Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Heart Of The Gospel. Part 29.

By Francis Patrick Donnelly


I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.

THE Church is richer in many ways for the practice of devotion to the Heart of Christ. To choose thus a part of Christ might seem at first sight to narrow the view, to limit the attention, and so decrease knowledge and power; but it has not been so. The view has been intensified, if restricted; the attention has been focused, and so we know more of Christ and feel more truly the force He exercises. One simple fact is proof. Make a catalogue of the books written on this subject, and you have an index to the riches which have been laid up for the Church by the study and honouring of the Heart of Christ. However, the numbering of books and counting of their pages is a crude way of reckoning our gains. There is a better way, and the heart itself will be the best measure of our increased wealth and income. What does the heart do for the body? It gives color; it gives warmth; it gives life. See the heart in the glowing face; feel it in the warm hand; experience it in the vigorous action of every member of the body. Color, warmth and life have come to us from devotion to the Heart of Christ
The candle-sticks on our altars were often, especially years ago, hung with dangling pieces of glass, which multiplied and intensified the lights around them. The altar-boy who was fortunate enough to obtain, either by accident or design, one of those glass pendants considered himself wealthy. He went around looking at everything through his crystal treasure, and he found, to his wonder and delight, that all he saw was edged with brilliant colors. He did not know it then, but he afterwards understood, that those glass pendants were prisms and broke up the white light of the sun, and so clothed the world for him in the fair vesture of the rainbow. The incident is, perhaps, too trivial to be used as an illustration to a great and consoling truth. Yet Christ, who took the mustard seed to picture the kingdom of Heaven, and the hen and her little ones to portray His solicitude for His people, will not complain of the trivial, if it will teach the truth clearly and convincingly.

Well, devotion to the Heart of Christ has colored His life and our life. When we look at His life through His Heart, we are looking through the glorifying medium of His love. Every word of His lips and every thought of His mind and every act of His gracious hands is clothed in new light. Every truth about Him, all doctrines, are tinged with a new color. As we look on them through devotion to His Heart, we see them clad in the imperial colors of His love. Everything He said or thought, His whole life, in detail and in fulness, is a gift to us, a gift of divine love. "God so loved the world as to give us His only begotten Son." What is the color that has entered into the life of those devoted to His Heart? It is the return of that which beautified His life. Gratitude is the reflection of love. His life has come to us with every event of it bright and fair with love. Devotion to Christ's Heart gives back to Him lives lit up and colored with grateful love.

Proof is scarcely needed to show how devotion to the Heart of Christ has imparted warmth. It has enriched our prayers with a new vocabulary. It has made it impossible for insincerity to speak the language of this devotion and remain unchanged. The effort would be too great. Insincerity will be dumb, or, if it speaks, the earnest, glowing words, like so many insistent strokes, will fall on the most indifferent heart and beat it into fervor, or, perhaps, strike out a grain or two of fire to set a soul in flame and enkindle with good purposes an hour or two of life. Give fire an outlet and you give it intensity. A new language was the outlet of a warm heart which grew warmer with the expression of its devotion.

But the new language was not all. The Heart of Christ sent further warmth into our life, because devotion to it brought the soul within the circle of its influence. When heresy and unbelief bore the hearts of men far away from Him, beyond the sphere of His rule and in rebellion to His law, this devotion came to draw the faithful believers nearer to the light and force from which they received their faith and to which they acknowledged obedience. They would not follow the rebellious on their wanderings through space, chilled and darkened. Christ had been their sun, and, in devoting themselves to His Heart they were setting aside everything that might eclipse the light or lessen the heat. They would not stay on some distant orbit, but would plunge into the very source and center of their day. The Heart of Christ meant His love, and those who practised this devotion were not dwelling on any comparatively cold action or word of His, but reached into the very furnace where His life was kindled, into the love which brought Him to earth and kept Him upon it and nailed Him to the cross.

And what, practically, did this new warmth mean for those who were pledged to the Heart of Christ? As looking at Christ's life through devotion to His Heart meant that it took on a new color in every detail, enriched the mind with new ideas, and so awakened the answer of gratitude, so also it meant the enrichment of the will with new purposes and fervent resolutions, and awakened and made vigorous the practice of reparation. Reparation is sympathy which has found expression in action. If this devotion leaves us with glowing words on our lips and a cold heart within us, then it falls short of its purpose; it is mere sentiment, and not conviction. If the heart is warmed into sympathy and yet finds no outlet except in protestations and professions, it is mere feeling. In neither case is it devotion. But if the fire of expression hands on its flame to the feeling and enkindles sympathy, and sympathy, in turn, inspires the burning resolve and the burning deed, then there is true devotion and true reparation. Gratitude is the answer devotion makes to the gift from a Heart; reparation is the answer devotion makes to a gift from a wounded Heart. Gratitude has done all when it hands back its life in thanksgiving. Reparation will not be content until the cross is removed from its living pedestal upon Christ's Heart, until the crown of thorns is unclasped from It, until the wound in It is healed beyond the possibility of reopening, until the Heart is as God made It, not as man made It — the Heart of Bethlehem, not that of Calvary.