Friday, 15 June 2012

O Sacred Heart

For members of the Ordinariate, one verse from one hymn particularly suitable for today's Solemnity is especially relevant.

As so often mentioned on this blog and elsewhere, the Ordinariate is about a call to Unity, to unity in the Truth. We offer a prayer there that all, not least in this country, might find and recognise that Truth and be united in it.

O Sacred Heart,
Bless our dear native land;
May England's sons in truth e'er stand
With faith's bright banner still in hand,
O Sacred Heart.

June is the month of the Sacred Heart, and while most would know that the Solemnity falls in June, many fewer know why that is.  The Sacred Heart always falls 19 days after Pentecost, and is therefore always on a Friday, the day of the week most associated with the visible and unarguable outpouring of the Saviour's unbounded love for his people.

The timing of the Solemnity means that it always falls shortly after Corpus Christi (indeed on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi), which, as Fr Colven pointed out in last week's St James's parish notes (reproduced below) is utterly appropriate. 
The Rector writes ...

The heart is a universal symbol of love and as such transcends all barriers of language, culture and ethnicity. For the Christian, the fact that the heart of Jesus was broken open after the crucifixion has enormous significance: many early writers in the Christian tradition drew an analogy between the blood and water recorded by St John as flowing from the damaged heart of Jesus and the two fundamental sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Devotion to the heart of Jesus, as symbolic centre of the divine love, has its scriptural basis in the writings of both St John and St Paul: it reached a high point in the late Middle Ages, and was associated with such figures as St Gertrude and St Bonaventure, but the shape of modern devotion to the Sacred Heart comes from the 17th century and the revelations to St Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun of Paray le Monial a town almost (appropriately) in the centre and heart of France. There is an English connection here in that St Margaret Mary’s confessor and great supporter was St Claude de la Colombiere a Jesuit who in 1676 was appointed preacher to the then Duchess of York at St James’s Palace. For two years he laboured to provide spiritual direction, and succeeded in reconciling many to the Catholic Church, but his high profile meant that in the light of the Titus Oates plot he was arrested, and eventually deported.

St Margaret Mary’s body is preserved in the chapel of the Visitation convent in Paray: to those who go there today it is probably not the saint's body which most attracts the eye but (as she would have wished) a remarkable tabernacle - free standing, on a pillar, the modern ceramic safe containing the Blessed Sacrament is surrounded by a large metal heart in deep red – it is a striking piece of art, but also a statement of theological truth. For Catholic Christians, the loving nature of the Father, as uniquely revealed in the life, death and resurrect ion of his Son, is an on-going reality in the Eucharistic Presence - which we believe to be nothing less than the continuation in time of the great mystery of the Incarnation.

This weekend in the celebration of CORPUS CHRISTI we express our gratitude for all that the Mass(“the source and summit of the Church’s life”) means to Christ’s mystical body as we seek to establish God’s Kingdom on this earth. St John Vianney (the Cure d’Ars) says famously: “My God, what joy for a Christian who has faith! On rising from the holy table he goes away with all heaven in his heart”.

Fittingly, this coming Friday we observe as the Solemnity of the SACRED HEART of JESUS. Blessed John Henry Newman identifies the parallel nature of this week’s two celebrations: “Most sacred, most loving heart of Jesus, hidden in the Holy Eucharist, you beat for us still. You say, as you said when you lived on our earth, ‘my delight is to be with the children of men’”. In a world which is increasingly inured to violence and harshness, where voices are raised so frequently to confront and abuse, there is such a profound need for the proclamation of God’s love – “when you come to live within me, make my heart beat with your Heart: make my soul free from all that is hard and cruel, all that is proud and disordered” (Newman). This challenge cannot be better expressed than in terms of what the Father has revealed to us through the Heart of his Son (the Second Vatican Council teaches that Jesus “loves with a fully human heart”) and continues to manifest itself in the Mass – “the authentic sense of the Eucharist becomes of itself the school of active love for our neighbour” (John Paul II).
The Sacred Heart was marked in the form of a High Mass at Bourne St in my early days there, but it was one of those devotions which had begun to lose a little popularity in Anglo-Catholicism, and therefore did not attract large numbers, despite the fact that St Mary's has a rather fine shrine to the Sacred Heart and a relic of St Margaret Mary Alacocque.  For many years thereafter, the day was marked as a Low or a Sung Mass, but it is heartening to note that for the past couple of years, the occasion has been upgraded once again.  May this be a sign of increasing devotion to the Sacred Heart among our separated brethren.

At St James's, the usual round of daily masses today will be of the Solemnity, including the 6pm Mass tonight, which some of us hope to attend.

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