Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Mystery of Easter, Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Pt. II

Herein continue notes and quotes from Pope Benedict XVI's The Mystery of Easter: Substance and Foundation of Devotion to the Sacred Heart, found in Behold the Pierced One (Ignatius Press, 1986).

From the then Cardinal Ratzinger's research, he found the language in the Song of Songs to be the determining, developmental factor of medieval mysticism.  "The Fathers, like great theologians and the men of prayer of the Middle Ages, saw the impassioned language of this love song as expressing the theme of God's love for the Church and the soul and also that of man's response. Words such as these were thus fitted to integrate all the passion of human love into man's relationship with God. 

To the extent that, in modern times, under the dominant influence of a straitened historical mode of thought, people lost the ability to enter into this movement of transcendence whereby the words lead out to mystery, the source itself dried up" (61-2).

The Old Testament speaks of God's heart 26 times (H. Gross). The heart is "regarded as the organ of [God's] will, against which man is measured. It is because of the pain felt by God's Heart on account of the sins of mankind that he decides to send the Flood (63). See also "heart" references in Hosea 11. 

"The pierced Heart of the crucified Son is the literal fulfillment of the prophecy of Heart of God, which overthrows its righteousness by mercy and by that very action remains righteous.  We can only discern the full magnitude of the biblical message of the Heart of God, the Heart of the divine Redeemer, in this continuity and harmony of Old and New Testament. 

"We see the beginnings of devotions to the Sacred Heart in Bernard of Clairvaux and his circle because at that time the two Testaments were read as a unity; in the Song of Songs of the Old Covenant, people recognized the Canticle of Christ's love for his Church. Today, too, we can only appreciate the rationale of the devotion...within the totality of biblical testimony" (64). 

In early Stoic thought, "the human body is fashioned by a spark of this divine, primal fire which permeates it. This single, invigorating energy transforms itself in accord with the various life functions which serve to preserve and benefit the living being and becomes now hearing, now sight, now thought, now imagination. It is always the same and yet operates in different modes, which implies a kind of ladder [stairway] of inwardness. 

"The primal fire which sustains the cosmos is called logos; thus its spark in us is called the logos in us. It is not hard to see the possibilities yielded by these thoughts for an understanding of the mystery of Christ. The Stoics had equated this center of the cosmos with the sun" called "the heart of the cosmos....The heart is the body's sun, it is the logos in us. Conversely the logos is the heart of the world" (66-7). 

Origen took the opportunity for the early Fathers in taking up "John the Baptist's words of John 1:26: Among you stands one whom you do not know. Origen goes on: "It is the Logos which is at the center of us all--without our knowing--for the center of man is the heart, and in the heart there is the guiding energy of the whole, which is the Logos....

"Here the word heart has expanded beyond the reason and denotes a deeper level of spiritual/intellectual existence, where direct contact takes place with the divine."  We can make connection now with St. Augustine's Psalm exhortation: "Redeamus ad cor, ut inveniamus Eum (let us return to the heart, that we may find Him)" (67-8)

Pope Benedict concludes this paper on The Mystery of Easter by writing, "This Heart  [of Jesus] is not concerned with self-preservation but with self-surrender. It saves the world by opening itself. The collapse of the opened Heart is the content of the Easter mystery. The Heart saves, indeed, but it saves by giving itself away. 

Thus, in the Heart of Jesus, the center of Christianity is set before us....The Heart calls to our heart. It invites us to step forth out of the futile attempt of self-preservation and, by joining in the task of love, by handing ourselves over to him and with him, to discover the fullness of love which alone is eternity and which alone sustains the world" (69).

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