Friday, June 19, 2009

The Sacred Heart

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus - which really is nothing more than a feast day to remember that "God is Love". [1John 4:16] I ought to quote something from Fr. Jaki's book on the Litany of the Sacred Heart, which points out how important this devotion is - or should be. He reveals that Pope Leo XIII considered that the consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart was "the most important action" of his papacy - which is saying quite a bit. But I cannot give you all the relevant excerpts just now - I would be quoting the whole book!

Instead, I will give you another quote, which Fr. Jaki references several times - it took a bit of hunting to find a use where he gave the annotation, and it is this, from one of his most recent books:
If it were not for the usual closeness of March 25 to the Holy Week, it might not be impracticable to make the Visitation the octave of Annunciation. This would provide another stunning seal of the Church's respect for any and all foetus as a truly human being. But even as it stands, the Feast of the Visitation powerfully translates the principle of legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi and should thereby serve as a strong guidance in an agonizing confrontation. Of course, what happened at the Annunciation is a far greater fact than the visit made in virtue of the fact. But the actual human recognition of that fact came only with the visitation of Christ to John the Baptist, the visit of the Creator become-a-mere-fetus to the greatest of mere human fetuses ever alive in a woman's womb.
[SLJ The Ethical Foundations of Bioethics 134]
Father Jaki gives the translation and source of this Latin formula,
legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi
in footnote 4 of chapter 11:
"Let the law of prayer determine the law of belief," or Saint Prosper's of Aquitaine famous "practical" defense of the true doctrine of grace against the semi-Pelagians.
[Ibid. 136]
Here it needs to be recalled that
As a mammalian embryo advances through the stages characterized by cleavage, morula, blastocyst and germ layers, it satisfies all its metabolic needs by simple, diffusive interchanges with the fluid medium in which it is immersed. But as the embryo continues to gain size and begins to take form, a functioning circulatory system becomes necessary in order to make use of the required food and oxygen obtainable from the mother's blood. Hence it is that the heart and blood vessels are the first organ system to reach a functional state.
[Arey, Developmental Anatomy 375]
As important as this is, I wish to suggest a larger - hence a Chestertonian - study for us to consider today, yetone which unites these two thoughts in that most loving heart of our Lord:
We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has hidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors until it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is that it is the image of Christ in the churches that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well. The figure in the Gospels does indeed utter in words of almost heartbreaking beauty his pity for our broken hearts. But they are very far from being the only sort of words that he utters. Nevertheless they are almost the only kind of words that the Church in its popular imagery ever represents him as uttering. That popular imagery is inspired by a perfectly sound popular instinct. The mass of the poor are broken, and the mass of the people are poor, and for the mass of mankind the main thing is to carry the conviction of the incredible compassion of God. But nobody with his eyes open [See OrthodoxyCW1:336] can doubt that it is chiefly this idea of compassion that the popular machinery of the Church does seek to carry. The popular imagery carries a great deal to excess the sentiment of "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild." It is the first thing that the outsider feels and criticises in a Pieta or a shrine of the Sacred Heart. As I say, while the art may be insufficient, I am not sure that the instinct is unsound. In any case, there is something appalling, something that makes the blood run cold, in the idea of having a statue of Christ in wrath. There is something insupportable even to the imagination in the idea of turning the corner of a street or coming out into the spaces of a market-place, to meet the petrifying petrifaction of that figure as it turned upon a generation of vipers [Mt 23:33], or that face as it looked at the face of a hypocrite [Mt 15:7]. The Church can reasonably be justified therefore if she turns the most merciful face or aspect towards men; but it is certainly the most merciful aspect that she does turn.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:319-30]

Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, have mercy on us. [See Col 2:3]


Post a Comment

<< Home