Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 2018

Yesterday I made the mistake of re-reading some of my previous posts about this feast (to try not to repeat myself today) and was brought up short by the realisation that I have frequently wittered on about repository art and kitsch, especially in connection with the Sacred Heart. It is difficult for an English Catholic to avoid the topic altogether since so many of our churches were built with the pennies of the poor at a time when accommodating the largest number of worshipers was more important than anything else. The devotional art with which we filled them was indeed devotional rather than art and has not been helped by the subsequent reorderings of Vatican II and the reorderings of the reorderings that have followed since. But to harp on about tackiness when considering this feast! It shows, I have to admit, a lack of perspective. This is the great devotional feast of the Passion, as Corpus Christi is the great devotional feast of the Holy Eucharist, and it allows us to pause for a moment and reflect on the endless compassion of God, the outpouring of sacrificial love we see in Christ Jesus.

Even the most superficial glance at the headlines will show that compassion is not the most obvious quality we as human beings possess. There is too much strife, too much hardness of heart. A celebrity may obtain the freeedom of someone gaoled for what many consider to be a minor crime, but the plight of children separated from their families because they fall foul of immigration legislation, that is a ‘more difficult area’ (sic). Perhaps today we could spend a few minutes kneeling before the crucifix and pondering the last two lines of today’s first Mass reading, from Hosea 11.9,

I am the Holy One in your midst
and have no wish to destroy.
and the significance of that piercing of Christ’s side with a lance that John describes (John 19.31-7). The blood and water that poured out came from the dead body of Christ. The Fathers loved to meditate on the meaning of the blood and water, but for us there may be more to be gained from thinking about the fact that Christ had already died when his side was pierced. He, for a little while, could no longer act, only be acted upon. Sometimes compassion has to be drawn from us when we are unable to give it of ourselves. Are we ready for that? If not, this feast may help us prepare.
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7 thoughts on “Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 2018

  1. Thanks for some perspective. You are right about the depictions of it, which can be quite tacky. But I have a Statue which isn’t brightly coloured or tawdry, gifted to me by an Anglican, which demonstrates that the Solemnity isn’t only a Catholic feast.

    I can’t say that I know lots about it, but your description helps me to put it into perspective.

  2. Just after my husband and I had been received into the Church the priest who had received us preached a superb homily on the Sacred Heart, pointing out how the tacky depictions could appall or disgust those not brought up with it. He said that its very tackiness, tawdriness was significant, that Christ is present even when our taste is offended, that in fact precisely there where we recoil, He is. I suspect this homily was actually for our benefit, given our previous High Anglican cathedral background, where everything was discreet and aesthetically pleasing, but even if not, it made a profound impression which has stayed with me for 25 years.

  3. Thanks for such clarity. I have often been guilty of regarding this as “just” the image – seen so often (regardless of artistic merit) that I allowed it to lose meaning. The idea of Christ, unable to act as inspiration to be moved to compassion for others is something I can now focus on next and hopefully every time I see the images in stained glass, statues or on cards. Images are very potent but only if they help you focus on what matters.
    A big help once again.

    • I suspect that I have come close to heresy by not qualifying my statement with various clarifications, but I trust most of us just get on with the business of trying to pray and trying to act compassionately. Bless you!

  4. ‘The blood and water that poured out came from the dead body of Christ. The Fathers loved to meditate on the meaning of the blood and water, but for us there may be more to be gained from thinking about the fact that Christ had already died when his side was pierced. He, for a little while, could no longer act, only be acted upon. ‘

    What’s your view of St Faustina and the Divine Mercy?

    As the chaplet of Divine Mercy, given to St Faustina from Christ (as she claimed) says:

    ‘Oh Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in You!’

    Sounds like a conscious action. Not that I’m suggesting He was alive – Scripture clearly says Jesus was dead before the centurian pierced Him with a lance.

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