As you take a moment to sit quietly with this image, where are your eyes drawn? Is it the figure of Jesus on the cross, the various churches, the contrast of light and darkness in the painting, the depth of color? What catches your attention? What stirs your heart? God communicates to us through images, sounds, words, feelings, imagination and intuition. What is God communicating to you as you gaze at this image?
First Friday Reflections
Through the centuries, the Christian community has consistently tried to capture its developing understanding of Jesus Christ in word and image. This is a never ending challenge – to portray the Mystery of the love of God made visible in the man, Jesus of Nazareth, who went about doing good and eventually laid down his life for us. Each First Friday of the month, the Society of the Sacred Heart sends an email prepared by an RSCJ, colleague or friend of the Society, with a reflection on the meaning of the Sacred Heart in our lives today. To sign up to receive the First Friday emails, click on the words Sign up for e-news here or at the bottom of any page on this site.
The moment of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan is an event so important it appears in all four of the Gospels. I wonder if it is the moment when Jesus’ lifelong discernment of his special vocation – to make God’s love known in the heart of the world – was clear to him, accepted and confirmed?
Jesus was always a bit out of step; he had not followed the norm of settling down and raising a family. Otherwise, he was fully a part of the life of Nazareth. Jesus had wept at their funerals and danced at their weddings.
This image brings to mind the understanding of the ONENESS of the heart of Christ in the world today. I see two hearts, intimately joined. Through these two hearts, which I envision beating as one, I see the river of light and life running and pouring forth. This outpouring of love is learned from Christ by all those who seek to know Christ and are loved by Christ.
Life brings with it both light and darkness as illustrated in this piece of art. The movement, shape and flow are affected by the events of every day.
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God, he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
When I look at this image, I feel safe and loved. I love the colors, the depth, the vitality, but most of all I love the emotion. I identify with what I perceive as a human figure in the lower right corner, sheltered by the cross and the Sacred Heart. There is warmth emanating from that little corner of the world, and the cross of Jesus, with its sturdy support and fiery center, protects her. In a world that offers too much violence, too much uncertainty, too much casual meanness and self-involvement, how many of us are looking for nothing more than security and love?
For four years I lived in a small town in Haiti and, although there is not proof that the creator of this image is Haitian, I see it through that lens.
The bright white of his robe reminds me of the dresses of the little girls of the village, washed in the muddy water of drainage ditches yet emerging spotless! Starched and pressed with irons filled with hot charcoal, made from trees stripped and burned in the decimated hills, yet still providing fuel for food and a bit of dignity.
This image of the Sacred Heart, as traditional as any image could be, held a place of honor in my husband’s family home on the living room fireplace mantel. It was there before he was born and it remains there today. Each evening, his parents would gather the family around it for the family rosary. When I first saw it, in the ‘70s, I was fascinated by the warmth and peace that seemed to radiate from the image – a human with a heart, yet divine.
My experience has taught me that God takes great delight in showing us ways to receive his love, ways to live in it and ways to give it away. There seem to be no end to these pathways God puts in front of us to lead us to his heart.
When I was an adolescent at (the Academy of the Sacred Heart) Lake Forest, I began to discover this love. I so looked forward to First Fridays. They were days set apart from ordinary days by what we wore, what we did and what we ate. What I looked forward to with great eagerness was Mass and the proclamation of Ephesians 3:
This image certainly disquiets me. Nearly disturbs. But I keep sliding my eyes back to look ... and then slowly I see it. This image is alive with the suffering of the world.
Also, the colors, tilt of the head, and glow, they remind me of a line from Muriel Barbery's book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I now know what you have to experience before you die: let me tell you. What you have to experience before you die is a driving rain transformed into light.