5 Dec 2015

Advent Reflection 2015 - Reflecting on the Sacred Heart

Advent is such a short liturgical season and occurs at such a busy time of the year for most of us that it can pass us by before we know it. It is now almost the end of the First Week of Advent and there can be the temptation of saying ‘what’s the point in starting something new now?’ The Christian faith is all about new beginnings. At baptism we become children of God and our entire life is a perpetual journey in beginning again anew. Catechists, those who are entrusted with the ministry of handing on the faith to others, are called to see catechesis as ‘a school of faith, an initiation and apprenticeship in the entire Christian life.’[1] It means that as Christians, whether we are children or adults, we are constantly learning, constantly being formed as Christians and constantly needing to begin again.

The Christian meaning of the word ‘metanoia’ captures some sense of this. Metanoia means to change one’s mind or to repent. In the Christian sense it is a turning of one’s whole self back to God (which means turning our backs on that which leads us away from God). It is easy to be distracted at this time of the year… worries about work, rent/mortgage, presents, and family arrangements for Christmas etc. can consume our minds and hearts, but God is calling to us again this Advent to return to Him. What does God desire to say to us?

First and foremost that we are His beloved children: “see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). This is what Christmas is all about. As St. Athanasius observed: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” This is the great reality that we need to remind ourselves of again and again. As Pope Benedict XVI said: “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”[2] God created each one of us to be His beloved Son or daughter and loves us perfectly. I heard someone say recently that if we think God the Father loves Jesus more than us, we haven’t quite understood what our baptism is all about.

One way to remind ourselves of how precious we are in God’s eyes is praying before an image or icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Meditating on sacred heart naturally leads the soul to contemplate the great mysteries of God, as St. John Damascene says: “The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.”[3] The image of the Sacred Heart “is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that… love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings.”[4] It is a reminder of both God’s love for us and our love for Him offered in and through Christ.

In the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the chapel of Maryvale Institute painted by David Clayton, Jesus, the great ‘I AM’ shows His heart ‘burning’ with love for humankind. There is so much in this icon that teaches us about our Catholic Faith as David illustrates:
The fleur-de-lis incorporates the lily, the symbol of purity and, by virtue of its threefold design the Trinity. The red and yellow design incorporates vine leaves, the symbol of wine the Eucharist. The blue-green design, which forms the arms of the cross give a sense of a flower coming into bud. Within the root there is a triangle and the within the bud a pentagonal design. Five symbolizes living creation (and in this context, I thought, man). I do not know the intentions of window maker, but I interpreted the combination as a symbol of the Incarnation, God is made man.[5]
Yes, Jesus, true God and true man, comes to reveal God’s great love for us. As we have said in a previous post HERE[6] the Sacred Heart represents Christ’s love for all mankind, and our devotion to it is an expression of our faith in His mercy. The devotion especially emphasises the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity.

In this Advent season, we invite you to contemplate the great love that God has for you and as we will shortly begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we invite you to pray before an icon of the Sacred Heart, to entrust yourself entirely to His love and mercy: “O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place all our trust in You.”

[1] General Directory for Catechesis, 1998, paragraph 30.
[3] St. John Damascene, De imag. 1,27
[4]  Pope Pius XII, encyclical, Haurietis Aquas (1956).

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