Sacred Heart of Jesus:
Grant, we pray thee, Almighty God, that we, who glory in the Heart of thy beloved Son and recall the wonders of his love for us, may be made worthy to receive an overflowing measure of grace from that fount of heavenly gifts. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, throughout the ages of ages. Amen.
The collect reminds us that “we who glory in the Heart of (the) beloved Son may recall the wonders of his love for us”, so recalling the love of God for us is a big part of this feast, but what exactly do we mean by “glory in the Heart of Jesus”. ….. Heart transplant patients have been known to recall details of their donor’s lives, which would suggest that the physical organ is a repository of memories and emotions and not just a blood pump, but even so, in “glorying” in the Heart of Jesus we are worshipping something more than merely His physical heart. The heart of Jesus is His fundamental essence, the core of His Being” and the core of Jesus was clearly nothing but Love. He spent his life in the pure Union of intimate prayer, with the Father, in the Holy Spirit, and from that union flowed Love, made manifest in words of mercy and acts of compassion.
The great mystical poet, St Ephrem the Syrian is not so well known in the West, but in the East and particularly in the Assyrian and Mar Thoma Churches his works are read daily in the Divine Office. We use some of the same prayers in our own Daily Office of the Mar Thoma Liberal Catholic Church and I would like to share some of these profound words with you, as they are pertinent to the theme of today.
"Offer in your heart all your works to Me, and see Me as the fulfilment of your love. Take refuge in loving contemplation and ever rest your soul in Me.
If your heart finds rest in Me, by My grace you shall overcome all dangers;
but if your thoughts are on yourself and you will not listen, you shall perish...
God dwells in the heart of all beings, beloved, your God dwells in your heart
and His power of wonder moves all things...
whirling them onwards on the stream of time...
I have given you words of vision and wisdom more secret than hidden mysteries.
Ponder them in the silence of your heart, and then, in freedom, do your will. ……. "
In the west the tendency has been to dwell on the heart of Jesus, as wounded by our sins, which can often lead to an unhealthy imbalance, for as our Liberal Catholic founders well knew, excessive guilt never led anyone to Union with the Divine. St Ephrem and the oriental tradition, however, emphasise the potential Union of our hearts with the Divine Heart. Not only must we invite Jesus into our hearts - as the evangelicals say - but the invitation is reciprocal as we are invited to realise our own potential Divinity within the Heart of God!
Does that seems like a distant dream perhaps?
St Ephrem shows us the way as he goes on to say, “ He is the Lord of all, hidden in the heart of things, who watches over the world of time, its protector. ..
The spirits and the seers of God are one with Him.
When a man knows Him He cuts the bonds of death.
When one knows God as hidden in the heart of all things,
as cream is hidden in the milk, he is released from bondage...
This God, the Maker of all that is, the Supreme Soul,
dwells forever in the hearts of men.
Those who know Him through their heart, their mind, become immortal.
Because I live, you also will live... and you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
…… “When one knows God as hidden in the heart of all things, as cream is hidden in the milk, he is released from bondage…” This, dear friends is the inner meaning of the symbol of the Heart of Jesus. We find the Saced Heart hidden within all things …..as Jesus said in the Gospel of Thomas, "The Kingdom of God is within you (and all about you), not in buildings of wood and stone. (When I am gone) Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift a stone and you will find me.”
So how, one may ask do we gain awareness of such a profound mystery? And the answer is simple, this is the whole point of the seven Sacraments. If celebrated consciously and competantly, they have the power to draw us into ever-increasing intimacy with God, but the key to unlock the mystery of each of them, without which they hardly yield their secrets, is what we might call the eighth sacrament of meditation. The stillness of a quiet heart resting in Union with God in the Heart of Jesus, something acheived only through meditation or contemplative prayer, enables us to see beyond the appearances of outward of signs to the inner heart of each sacrament.