In the Midst of Wolves

Do you pray not to be put to the test? I do.

I think about the worst situation that I could find myself in and then I wonder… would I still love God in that situation? Would I still be a joyful, committed person of faith…? With that thought in mind, and in order to share a little of my personal life as someone with a physical disability, I am pressing this post from my other blog, BibleBursts.com.

In the Midst of Wolves.

First Friday and the Universal Treasures of the Sacred Heart

The Treasures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Treasures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Catholic imagery can be beautiful… and also a bit terrifying. Gruesome even. The picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that I use in the header of my blog is a classic example: a red, pulpy, bleeding heart, gashed, burning on fire at the top, encircled with a barbed-wire-like crown of thorns. Its blood is dripping down to a smaller heart below that is blooming with flowers and fruit. The inscription reads: The Treasures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is, of course, highly symbolic – but also rather startling and seemingly disconnected from what we see and know in “real” life. It begs the question – What are we supposed to do with an image like this?

I am not consecrated to an image of a fleshy, bloody organ. I am consecrated to Christ, to the fullness of reality – which is terribly beautiful, after all. I have committed myself to more than the material, more than the reducible – I have committed myself to life in its entirety, the physical and the spiritual. I refuse to be one of the surface people, fearfully hiding my power and vulnerability behind a fig leaf, and deceiving myself into thinking that only my five natural senses can detect the fullness of reality. I want to be like Christ. To be like Christ is to be most fully human, to be fully alive as we are created to be. Exploring the Mysteries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to explore his inner life, the core of who he is – and that is the exploration of the Mysteries of truth, of what is really real. All I’ve ever wanted is the truth.

But, why, then, some may ask, do I not write of the Sacred Heart in all of my posts?

I started this blog when I began my consecrated devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in hopes of more deeply exploring the Mysteries of Christ’s heart – and of my own. This doesn’t mean that every post is going to be directly about my act of consecration, or Jesus, or even Catholicism. But, I do believe that every post that I write is about the Sacred Heart. Not always explicitly, but always. For, to put it as simply and plainly (though also, I understand, as complexly and mysteriously) as possible, Christ is Truth Incarnate. And his Sacred Heart is the heart of truth, the heart of reality. As long as I tell no lies and make no conceit in this blog, striving for the honesty of life and of my mind and soul – then here is Christ. I press my ear to the heart of the universe and listen…

To put it another way:

Christ Jesus presents and embodies the reason for and meaning of reality – because Christ Jesus is the reason for and meaning of reality: God loves Creation into existence, creating human beings with the capacity to naturally and supernaturally receive divine love and to transmit, to share, this love, agape, with others. This interplay of God’s love for humankind and humankind’s loving response to God is perfect in Jesus Christ. For he is fully divine and fully human. This interplay is his interior life, the core of his being – his heart. Therefore, to delve into the Mysteries of being, of life, to delve into the Mysteries of the Divine and the human, to delve into the Mysteries of love, suffering, and joy, is to delve into the Sacred Heart of Jesus – whether we use that term and imagery or not. For Christ is Universal. Every human quest on earth for beauty, justice, goodness, knowledge, wisdom, or peace is a quest for Christ. In every religion, and in no religion, whether spiritually intending or not, I believe that all honest quests for truth and love are seeking what is found in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And it is the Holy Spirit that inspires, guides, and guards such seeking.

The Catholic Church offers the month of June for special consideration of the Sacred Heart. Therefore, for this First Friday, I take the image of The Treasures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as my facilitator. In the image, we can see that God’s love pours forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus to bring our hearts into full flower and fruition. May it serve to remind me, not only of God’s love, but also of the human dimension of that love – and of my own responsibility. Divine incarnate.

Prayer:

– Lord, God, you so love us that you have become one of us, opening your heart for us in all ways. Help me open my heart to you so that you can transform me into a rich garden of blossoming, yielding fruitfulness of body and soul in all my thoughts, words, and actions – all for you, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

(This is part of the First Friday Facilitators Series, which can be located under the category “the heart” or the tag “First Friday”. Or, by clicking on a month, see the posts for March April May.)

© 2014 Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

Nigh Unto Me

The beloved student laid his head near the heart of the Christ and asked who would be the betrayer.  I want to be a student of the Master… Do I bow my head to His Sacred Heart?  Do I turn to Him with all the questions, all the seeking, of my life?  Or do I merely name drop and speak at Him with my mouth, never listening and drawing succor from His Infinite Depths?  Is my love for Him merely something to do – or is it the very core of who I am?

Too easily can one who seeks to follow God end up selling Him out for cash ready at hand.  I can either collaborate with those who would put the Christ to death so as to put an end to the call to holiness, unconditional love, bravery, patience, forgiveness… Or I can take up my cross and follow the Christ through my fears, through my temptations, onward and ever deeper into the eternal love of His Sacred Heart, my own heart broken open with the outpouring of His love.  I rest my head upon the Heart of Love, the Heart of Reality, the Heart of God, and ask the Master, “Is it I, Lord?”

 Sharing here also my Bible Burst for this week  (from Matthew 15:8) which inspired this  Divine Incarnate post –

Nigh Unto Me.

Not Fulfilled Yet

I’ve written here that I want to feel sacred – and that I’m disappointed because I thought I would feel sacred by making an act of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But… what does sacred feel like? Is there such a feeling? What if what I’m experiencing is what sacred feels like: seeking, wanting, trying, not yet satisfied…?

There should be a sense of reverence toward a consecrated place, thing, or person. And, I wonder, shouldn’t there also be a sense of reverence that the consecrated person feels about him or her self? That feeling of being made sacred? To look upon myself no longer as my self, but as belonging entirely to God – that’s a true act of consecration. I should no longer consider my life as my own to do with whatever I wish, but, rather, as belonging to the Sacred Heart – with the inner life of Christ acting, working, through me.

In my desire to feel sacred, I must remember two things: 1.) God is Holy Other. 2.) I am not God. I am what God sanctifies, what God makes holy – at least, I can be what God makes holy if I let God do what God wants to do. Making an act of consecration to God (through any worthy kind of imagery or form, like the Sacred Heart) is making an act of surrender, so to speak. I am to hand over my person and my life to God (hand over my liberty, my intellect, my memory, my will[i]) so that God may make me sacred. So that, henceforth, my choices, my actions, and my words will be for God’s glory, for God’s ultimate plan. I dedicate myself to God’s work for God’s sake – not for my own ambition or comfort or even reward. Therefore, I seek only God’s Perfect Will – living in order that God’s Will may be accomplished through me… oh, let my spirit be willing, Lord, even if my flesh is weak!

Right now, I, human creature that I am of limited flesh and blood upon the earth, do not live purely in the presence of God, in the absence of temptation and sin. Rather, I live in the world, surrounded by distractions and worldliness, living in the weakness of my own flesh, as well as the weakness of others. If I seek only God’s Perfect Will, then I cannot be content with succumbing to temptation and sinning. If I seek only God’s Perfect Will, then I cannot be content with cruelty and injustice. If I seek only God’s Perfect Will, then I will hunger and thirst for righteousness. Christ Jesus tells us that those who do so hunger and thirst will be satisfied. He says that they will be satisfied… not that they are satisfied. For human beings to be truly blessed, to be truly happy, they will mourn and they will be persecuted for believing in Jesus Christ. These who mourn and are persecuted will be consoled and will be rewarded – their happiness, their blessedness, will be fulfilled.[ii] It is not fulfilled right here and right now. It is being accomplished. Not done yet.

And, so, if I am truly dedicated to God’s Will, if I am consecrated to the Sacred Heart and allowing the process of being made holy by God’s grace, then I am laboring, I am trying, I am wanting – and I am not there yet. I am not of the world, but I am still in the world. An Act of Consecration, or the process of being made sacred, while still in the midst of the profane is not the experience of complete peace without hunger, or joy without suffering. I shouldn’t feel satisfied and content. My faith is that I will be so fulfilled, perfectly peaceful and unceasingly joyful… This is Christ’s promise to me and I believe him. I believe in him – for this faith is my act of consecration…. God is consecrating me… here and now for eternity.

Yes, I have to stop thinking about this in terms of my gift to God. This is about God’s gift to me. What do I really have that is truly my own? I can give nothing to God. God gives everything to me. I can do nothing for God. God does everything for me… And through me. I, with the power of the Holy Spirit in me, merely use my God-given soul to acknowledge and surrender to the inevitable truth of who I am.

Even just writing this, I have more of a sense of being sacred. I am seeing with new eyes, hearing with new ears, feeling with new skin. My physical eyes, ears, and skin have not changed – but, perhaps, the attitude of my mind and spirit have changed, or, more accurately, are being changed. Continually being directed less toward self-centeredness and more toward God-centeredness (which is the reality of existence) this is coming home to truth, this is consecration. It is not something extra that I do, for then it could seem as though it were superfluous or unnecessary to life itself. I mean, why make an act of consecration at all? Why not just be like the majority of Christians and basically try to live a good life and then let God’s forgiveness handle all the rest so that I may go to Heaven? But… Consecration is profoundly and simply a recognition of the truth that is always there: I belong to God.

Everything that exists belongs to God. God is the giver. God gives the gift. Not me. With my God-given freewill, imagination and intellect, I can ignore this fact, reject this fact, or neglect this fact – but the fact remains. That which we call “God” is what always was, what always is, and what always will be. And the what is not something that we can ever detect with our tools or formulations. This Absolute, Almighty, Eternal Truth/Being is not a what but a Who. Person is the force and drive behind and within the very creation and existence of matter/energy; Person is the force and drive behind and within our expanding universe; Person is the answer to every why, whether that “why person” be Divine or human – it’s all personal. It’s all a gift.

“Life is a gift” is not something sentimental or trite, something handy but unnecessary, something superfluous to real life. It’s essential truth. God consecrates me through His divine action and I don’t ignore the package at the door waiting for me, I don’t take it away in disgust or disdain, and I don’t neglect to see it, blinded by my own self-centered thoughts or pursuits. I look for the gift and the gift finds me seeking… wanting… trying… and not fulfilled yet. God is sanctifying me…

Christina Chase

 

[i] taken from a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola

[ii] Matthew 5:3-12

Talk the Talk – Walk the Walk?

Eternity is not only about life after death, like heaven and hell.  Eternity is also here and now.  For, if eternity has no beginning and no end, then it’s already happening.  It’s always.

What do I do with this knowledge?  Do I merely repeat it, post it, preach it?  Or do I live it?  And how do I live it?  I had hoped that consecrating myself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus would help me to give my whole self to God and doing God’s will.  I want to be sacred, for holy use, dedicated to divine purpose.  But… What did I think that would mean?  Did I think I wouldn’t have any lazy hours anymore?  Did I think I would stop following football?  (I never intended to do that.)  Did I think that I wouldn’t want to watch funny shows or indulge in some clean, romantic fiction from time to time?  Not that these things are ungodly, but… There isn’t much that I can do physically for God and God’s people except pray.  There is so much cruelty and violence in the world, and I could pray for peace….  What am I doing?  Aargh.  Crap.

I’m not a nun.  I don’t mean that in any flippant kind of way.  I admire and respect people who are consecrated to Religious Life in Religious Orders.  To leave their worldly things behind and give themselves totally to a regiment, a structure with rules and routines designed to keep them mindful of God and devoted to doing God’s work – it’s sublimely beautiful.  Of course, they don’t spend every minute praying on their knees, or ladling soup out to the hungry, or sewing clothes for the naked, or cleaning the bedpans of the sick.  I mean, they have to sleep.  And they play, too.  Some Orders have basketball hoops or ping-pong tables or bicycles.  They go for long walks, chatting and laughing together.  But, all that they do they do for love of God, giving God glory and praising Him.  Not like they’ve got the basketball and are going dribble, “I love God,” dribble, dribble, “God is great” – that’s not what I mean.  I don’t know what I mean.

And I guess that’s the point of this post.  To tell whoever may be reading this that I don’t know.  All the words in all the languages of the world combined cannot write out all of the things that I don’t know.

Discipleship…?

Christina Chase

A Nest of Dryness

I began this blog to document my spiritual journey, consecrated to the Sacred Heart.  Starting with zeal, I find myself already sputtering out and going flat.  I had promised to set myself apart for holy use, to give my life to divine purpose.  And now… ho-hum, befuddled.  I’m just not feeling it.  So go all devotions, commitments to creativity and vows of love.  Losing the sweetness of the spark, dim dullness creeping in, I am tempted to just wander away aimlessly and grope about for some cheaper thrill.  Temptation lives in desert spots.  But I will not be moved.  I will not lose heart.  For I know that this path is the way of great saints, artists, lovers… the path of holiness.

Being human, I am bound to be an earthly creature dependent upon this spinning sphere orbiting its sun.  The pattern of my life is the ebb and flow of tides, the growth cycle of deciduous trees, the hibernation of bears.  The way is not to mourn the ebbs, the winters, or the dormition, but, rather, to feast in the seasons of plenty, gathering up the knowledge and memory of abundance in my heart so as to keep the ember of hope from going out, even when the fire is gone.  And so, I am now dutifully preparing a nest of dryness for the kindling of my delight.

Maranatha.

Dormant; not forsaken.

Anticipating; not forgetting, not forlorn.

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My mother lights the candles in the growing circle of the Advent wreath and I await rebirth.  Maranatha.  In the midst of dark December, in the midst of dung and hay, come Lord Jesus, come.