July 2, 2011

Immaculate Heart

Immaculate Heart of Mary is the feast day of my province of the Capuchin Order. As I said my prayers this morning I was just reflecting a little on this traditional image of Our Lady.

Mary's heart is an immaculate heart because she herself, in her whole person, is the Immaculate Conception. Her heart, the 'core' of the person, is without macula, any spot, stain, fault, or guilt.

On the other hand, images of the Immaculate Heart always remind us that Mary's heart is an injured heart, a hurt heart, run through with the sword of suffering as Simeon predicted at the beginning of her motherhood.

Pierced, hurt, and broken, her heart remains immaculate. In this Mary becomes herself a certain face, a particular perspective, on crucified humanity.

Everybody hurts, says the old song. Everyone on this earth is a victim of sin. The insidious power of violence and hurt is in its capacity to reproduce; the abused become abusers, injury demands retaliation, the misery of becoming separated from God by sin becomes the occasion for believing more of sin's false promises. Salvation enters the world when individual persons begin to refuse to become carriers of violence, alienation, and hurt. This is both the example and power of Christ crucified--the Passion of our Lord is humanity at its worst, when we are dismissing, mocking, torturing, and ultimately killing each other. Jesus, in that moment revealing most deeply both divinity and humanity, accepts all of it and gives us nothing back but the ultimate blessing of life that we call the Resurrection.

To become unwilling to be a carrier of the cycles of violence and sin that swirl through our relationships, families, and world is to embrace the Cross, to become an agent of the salvation that Jesus Christ has accomplished for the world. It is forgiveness against retaliation, blessing those who curse, loving one's enemies.

Here we might also note something that otherwise devout folks sometimes forget, that embracing the Cross in this way also excludes turning the violence of the world in on ourselves in the seemingly safe and pious turning of anger and scorn inside so that they become depression, anxiety, self-hate, and the sort of embrace of victimhood and misfortune that becomes a kind of rotten vanity. Jesus died and rose so that we could be free and happy, not so that we could sit around savoring the rotten luxury of our own misery, so long as we're not being hurtful to anyone else (even though we probably are hurting others by our attachment to our misery, but because we have become vainly focused on ourselves we fail to notice.)

Becoming a Christian will give us more heartbreak, not less. When we assent to the God-given dignity of humanity, the suffering of the world will hurt us more. When we assent to the teaching of the Church we will see how far we are from holiness. When we try to live a prayerful life, we will see how attached we are to our sins and the aspects of ourselves that conspire to pull us away from the joy God desires for us. Most of the time in the world, sin just makes more sin, misery begets more of itself, and violence reproduces itself in cycles. God's answer to this miserable situation is the Cross of Christ, which is both our example and empowerment (especially as we receive this sacrifice into our lives in Holy Communion) to break these cycles in ourselves, in our relationships, and in the world. God wants to make our hearts immaculate, hearts that are broken and pierced, and yet make an end to the cycles of hurt and brokenness in themselves, passing on, instead, nothing but blessing and new life to the world, becoming conceivers and bearers of God to the world.


Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful. Thank you. It's one of the best discussions I've read, especially your paragraph talking about refusing to be a carrier of the cycle of violence. This makes "turning the other cheek" so much more understandable. I think the Holy Spirit truly inspired you when you wrote this post.

Brother Charles said...

Thank you for the encouragement.

4narnia said...

beautiful and inspiring post, Fr. C. a very happy and blessed feast day to all of you of the province of st. Mary (i posted wishes on facebook yesterday) i friday was the feast of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and, as i've mentioned before, i've had a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus since about age seven. the Gospel of today tells us to "learn from Jesus, for He is meek and humble of Heart" and that " His yoke is easy and His burden is light." this is so true, for many of the reasons you point out in your post. and, i truly feel that complete trust and and surrender to the Will of God is necessary. Jesus is there and wants to walk beside us, if only we will open our hearts and let Him in. without Him, we can do nothing. PAX! ~tara t~

Owen said...

Wonderful reflection.

I come from an abusive, violent childhood. When my wife and I were courting (long time ago - married 28 years this August) I eventually came to the place, after my offer of marriage was accepted, of backing out. Why? Because, I told her, I love you to much to risk becoming what my father became. I don't want to hurt you, us, our family.

She asked me if I really was a Christian. I answered of course and was a little taken aback.

She asked if I believed in the bible (we were good bible-only Christians in that day but the truth you are about to read has no disagreement with Church teaching of the sacred Scriptures). Yes, of course, I answered again feeling even more perplexed.

As we sat at her kitchen table she opened the bible to a passage and told me to read it. I began reading. Out loud, she said, read it so I can hear it.

It was 2Corinthians5:17 It told me that yes, yes indeed the cycle could be broken, was broken and it was now up to me to (as we Catholics would say) co-operate with Grace.