Saturday, March 19, 2005

Signs and Wonders: The Holy Sacraments in the Life of One Unholy Christian Man (I)


2669 The prayer of the Church venerates and honors the Heart of Jesus just as it invokes his most holy name. It adores the incarnate Word and his Heart which, out of love for men, he allowed to be pierced by our sins. Christian prayer loves to follow the way of the cross in the Savior's steps. ... 1439 Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

A friend of mine here in Taiwan recently mentioned he keeps little reminders around his office and apartment to spur him towards devotion. “It’s All About Heart,” the reminders read. My friend is a Protestant, so I was struck by a double irony as he spoke. First, he’s basically using crude icons in the same way he might claim Catholics and Orthodox abuse ornate ones. Second, I immediately thought of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (and Mary), a locus of Catholic devotion I’m not too familiar with but which nevertheless tugs at my own unsacred heart.

One of the main features of my RCIA process has been confronting and embracing my heart as a genuine vessel of grace. I am not, and cannot be, all brain or all desire. I am also affection and enjoyment and whimsy -- and, well, heart. The joy of God’s salvation does not, and cannot, simply resonate in my mind like a sharp metallic note, but does, and must, also vibrate in my heart like healthy, living flesh. As Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons that reason knows not.” Further, we must not forget the deeply nuptial meaning of biblical and, therefore, Catholic faith (cf. CCC 796). In the Bible, God continually pursues his people as his bride, and laments their sin as nothing less than adultery. The Christian faith began in a womb, in the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the spouse of the Holy Spirit. It continues today in the Church, the virgin Bride of God.

The bottom line is, Jesus calls us –- calls me –- to love the Lord with all our mind, soul, strength and heart. Hence, in this report I would like to (try to!) emphasize the meaning of the Sacraments for my heart, and not just my mind. In fact, taking the lead of a recently deceased blogger named Gerard Serafin, I will make each instance of “heart” appear in red ink.

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