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.

Where Do I Live? (Heart Question 2)

When someone asks us where we live, we think of our homes.  I’ve lived in the same house for my whole life (so far).  The reason that I still live with my parents is that my genetic defect has progressively weakened my body so that I need somebody to help me with every daily activity.  (I share this, not to elicit pity or praise – I don’t want either – but to consider these questions honestly.  I am a real person writing this, as you are a real person reading this, and we all live in different circumstances although we are all human.)  No longer can I put food in my mouth or pull the covers up at night when I’m cold – so where I live is determined by my dependency.  But this just puts a clearer focus upon everything that is important in a home – I take nothing for granted.  I know more than survival, I know living.  Where I live, I, like anyone who is grateful to have a home, am sheltered, nourished, welcomed, loved – I love this place where I live as my beautiful home.

And I don’t just mean the house.  More than an address to which snail mail can be sent (for this can change upon moving) and more than the location of my bed and refrigerator (for it’s possible to have more than one of those) home, by the most practical and deepest definition, is where I belong.  As shelter, home should never be underappreciated, for there are far too many people who live, day and night, unsheltered from the cold, rain and snow.  As a place of sleep and sustenance, home is never insignificant, because rest and nourishment are necessary to life.  Home as a place of safety and comfort is also never to be undervalued – for it’s like a sanctuary and there are far too many people for whom the place where they live is also the place where they are abused.  It is in this understanding of shelter, sustenance and sanctuary that home as “the place where I belong” takes on substance.

So… Where is the place where I belong?  Is it in this particular house?  No, because that can change.  Is it with these particular people whom I love and who love me?  Well, that can change, too, most sorrowfully, as the lives of my loved ones aren’t permanent – so, no.  In asking the ageless questions, I’m not seeking changeable answers.  I’m questing for the immutable, the changeless answers that, therefore, completely answer the question for all times – for all time….

Pliny the Elder is credited with saying that home is where the heart is.  This has generally been accepted as a good definition of home and I like it, too.  But… Where is my heart?  I’m pretty sure Pliny didn’t mean that my home is my rib cage.  Christ tells us, “Where your treasure lies, there is your heart.”  Now, that’s interesting… Where is my treasure?  I tend to treasure temporal things – beautiful objects, the kind, physical presence of people.  If I am basing my definition of home on the people and things that I love (declaring this to be where my heart is) then my definition is temporary.  To find the eternal answer, I need to think of things eternal… things divine.

I’ve often heard it said that my true home, my eternal home, is Heaven.  But, I rejected this answer because I thought that it meant I could only do my true living after I was dead.  And what kind of life would that be?  I was, after all, created by God to be here, even if temporarily.  However, I’m beginning to understand that, if Heaven is my eternal home, then, because eternity has no beginning and no end, Heaven is here, now – not just hereafter.  And that understanding changes everything.

If I spend all of my time and effort concerned about what is of the world – having physical comfort, prestige, the praise of people, the pleasure of things – then this is where I live: my home is transitory, fickle, fleeting, finite.  If, rather, I spend my time and effort concerned about what is divine – being thankful, generous, compassionate, forgiving – then this is where I live: my home is loving, strong, enduring, infinite.  As Christ tells us in the Gospels, some people build their houses on shifting sand, while others build upon solid rock.  And what is more unshifting than eternity?  What is more eternal than God?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this understanding of the heart:

“The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place ‘to which I withdraw.’”

No matter what location I am at, no matter what structure I am in, no matter, even, by what people I am surrounded, there is one place that is always and everywhere home.  This is my inner sanctuary, the hidden dwelling place where God abides with me and I abide with God.  In solitude and away from the distraction of things, I have an impenetrably deep sense of belonging.  This is where I am, for I am a child of God and my home is with Him who created and sustains me, who loves me infinitely and intimately.

There are moments in my life, moments that can’t really be marked by time or in space, when I am deeply aware that I am home.  This is when I withdraw into my heart and find the Presence of God waiting for me there, welcoming me, giving me shelter, rest, sustenance, belonging and identity – everything home should be.  As in the song of Hosea, God says, “Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.”  I come home in every act of conversion while I live and breathe upon the earth, returning to my true self as God’s child, like the prodigal son returning to his father.  Restored through my repentance and Christ’s self giving forgiveness in order to live with, for, and in God, here and now, I already dwell within the embrace of God – and I will forever dwell in God’s pure, blissful Presence, eternally loved in my eternal home.

That’s where I’m at.

 

I’ll continue exploring the ageless questions – How do I decide, What is truth, Where is God.  For now, as I take up an online course in theology, I’ll be posting other questions and answers, sharing other thoughts and wonderings…

© 2014 Christina Chase

Epiphany of the Heart

On the Feast of the Epiphany, consecrated to the Sacred Heart, I’m pondering what the word heart means.  And, much to my chagrin, I see the image in the old, I ♥ NY.  The pink or red image ♥ is ubiquitous, whole or broken – on T-shirts and jewelry, in emails and kindergartners’ valentines, or floating over cartoon characters’ heads – so much so that it has become rather sappy and trite.  The love that it’s supposed to represent seems cheesy to me – and I fear that this kind of love (demonstrative, but of nothing at the core) is prevalent in our society.  There is, however, a deeper, more ancient meaning of the heart that shouldn’t be forgotten because it opens a greater understanding of truer love – and of our true selves.

The physical heart is, of course, an organ in the body that pumps blood.  The rate at which the heart pumps changes based on the perceptions and needs of the body, which may be the main reason that the heart has become a symbol of, not only love, but the seat of emotion in general.  Sensing danger, the heart rate changes as part of the fight or flight response, so that a sudden fright may cause the exclamation, “You nearly gave me a heart attack!”  When we are aroused, or excited in any way, the heart also beats faster and harder, and so we say that the heart throbs or leaps.  Studies show that social rejection or loss is “felt” like pain by the human brain – and I know that I have experienced, deep within my chest, the heartache of longing and the heartbreak of grief.  No wonder, then, that the sensitive heart has become associated with love.  It’s unfortunate, though, that the concentration has been on physical kinds of love and that the overly sentimental symbolism and imagery has rendered the heart into a cliché.  We shouldn’t dismiss all heart symbolism as romantic gobbledygook.  In order to refresh and to restore pure imagery, I turn to the spiritual understanding of the heart– which is both mystical and essential – as the innermost self… thus journeying toward greater understanding of who I am as a human being.

“The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.”  (CCC #2563.)

I believe this needs my continual rereading and personal reflection.  This is, after all, talking about the deepest recess of my being, my sacred core.  It is only through this understanding of the heart that I can ever hope to reflect upon truth, upon the Heart of God… that I can ever hope to encounter truth, to encounter God, in true communion… that I can ever hope to be fully myself.

So, I ask myself the questions that human beings have asked themselves since humans have been:

Who am I?

Where do I live?

How do I decide?

What is truth?

Where is God?

Written Not with Ink

I am meant to be an epistle, written not with ink, but with the Spirit in the fleshly table of my heart… (From my other blog where I have a piece of Scripture randomly selected for me and then write and edit for one hour.  Because of the suddenness of the source and the time limit, this post, like most of them, is a bit rambling and mostly unedited.)

Written Not with Ink.

Pondering in Her Heart

God knows what’s in my heart.…  Do I?

“And when [the shepherds] saw [the babe in the manger] they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  (Luke 2:17-19.)

When Jesus is a grown man, during his earthly ministry, he responds to someone who declares that his mother is blessed for having nursed him by saying, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”  (Luke 11:28.)  This, of course, Mary also did and so she is blessed – and we can all be blessed, too.  “To keep” can mean to obey – and it can also mean to treasure or safeguard.  The Blessed Virgin Mother hears God’s will for her and she believes.  She believes in God and accepts His word as true.  (Luke 1:45.)  She willingly obeys and says yes.  To believe, credo, also means to give one’s whole heart, one’s whole self, to God’s word.  Mary also does this.  She gives her whole heart, her whole self, over to the Word of God… And the Word of God is made flesh through her.  As a mother, and as a disciple, she keeps Him treasured in her heart all the days of her life.

What is in my own heart?  If I am still and silent, will I find, deep within me, God’s Word treasured and safeguarded with love?  Or will I only find the throbbings of my own words and self-centered desires?  Do I let lust for earthly things, doubt and despair constrict my heart?  Or do I quietly accept and contemplate the wonders of God’s Presence, pondering Divine Love in my heart, keeping the Word Incarnate safe and loved in my sacred core?  To be truly blessed, I don’t need to accomplish mighty deeds that gain praise from the crowds.  I need only to be humble and receptive, quiet, open to the Majesty of His Word, willing to give myself completely to God – body, mind, heart and soul… in this moment… eternally now.

The Word of My Heart

Consecrated to the Heart of the Incarnate Word, I reflect upon the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Advent (see link below) desiring to prepare the way of the Lord in my own heart…

Everyone knows that words have power – we can either encourage or discourage people by what we say.  But, what is the power behind the voice of the universe?  What is the power of the Divine Word?

In the Scripture passages chosen by the Catholic Church for the Second Sunday of Advent, we hear the psalmist proclaim that the ruthless are struck down “with the rod of his mouth” and the wicked are slayed “with the breath of his lips”.  Lest these sayings make me think that God’s voice is harsh, destroying the ruthless and the wicked with His words, it’s good to remember what the true power of God’s Word is.  For – “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  (Matthew 4:4.)  God’s words are life-giving.  God’s Word is Life Itself.  The biblical unfolding of Creation has God speak the whole universe into existence – “God said: Let there be light, and there was light.”  God called everything forth into being through the divine Word “and found it very good.”  (Genesis 1:3, 31.)  In this way, God speaks every human being into existence.  And every person who is fully alive, in true, divinely intended life, has his or her being in the Word of God – which is true life.  When I strive to be who God created me to be, then I am neither ruthless nor wicked.  I am not struck down, laid low or shriveled up on hearing God’s words.  Instead, if I have true life within me, I am nourished and sustained by them.

Christ is the Word of God made flesh – “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.…  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.…  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  (John 1:1-3, 14.)  In preparing the way for the coming of Christ, we hear St. John the Baptist say of him, “He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  Sometimes, can make Christ sound punishing to me– unless I understand that he is the divine Word Incarnate.  As such, he is the touchstone for true life.  Held up to Christ, my heart is revealed.  God does not destroy, but I can destroy myself by the life I choose to live.  Am I the wheat that receives and gives life or am I just on the surface, like the chaff?  If I delight myself in self-centeredness, then I have turned in on myself and away from God’s life-giving Word.  I will wallow in the surface of things, living a selfish life that will only end in death – and thus bring about my own destruction.  If, however, I have generously loved God and neighbor, seeking the light of goodness and truth, giving of myself to others, then I am nourished by God’s Word and sustained in life that, like love, never ends.

Christmas is coming soon, when we celebrate the birth of Christ into the world.  May we “with one voice glorify… the God of encouragement”.  In Christ, the fullness of divinity is pleased to dwell – all goodness, all wisdom, all strength, filled with the spirit of counsel and reverence.  The Divine Incarnation is the greatest gift given to us, because God’s Word made flesh shows us how to be as God created us to be, how to live life fully – by loving and giving selflessly.

So I ask myself, How am I living my life?  Have I prepared the way for the Word of God in my heart?  Do I seek first the Kingdom?  Do I let Christ show me the way?

Practical question: When was the last time I read from the Bible – that is, the word of God?  It’s easy enough to be distracted today by the world with its shiny and brassy things.  But, how can I ever hope to enter into the ways of selfless love, the ways of truly good things, if I don’t bother to know God’s Word?  If I don’t like what Sacred Scripture tells me, if I feel myself shriveling as I listen or read – then am I as God created me to be?  God hears my secret voice speaking.  God knows what’s in my heart… Do I?

Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120813.cfm