10 June 2010

Cor Immaculatum

Our Holy Father, with deft irony, observed that "people from the Anglo-Saxon and German cultural world" tend to feel uneasy about devotion to the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Lady. He goes on to point out that "In Biblical language, the Heart [Leb] indicates the centre of human life, the point where reason, will, and temperamentand sensitivity converge, where the person finds his unity and his interior orientation. According to Matthew 5:8, the 'immaculate heart' is a heart which, with God's grace, has come to a perfect unity and therefore 'sees God'. To be 'devoted' to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiat - 'your will be done' - the defining centre of one's whole life".

Curiously enough, this entire way of speaking, far from being a piece of sickly Southern- European sentimentality, is rooted from beginning to end in the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testaments. What I find a trifle diverting is that, as far as I am aware, this devotion did not arise as a deliberately perceived response to Biblical texts and themes, whether as appropriated in popular or in academic contexts. The mediterranean peasants among whom these usages flowered were simply, instinctively, naturally and healthily nurtured by the Christian and Biblical tradition; the fact of its Biblical congruity is a pretty obvious guarantee of the wholesomeness of their religion. This should incline us to be that bit more respectful if perchance we occasionally find their art not quite to our sophisticated ( ... er ... ) taste.

Psalm 180:80 speaks of a heart which is (MT; LXX; Vg) tamim; amomos; immaculatum. This word frequently applies to sacrificial animals (BDB says "Exodus 12:5 and 40 times; Ezekiel 43:22 and 10 times"). We are not to offer what is faulty to YHWH, any more than we would give a defective animal to the King. Sacrifice is not a system for disposing of imperfect members of the flock! BDB goes on to say "sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity: of God's way ... work ... Law ... etc.". So our Heart is to be good enough to offer to YHWH in sacrifice; as sound as His Torah and as His creative providence. It is because Mary's Heart is attuned to Him (Luke 1:38; 2:19; 2:51 ... how many more instances could Biblicists desire?) and to the needs of others (John 2:3), even before the Hour of the Lord's Glory (John 2:4), that the intercession of her heart mediates through shared obedience (John 2:5) the first Sign of the fullness of the Kingdom (John 2:11) - that Sign which is the arche, fount and source, of all his other signs (C K Barrett: a primary sign, because representative of the creative and transforming work of Jesus as a whole). Mediatrix, indeed, of All Graces.

The date of the Feast ... I think I'll complete this tomorrow.


Sir Watkin said...

I have a vague recollection of a reference, somewhere in the works of Dr Mascall, to devotion to the Sacred Heart in the works of a puritan divine (possibly an Oxonian of the early seventeenth century - but I may have this wrong). Annoyingly I've not been able to find the reference again.

Can anyone help, please?

Steve Cavanaugh said...

This feast was first observed in 1670, after which the devotion rapidly spread throughout the Western Church, particularly after the publication of the visions of Jesus revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Despite the relatively late date of the official feast, the theme of the love in the Sacred Heart of our Savior is an ancient one, reflected in Scripture, the writings of the earliest Church fathers, and preached by people as diverse as St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century and the Puritan minister Thomas Goodwin who published the book The Heart of Christ in Heaven towards Sinners on Earth in 1642.
from Anglican Embers vol II, No 10, p. 365

Sir Watkin said...

Ah, splendid! Thank you so much.