‘and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced’Zechariah 12:10
Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and today is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yet the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are one. Not only are they united spiritually in the great mission of mankind’s redemption, but Jesus and Mary share the same DNA. When we belong to one Heart, we belong to the other. On the Cross, Jesus commended us to Mary with the words: Behold, your Mother.1 And as the Holy Spirit formed Jesus in Mary, Mary and the Holy Spirit form Jesus in us, and transfigure us into Jesus the Beloved. For though Mary is not God, Her relationship with the Holy Spirit is so close that She is, as St. Maximilian Kolbe liked to put it, the ‘quasi-incarnation of the Holy Spirit’. Mary is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit. So the prophet Simeon said: And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.2 For on Calvary, where the Sacred Heart was pierced, thus piercing the soul of His Mother, the beloved disciple took Her into his own soul, into his very self.3 This is consecration to Mary—total belonging to Her Immaculate Heart—and this is the best way to come to know and become like Jesus.
On the Cross the veil of flesh is torn with a spear, and the beauty of God revealed. His beauty is a love which inspires love and demands love in return. It is a gift of self which, Jesus told St. Faustina, demands one thing only: reciprocity.4 Beauty awakens our deepest desires, wounds us, fills us with hope that we will participate in Beauty for eternity. As Dr. Mike Scherschligt said, eros is what we really mean by hope: desire for God. This true desire for Jesus, for His Sacred Heart offered freely and obtained freely, is the one thing needful. St. Augustine wrote that the whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing, and that we need to be trained by longing. And St. John of the Cross wrote that the more a soul hopes, the more it attains. For what do we hope? What do we desire? Is it anything less than unending joy in Heaven? Anything better than the vision of Divine Beauty? Anything greater than transforming union with God?
Jesus has offered us everything. We need only accept it. Yet as His gift is all of Himself, so we must give all of ourselves. But we can do this happily, because it is truly an exchange of getting everything for nothing, since our very nature and existence is His gift as well. Even so, we do not give all of ourselves to God because we are afraid, afraid of losing that which we think will make us happy. But this fear is based on a lie from the Devil: that we can be happy on our own, and that we must try to do so since God doesn’t have our best interest at heart. The way to overcome this is total trust, total abandonment to God’s love, especially in the words of Mary to St. Gabriel and of Jesus in the Our Father: Your will be done. St. Teresa of Avila writes in her commentary on the Our Father, in her book, The Way of Perfection, Chapter 32: God knows what each one can suffer. He does not delay in doing His will in anyone He sees has strength. Well, I want to advise you and remind you what His will is. Don’t fear that it means He will give you riches, or delights, or honors, or all these earthly things. His love for you is not that small, and He esteems highly what you give Him. He wants to repay you well, for He gives you His kingdom while you are still alive. Do you want to know how He answers those who say these words to Him sincerely? [Thy will be done.] Ask His glorious Son, who said them while praying in the Garden. My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but Your will be done in me. Since these words were said with such determination and complete willingness, see if the Father’s will wasn’t done fully in Him through the trials, sorrows, injuries, and persecutions He suffered until His life came to an end through death on a cross.’
The beauty of the Cross is not hidden beneath the wounds of Jesus; it is not masked by His agony; we do not have to look past His pain to find it. Rather, the Blood of Jesus is His beauty, gushing forth in free and pure love for sinners. It is not a spectacle—it is a gift. It is a gift to be received with thanksgiving: So we call it, ‘Eucharist’. His Precious Blood broke through His flesh from His Sacred Heart. As speech flows out of His mouth in the words of the Gospel, so Blood and Water pour out through His flesh as life and light seeking to reach the miserable depths of our souls. His Heart bleeds for us, His Blood coming forth as Mercy and Beauty, a river of Life and Light and Love! As a friend wrote to me shortly before I received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist: God’s deepest identity is most clearly manifest in the self-sacrificial love of the Sacrament of the Mass.
In Baptism we become children of God the Father, temples of His Spirit, and the Bride of His Son. We become part of a covenant, a communal life of love. To be a Christian is to be transfigured by love into love. So St. John of the Cross wrote that ‘love never reaches its perfection until the lovers are so alike that one is transfigured in the other.’5 That into which we are transfigured is Jesus Christ Eucharist, the joyful self-gift of love to God the Father for the life of the world. In the Eucharist, in His humility and mercy, the beauty of the Father is most clearly manifest. In Mary, in Her humility and faith, the beauty of Spirit is most clearly manifest. In their love, the Love of the two Hearts, this Love which is the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into Love and Beauty Itself. And so we lose all fear of death, despair flees from our hearts, and pride dies within us. If we accept the love of the Cross, the Blood and Water gushing forth for each one of us, suffering no longer becomes fearful. For suffering is the very form of love, and through it we lose all attachment to that which will not ultimately make us perfectly happy—for God alone can—and we are made like God who suffered for us, and we even participate in His agony and Passion for the salvation of souls.6 This is the very nature of love. My friend Marianna wrote a short review of the book, Bridge to Terabithia, and in so doing she wrote one of my favourite descriptions of the Immaculate Heart and the Sacred Heart. With her permission, I present it here, only replacing the word, ‘Terabithia’, with ‘Heaven’:
It’s able to hold the weight of tragedy and somehow, almost inexplicably, offer it to the beauty of Heaven and all that its beauty has transformed….almost as a weight that demands continuation of love and light.
What then is our response? We must not forget: It is a response. ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let him who hears say, “Come.” And let him who is thirsty come, and let him who desires take the water of life without price.’7
Special thanks again to Jeffrey McPheeters for use of his photos. You can find more of his on photographybyheart.com.
- John 19:27.
- Luke 2:35.
- The Greek ‘idia’ (whence Freud’s ‘the Id’) in John 19:27, usually translated as ‘home’, is better translated as ‘self’. John took Her into his home, his exterior and especially his interior life, into all that was his.
- Diary of St. Faustina, paragraph 1770.
- Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 11, #12.
- Colossians 1:24.
- Revelation 22:17.