Sunday, 23 November 2014

Feast of Christ the King - of the Universe

The icon may be read an an icon of Christ as King of the Universe. ( As Christ Pantocrator . ) We have blogged about this before, Here, and Here.

It is a very important feast  - just wish we could make more of it!  Pope Francis had this to say  today.

“Today’s liturgy, invites us to fix our gaze on Christ, the King of the Universe. ...
Our Lord brought about His Kingdom through His closeness and tenderness, as the Shepherd of His flock. Pastors in the Church, the Pope said, cannot stray from Christ’s example if they do not want to become “hirelings.” “The People of God have an unerring sense for recognizing good shepherds and distinguishing them from hirelings.”After His Resurrection, Pope Francis continued, the Kingdom of Jesus advances as “the Father, little by little, subjects all things to Jesus." In the end, when all things are under the sovereignty of Christ, Christ will consign His Kingdom to the Father so that “God will be all in all.”Finally, Jesus’ Kingdom requires us to imitate Jesus’ works of mercy through which He brought about His Kingdom. The great Gospel parable of the Final Judgement “reminds us that closeness and tenderness are the rule of life for us also, and on this basis we will be judged.” Through His victory over sin and death, “Jesus has opened to us his kingdom,” the Pope said. “But it is for us to enter into it, beginning with our life now, by being close in concrete ways to our brothers and sisters who ask for bread, clothing, acceptance, solidarity. If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them what is most precious to us, Jesus Himself and His Gospel.”

The reading today from Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 15,  20-28) was a special favourite of Teilhard.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

It is a reading which readily comes to mind when I look at the icon.  There is Christ in all his glory and power - the Second Adam. There is the first Adam on the left hand corner. Christ is shown with the created order ( the square) - all things  under his feet.  The love of God is drawing everything towards the centre of the heart of Christ - King of the universe.

Teilhard was himself delighted with by the inauguration of the feast in 1925 by Pius XI ( read Here )  But he just felt that it did not go far enough.  As we read in St Paul today, Christ is King of all creation ( all things' )  - and not just planet earth.  Significantly, Paul VI  later in the late 1960s did indeed enlarge the idea of 'Kingship' to include all the universe and it is this title Pope Francis used today.  Paul VI, was known to be sympathetic to Henri de Lubac, Teilhard's great defender and advocate. Perhaps his 1969 motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis, in which Paul VI gave the celebration a new title: "D. N. Iesu Christi universorum Regis" (Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe) reflects his sympathy for Teilhard's sense of what the feast was about?

For Teilhard the Sacred Heart was the great point of entry into the great mystery of God's love and the purpose of the cosmos itself.  He therefore saw the Sacred Heart as central to the future of Christianity. Christ ultimately will unite all things in himself. This is our faith. Christ as the centre of the cosmos who calls us to a life of love by placing Him at the centre of our lives.  As we approach advent, we pray for mercy and  forgiveness for all the times we have been ruled  by the powers of this world.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Feast of St Gertrude the Great

17th C painting in Cistercian Monastery in Tarragona,
  “You will find me in the heart of Gertrude.”
Today is truly a day upon which to renew and refresh our devotion to the heart of Jesus, for we celebrate the life of St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) .  Gertrude was a remarkable woman - and rightly deserves the title of great.  She appeals to me for a few reasons - the first is that she was someone whose love for the heart of Jesus demonstrates how deep seated is the devotion in the history of the Catholic Church. Hence, in images of her she is generally shown holding the heart of Jesus close to her own heart. She understood how important the Sacred Heart is to the Church - and we so urgently need to rediscover it today. So we ask for her prayers that the heart of Jesus may once again become central to the spiritual life of Christians.

She wrote many prayers to the Sacred Heart- including this one:

O most loving Jesus by the pierced Heart, I pray thee wound my heart with that arrow of love; so that nothing of earth may abide in it more but that it may be filled with thy  glowing love alone forever. 

If anyone wants to get closer to the mystery of the heart of Jesus, there is no better guide than her writings and prayers. 

The other reason she appeals to me is that she was a considerable scholar: as Benedict XVI observes, she was an 'extraordinary student', full of passion for her studies in secular knowledge.  Read here.  It is always exciting to be with someone who has a passion for their subject, whether it is trilobites or medieval poetry.  Reading about her, you feel she would have over flowed with her interest in literature, painting music, and Latin and all her other passions.  And yet, in her 'twenties she realised that knowledge of this kind was not enough: she had pursued knowledge of the world and had neglected to search for wisdom. And where did she find that wisdom ?  Gertrude found true wisdom in an intense relationship with the heart of Jesus - the treasury of all wisdom and knowledge.  She was given the grace of profound mystical experiences of the Sacred Heart.  The extraordinary scholar thus found the source of all the wisdom and knowledge she desired flowing from the loving heart of  Jesus. We live in an age in which information and knowledge overflows our lives: indeed sometimes I think we seem to be drowning in information and knowledge! We think that we can solve all the world's problems by getting smarter and smarter.  And this is the great delusion - as St Gertrude  came to understand.  We need the wisdom of God.  Today, we pray that we, like this great saint, may be filled with the glowing love of God.  We need the Sacred Heart.

St Gertrude, pray for us. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

An icon of the Sacred Heart for our times?

Walking around a street market in Cardiff yesterday I came across a rather disconcerting scene : one that summed up the modern neglect of the Sacred Heart.  In a stall selling assorted bits and pieces I saw a battered old statue of the Sacred Heart (whose hands were missing ) amidst other goods for sale.  I could only reflect on how, once upon a time, it had been reverenced and used as a focus for prayer.  And now, here it was on the floor with  an old advertisement for champagne, some swords, a typewriter and other odds and sods.  Perhaps, I thought, a photograph of this sad sight would be a more fitting icon of the Sacred Heart.  This is how the world sees the Heart of Jesus.  Perhaps, this is how many Catholics see the Sacred Heart?  I could only pray, 'Forgive us Lord, have mercy on us - we do not know what we are doing.' This is how we reject God's love today - we just treat it as little more than junk.  The Sacred Heart is now just an irrelevant, broken, worn-out  bit of the past.

Next to the statue is a picture of a women inviting us to drink champagne, as opposed to the living water which flows from the heart of the Saviour ! And when reflecting on this photograph later in the day some words of Saint John Paul came to mind.  He described the Sacred Heart as ‘the most perfect revelation of the paternal love of God.’ In his address on the Sacred Heart in 1999 he focused on the pierced heart of Jesus as ' the fount of life and holiness'.

Everything that God wanted to tell us about himself and about his love he placed in the Heart of Jesus, and by means of that Heart he has told us everything. We find ourselves before an inscrutable mystery. In Jesus’ Heart we read the eternal divine plan of the world’s salvation. It is a plan of love.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is the source of life, since by means of it victory over death was achieved. It is also the source of holiness, since in it sin — the enemy of man’s spiritual development — is defeated. The Heart of the Lord Jesus is the starting-point of the holiness of each one of us. From the Heart of the Lord Jesus let us learn the love of God and understanding of the mystery of sin — mysterium iniquitatis.

Let us make acts of reparation to the Divine Heart for the sins committed by us and by our fellow men. Let us make reparation for rejecting God’s goodness and love.

Let us draw close each day to this fount from which flow springs of living water. Let us cry out with the Samaritan woman “Give us this water”, for it wells up to eternal life.

Heart of Jesus, burning flame of love, 
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness, 
Heart of Jesus, expiation for our sins 
— have mercy on us. Amen.

Read the full text,  HERE. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Feast of St Frances Xavier Cabrini

Today we remember a Saint for whom the Sacred Heart was at the centre of her life: Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, M.S.C.  She was the first naturalised American ( she was born in Italy) to be made a saint (in 1945). Read about her here.  And about the order she established - Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus  here.

Today I just want to reflect upon some of her words:

“If you invoke the Holy Spirit with a humble and trusting heart, filled with good desires, He will come and penetrate into the very centre of your heart. He will purify it, change it, enlighten it,  inflame it, and consume it with the flames of His holy and divine love.”

When I look at the icon these inspiring words often come to mind.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Cor Iesu, templum Dei sanctum: Feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica.

Today's feast brought me back to reflect upon the how the icon may be read as an aid to contemplate the Sacred Heart as the 'temple of God' - Cor Iesu, templum Dei sanctum . The first reading at mass was from Ezekiel (47: 1-2, 8-9, 12). Here we read about the healing life-giving waters that flow from the side of God's Holy temple.  In the Gospel of John we read about how Jesus made a whip out of some cord and scattered the money changers and the rest. Here Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that He is the temple of God.( John 2:13-22)  Later in the same gospel John places great emphasis on the fact that water and blood flowed from Jesus's side as he hung on the cross.  For the early Fathers of the church, these passages were of great significance and indicate that the idea of the Sacred Heart is to be found in the earliest recorded Christians writings.

The icon has prompted me to reflect anew on the heart of Jesus  -as the Litany of the Sacred Heart  says -  the Holy Temple of God.   We see echoes of Ezekiel in the icon with the life-giving waters from the side of the Holy Temple: as as in Ezekiel, we see fish and fruit. Jesus is the Temple of God from which all life flows.  He calls upon humanity to drink from these living waters.  But there is more - as we find in the reading from Paul ( 1 Corinthians 3: 9-11, 16-17). We are temples : we are God's building.  As the tradition of the Sacred Heart has for so long taught:  Jesus desires to live and burn in our hearts.   

Today's feast is, therefore, in so many ways, a feast of the Sacred Heart: the Holy temple of God.

Saint John Paul - the great Pope of the Sacred Heart- had this to say in his Angelus meditations on the Litany of the Sacred Heart in June 1985. *

'[The] Heart of a man is similar to so very many human hearts and, at the same time, [to the] heart of God the Son.  If therefore it is true that every man 'dwells in some sense in his heart, then the heart of the Man of Nazareth, of Jesus Christ, God dwells.  It is the 'temple of God', being the heart of this man....The heart of the Man Jesus Christ is therefore, in the trinitarian sense, the temple of God': it is the interior temple of the Son who is united with the Father in the Holy Spirit by means of the unity of the divinity.  How inscrutable is this mystery of this heart which is the 'the temple of God' and the 'tabernacle of the Most High.' At the same time it is the true 'dwelling place of God with men (Rev 21:3)  because the heart of Jesus in its interior temple embraces all men.  All dwell there, embraced by eternal love.  To all - in the heart of Jesus - can be applied the words of the Prophet: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you' (Jer 31:3) '

John Paul prayed that our hearts may become like that of Christ: ' a holy temple of God' .  'Yes', he proclaimed,' We are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in us, according to the words of St Paul (1 Cor: 3: 16).

' Through the immaculate heart of Mary, let us remain in the covenant with the heart of Jesus who is the 'temple of God, the most splendid, 'tabernacle of the most high' and the most perfect.' 

As we pray with an image of the Sacred Heart, we ask for our heart to become like the heart of Jesus: a temple of God.

Heart of Jesus, Holy Temple of God, have mercy on us. 

* These are published as "Litany of the Heart of Jesus', by Pope  John Paul II.