Sacred Heart

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Truth be told, the Sacred Heart was never really an image that did much for me.

But during these past nine months, the Sacred Heart has grown on me. In prayer, in dreams, in statues, paintings and icons that seem to pop up around every corner, the Sacred Heart has been a recurring theme of this year. As my spiritual director said to me as she helped me with a "D'oh" moment, perhaps that's something I should pay attention to. I have been (paying attention) but it's on such a heart level (no pun intended) that I can't really put into words the powerful experiences I've had this year around the Sacred Heart.

This particular icon is by Robert Lentz. It's quite different from the standard depiction of the Sacred Heart (where a happy Jesus points to his exposed heart). I first saw this icon during a workshop at our Intercommunity Novitiate program earlier this year. The presenter asked each of us to pick an icon that spoke to us and to spend some time in prayer. I picked this one without even realizing it depicted the Sacred Heart! As I wrote in my journal at the time:
"I prayed with an icon of the Sacred Heart by Robert Lentz, but it is a Sacred Heart like none I've seen before. No groovy Jesus pointing to his valentine shaped heart, but Jesus as an earthy Mayan burning with love and passion for the entire universe. Something cracked and it was as if I finally got it. God's love for, through and in all, everything, me. Jesus, the son, like the sun, bringing the light and fire of his passion to the universe. Wow."
There's a description of this icon by Robert Lentz on the Trinity Stores website (where you can buy a copy in a variety of forms ) which gives some insight into what he intended:
The Sacred Heart, or the heart of Christ, has been a familiar image in the Catholic Church for several centuries. In the seventeenth century, Margaret May, a French mystic had a vision of the Christ revealing his heart to her. Ever since then, religious artists have struggled to depict what she saw.

In the first half of the twentieth century, another French mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, raised the image of the Sacred Heart to more cosmic dimensions. Teilhard was a Jesuit priest and a paleontologist whose life work was doing research on the origins of the human race -- a research which lifted his soul to mystical heights. For Teilhard, the Christ was a divine fire that was capable of penetrating everything -- bringing all creation ever closer to God. In his personal journal he wrote, "Heart of Jesus, Heart of Evolution," and "the Sacred Heart is the Center of Christ, who centers all on himself."

In Popol Vuh, the ancient Mayan account of creation, the Creator of all is called "Heart of the Heavens, Heart of the Earth." The Mayan image is similar to Teilhard’s. This icon combines both images -- a Mayan Christ bursts from the blazing heart of the cosmos, carrying his flame reaching out drawing all into his creative fire.


Garpu the Fork said...

I've recently been interested in the Sacred Heart...I know my family would have the cheesy pictures lying around, but they never did much for me. (Come to think of it, I haven't found a good picture I like of it yet.) The best description I found (but don't remember where it came from) was "a heart wounded by love."

Anonymous said...

I loved your reflections on the Sacred Heart which has always been a favorite image of mine. Wendy Wright has a very good book on the history and contemporary practice of devotion to the Sacred Heart which is excellent but whose title escapes me now. Lentz's icon is one of the illustrations.

As I'm sure you know, the Sacred Heart was very important to Margaret Anna. She made a pilgrimage to St. Margaret Mary's convent in Paray-le-Monial. She also wrote a little pamphlet for ordinary people to use in preparation for a national consecration of Ireland to the Sacred Heart by the Irish hierarchy.