Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Reply to a friend's question!
WHY PRIEST’S CANNOT CLOSE THEIR HEARTS
This is the Icon of the Humiliated One – this IS Jesus, after He was arrested under cover of darkness, falsely accused by perjured testimony in an illegal, night time trial, forbidden by the very Law He was accused of violating - and those who were in judgement of Him had already met in secret, in darkness and predetermined the outcome – he was dishonoured, despised, and condemned as guilty by those with religious power over Him – and they were supposed to shepherd the flock, protect the weak, grant justice and further, because they had no power to fulfill their desire of His absolute destruction they turned Him over to the secular power – which in the person of Pilate proved itself as equally corrupt and cowardly – so this Innocent One was subjected to further suffering – in plain words before His execution He was tortured physically, spat upon, lashed, crowned with thorns and mocked – then – believing that they had succeeded in stealing from Him His dignity and personhood they executed Him between two common criminals so as to prove they were right in their false accusations, placing Him in person among the guilty, there could then be no doubt about His guilt – and they murdered Him and to guarantee He was dead they took a lance and ripped open the Heart of the Humiliated One.
As Scripture says: …one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. [ Jn. 19:34]
Yet that very river of blood and water gushing forth from the pierced Heart of the Humiliated One , as the Church teaches, is the source of the origin and growth of the Church…For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the Cross that there came forth the “wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.” [ CCC#766]
Most especially the Church sees in the flow of blood and water the gateway sacrament of Baptism and the source and summit of sacramental reality the Most Holy Eucharist.
In the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 11: 28-30, is the very specific revelation by Christ Himself of His Heart and – as difficult as this may be to accept – I believe it is also His revelation of the ‘heart-state’ of being of all those who would come to Him – but come to Him not just to ‘feel’ better but to become what we are [ once all the clutter of the false selves we have created or the false labels that have been put upon us are cleared away by Him ] real Beloveds – beloved of and by Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit – for only when the heart knows its own belovedness can the person emerge, free, dignified, selfless, able to love and serve others without ever counting the cost.
So this Heart, which began beating within the womb of Mary in anticipation – I would say with a full fire passionate anticipation of the day It would cease beating and be ripped open to flood the world with love’s fire, beats as the Awaiting One – waiting, of course, for us: you, me, every human being.
This Heart knows, even more true than we can ever imagine, the pure lines, the pure objective story of our lives from the moment our hearts first began to beat until the very moment when, wherever and in whatever condition we are, we hear His Heart call out the invitation to approach, be beloved, become: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give You rest.”
We are, especially in this time in history with all the reasons for fear, with all the immense labour it takes just to survive from one moment to the next, we are burdened more than we even imagine much less understand – so burdened that faith, or at least the risk of believing, looms over many of us like the proverbial straw which, should it add itself to our burden would not only crush us but – fear of all fears – would annihilate us ---- so -----satan, the culture of death, the merchants of what can be consumed, persons totally bent towards themselves acting as agents of our destruction, confusion, fear, for these do not want us to hear the Heart speaking so they too beckon us, they too promise rest – but they, liars all, never reveal the cost of their promised rest, which is no rest at all: stupor, sometimes; dark uneasiness, always; and perpetual fear.
Only the Heart does: “Take My yoke upon You and learn from Me….”
What’s going on here? What’s the catch?
Our weak faith, raw emotions, our addictions, wounds, fears, guilt, not to mention the cackling of the liar himself, causes many to pull away – after all most of us are already ‘yoked’ to something or someone to a disordered degree that has us burdened, labouring to exhaustion in the first place – but those yokes [ for their name is legion] are at least familiar and give us, as illusory as it may be, a sense of security, identity, etc. – so it is understandable so many are unsure when this Heart is asking us to – more accurately inviting us – to take on His yoke!
That is my point: wherever confusion is, satan is.
Wherever the stark simplicity of a truly free invitation is, Christ is!
Here is a moment when we really do need to step away from the cacophony of what we think we know, step away from the whirlwind of what we think we are doing in our lives, step beyond whomever and whatever has yoked us into bondage, brokenness, fear and, standing still, listen with whatever little corner of our hearts has not become stone but is still flesh and suddenly our ears, our hearts, will realize this is a marriage proposal, an invitation to intimacy, to being beloved for His Yoke is at one and the same time His Incarnation, Transfiguration, Suffering, Death, Resurrection – but also at one and the same time His loving-service, His intimacy with the Father and the Holy Spirit – in a word His yoke is His Heart and He is saying: Freely, freely accept My Gift, My Proposal, My Heart, My Truth, My Life, My Light, My Love.
The learning unfolds in the accepting and the reason He gives for learning from Him within this love-yoked-intimacy is because: “I am meek and humble of Heart;”
Only a meek and humble heart can suffer as Christ’s suffers: not for self but for other.
Only a meek and humble heart, yoked to the Heart which is ALL meek and humble, the Suffering Servant’s Heart, can truly be one with Christ and love and forgive as He loves and forgives.
The world since the Ascension of the Meek and Humble Pierced Heart has been awash in Popes, Bishops, Priests, Religious, Christians – but not so awash in Saints!
G.K. Chesterton once remarked on what he saw as the fundamental problem of Christianity was to be found not in its failure to succeed in its mission of restoration of all of human life and history to Christ, but rather that Christianity has never seriously been tried.
I believe the root of that can be found in the way we somehow only half-heartedly open when we listen to the Heart – it seems we just don’t stop and really wait to truly hear and fully understand and then live it out.
Meekness, of course, is that immense inner strength and exterior courage which has the silent fortitude of the Humiliated One before His false accusers, cruel torturers and even more darkly cruel religious leaders and civil authority who callously sought to destroy the One of Meek and Humble Heart for the sole reason they arrogantly assumed this was all about: eliminating the sole interference with their own agenda, which can be summarized as: “We have the power to say how God wants things done/We have the power to say how Caesar wants things done!”
Of course there is no indication, around the death of Jesus, either of those bent-toward-selves persons checked with either God or Caesar!
Jesus twins the free acceptance of His espousal yoke and the willingness to learn that our hearts might be real hearts – like His – with the double promise that in the unfolding of yoking and learning: “…you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden light.”
No longer then shall we be yoked to those crushing burdens, bondages, fears, addictions, places, persons which so exhaust us, and no longer shall we be bent over towards ourselves by burdens whose carrying has no real destination or purpose other than the relentless continuation of their heaviness and destructive journey to no place.
Forever yoked to Jesus as we learn from Him less and less in our lives will two hearts be beating – for He will bring about a oneness of our hearts with Him and with each other, with every human being – for me this is the ultimate gift of His prayer to the Father: “…that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me….that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them.” [ Jn.17: 20-26]
That way into this intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity is through the opened Heart of Christ – this ripping open of His Heart is the eternal open door policy of the Holy Trinity, as it were – every open door is invitation, every open door bespeaks the freedom of movement to and fro and every open door, especially to a home, announces someone within is waiting for us – the open Heart of Christ announces Love is waiting for us.
We seem always to presume we are waiting for God and so we sit, like sulky children, outside the open door, blind to the open invitation, waiting to have our burdens lifted, to have life make sense, to be less afraid, to hear our name, to be affirmed, loved, to…………………but we will never, way beyond mere experience but actually knowing sweetness of yoke, lightness of labour, joy of suffering, fullness of belovedness, our real name, if we do not arise, go and enter!
Fr. Robert Pelton reflecting on abiding in God’s heart [ which is a chapter in his book CIRCLING THE SUN] notes that one day he realized something about Jesus, and us, a simple reality: Jesus, the heart-beat of the living God, the pulse of my own true heart.
ONLY if a priest stands with fullness of intellect, heart, soul, constantly day and night in the beauty and invitation, the metanoia [ conversion of heart], the kenosis [ being emptied of all that which is not of Christ we cling to] will the priest ever achieve the fullness of the sobornost [ absolute oneness] with Christ Priest – a gift and mystery sealed into his being by the Holy Spirit at the moment of Ordination, but like all grace I must moment by moment cooperate, freely, with this constant action of the Spirit within me.
The Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, describes the heart of the priest as:
1] pierced like Christ’s with the lance of love.
2] is open, like Christ’s for the whole world to walk through.
3] is a vessel of compassion…a chalice of love…the trysting place of human and divine love.
Now the question asked of me was why can’t a priest close his heart?
I answer as follows: BECAUSE CHRIST NEVER CLOSES HIS PIERCED OPEN HEART, INDEED ALONG WITH THE STILL OPEN WOUNDS IN HIS GLORIFIED BODY SO TOO THE RIPPED OPEN HEART IS THERE, IN HEAVEN, BEFORE THE FACE OF THE FATHER – THE OPEN HEART IS OPEN FOREVER.
The lance of love which rips open the heart of the priest IS itself Divine Mercy BUT the lancer often is a human being who may be seeking to pierce the heart of a priest with false accusation, lie, temptation, addiction, money – whatever – but the mystery is IF the priest accepts the original invitation from His Heart to come to Him then what reaches the heart of the priest IS the lance of love.
So – the priest cannot close his heart once ripped open anymore than Christ can.
Nations may place soldiers at their borders to allow in only those who meet certain standards; groups, religions, families, individuals can by various means restrict who may or may not enter wherever and most doors once open remain capable of being closed and indeed locked.
A real priest must NEVER exercise any such option but – being meek and humble of heart as Christ, in whose person he is by ordination, must always keep his heart open for, literally “ the whole world to walk through”……enemies, dislikeable personalities, whomever – for the priest’s heart is NOT the place of destination but a passageway, a floor, a bridge – to Christ – thus the priest must NEVER seek to keep any passerby in his heart as his ‘own’ – Christ alone is the priest’s Lover-Beloved relationship.
The priest, certainly, as a human being must have personal relationships – but never possessive ones for once he goes down that road he IS closing his heart, therefore he has begun to forget who he really is!
Finally IF the priest closes his heart then it is to fill the “chalice of love” with that which is not love and when the thirsty for Love Himself come to drink they will leave with only grit, or worse, in their hearts and “the trysting place of human and divine love” will be no oasis, no banquet, but a burning desert, a wasteland, a swamp devoid of the Bread of Life.
For myself as a priest I know in the core of my personhood, in the depths of my soul, that if I ever closed my priestly heart my physical heart would arrest instantly and irreversibly – which is why no matter how hard any human or spirit force might try to humiliate, hurt, whatever to achieve the closure of my heart I know, before I would ever close my heart or it be forced shut I would be seized by Jesus and Mary and either snatched away from such a definitive danger by an infusion of illuminating grace, the love intervention of family/friends – or – if the danger of my heart not being open was THAT extreme then I know Jesus and Mary will seize my soul right out of my body – and then, well, I would truly be in His rest!