquires concrete form in the religions, can also become disoriented, so that it no longer prompts man to transcend himself, but induces him to lock himself into systems with which he believes he can, in some way, oppose the hidden powers of the world.

The Gospel account in Mathew tells us that they were 'wise men' who were led to Jesus by following a star.  He uses the word ‘ magos’ ( μάγος ) rather than the Greek for wise (sophia) and refers to the 'wise' men (μάγοι). These  μάγοι as I understand were – among other things  astrologers. At this time, and for many centuries afterwards such people were considered to be scientists of sorts.  They saw in the stars the answers to all the most profound questions of human existence.  Such men were sought out and respected by the powerful – such as Herod.  Then, as now, there is a dangerous relationship between knowledge and power and knowledge as power.  (‘nam et ipsa scientia potestas est’, as Bacon would put it , knowledge is power. )  And what did the μάγοι find? That the answer to all the questions of human existence was not to be found in the stars- it was to be found in a small baby. They had found that which – in Dante’s words – moved all the stars, the love of God as enclosed in the flesh of a little boy. They had found, in the words of the Litany of the Sacred Heart ‘the great treasury of all wisdom and knowledge’.  Thus, this event had such cosmic manifestations: it moved a star.   This was knowledge and wisdom far too dangerous to give to those with power.  And so, they go home by another way – giving Herod a wide berth. But this great source of all wisdom and knowledge is available to pour into our hearts and heads if we are humble enough to prostrate ourselves and worship Him with all our hearts and minds. If only we could keep this great cosmic message of the epiphany before us all year. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is, I believe, one way in which we can hold on the message and meaning of the visit of the 'wise men' as we make our way home.  ( O Sacred Heart, our home lies deep in you!)