It doesn’t happen every time I enter the church doors and genuflect. In fact, it doesn’t usually happen while I’m kneeling in prayer. It happens after. After I’ve bowed before the Altar. After I’ve quieted my spirit and shared a space of time with Our Lord.
When I slip back into my seat - that’s when it happens. I can feel my own heart beating. My upper body moves slightly with each pulse. It’s a gentle stirring, the direct result of a beating heart and a quieted body. My heartbeat.
And it reminds me of a phrase I’ve heard many times since my conversion to the Catholic Church. Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The irony is that I embraced the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary before I grasped the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I’m not sure why. After all, it was Jesus who led me here. He guided me to the Eucharist and His Church. Perhaps this last devotion came late because I came to the Church with a great love for Christ to begin with, while I knew nothing of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Perhaps it was my self-diagnosed ignorance that caused me to consider the Immaculate Heart of Mary first.
Lately, though, as I sit in the quiet before Mass begins and I feel my own heart beating, I sense something beyond myself.
Another Heart. It pulses with a love so perfect that not even death could stop it permanently. It flows with a mercy so great that not even my imperfections can cause it to cease its life-giving fountain. It pours forth with an abundance of grace so rich that I have all that I need to genuflect and leave through the Church doors – and become Christ to the world.
It was near the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday that my spiritual director gave me a book by Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Heart of the World. The writing is beautiful, so beautiful that I was lost in its rhythm, wooed by the literary masterpiece.
The thesis comes square in the middle of the figurative language. I didn’t expect it. It didn’t come in a jarring way. I didn’t come upon it abruptly. It was more like an epiphany, like the first rays of morning light when you are staring at the Morning Star. And you realize that the heavens are waking, and the sun’s first light has claimed all light and made it its own.
Jesus Christ’s love flows from His Sacred Heart. And everything is absorbed into that pulsing Heart. Mary’s Immaculate Heart. And my heart, too.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the talisman with which God has penetrated our world and transformed it from within… the talisman God has used to break open the bolted gate. That’s what Hans Urs Von Balthasar says. “God created a Heart for himself and placed it at the center of the world” (44). This “hushed chamber became a military highway on which the caravans of grace descend.”
Hans Urs Von Balthasar describes this Grand Central Station as the epicenter by which every living thing is sorted and distributed and receives its papers and authorizations, mission, consolations, routes, provisions, and grace. This is the “circulation of love” (56). Divinity and humanity at its most vulnerable. Where love is offered, even before it is received.
This Sacred Heart keeps pulsing. Waiting. Offering itself, beating for me constantly, steadily, quietly. And It is beating for you. And your children. And your parents. And your students. And your priest. And your neighbor. For those you like. For those you don’t like very much. For those you don’t like at all. Yes, there is love for that one, too.
It is the Grand Central Station where the Divine One abides, and we abide in Him.
And as I sit there in the quiet before the Mass, I let my beating heart submit to that Heart. Soon, I will leave, renewed and recreated by the Precious Blood and the Holy Eucharist – to go into the world as the vulnerable one. I will carry Him to them.