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.