Sacred Heart

Green, green, and green.  happy black iridescent-feathered chickens in the front yard, scent of Lily of the Valley,  wood -thrush song like pan pipes, neat rows of new plants – free of the stifling seed room, good, dark moist sweet smelling earth, green, green, and green

I’m back from ten days in California – most of my time in the solitude of a hermitage overlooking the Pacific Ocean at New Camaldoli near Big Sur.  Good visits with my old friend Robert Hale (OSB, Cam.) and old and new friends among the other monks. (See  The brother who brought me to Berkeley afterward, pointed out mountain lion footprints behind my trailer as he fetched my suitcase.   I love the scent of hot, sun-drenched anise, eucalyptus, wild spices and even the scent of ocean hovering in the fog.  The stars pressed down upon the world in the night.  I feel like a happy child in silence.

In Berkeley I went to a graduation and stayed at CDSP (Church Divinity School of the Pacific) and haunted the Graduate Theological Union library a bit, and other favorite sites.

Back home and in TRIAGE mode – getting ready for the Christian Education Conference at Kanuga.  Triage mode begets the “things left undone” in the confession of sin.   But I’m procrastinating today by posting a blog – on the Sacred Heart – which we’re observing today. 

I’d never celebrated Corpus Christi until this year (although I wonder how I missed it when I worked for two years at Holy Cross Monastery?   And the years I lived nearby and went to Eucharist regularly?)  And never never never never have I observed or even thought about The Sacred Heart.

 Without offering a history on the devotion to the Sacred Heart (being in TRIAGE mode) I’ll just gather a few threads of recent personal experience as a set up for the meditation I offer you at the end of the posting. 

When I was in France in January, I saw many “sacred hearts” carved into ceilings or walls or niches, many of them exceedingly old.   I thought, too, of the Sacred Heart while one sister, working on her “heart,” shared some images she painted of the progression of the healing of her heart. 

At a recent workshop, Andrew Harvey led us through a guided meditation on the Sacred Heart reaching into us and holding and healing our hearts.  Then I had a dream of the Sacred Heart, which reached into my own heart, and healed me of the loss of my first love.  When I woke up I said to the ceiling, “Yeah, sure, but THAT was an EASY one!” 

I painted a Sacred Heart prayer card for the sister working on the healing of her heart: a crown of thorns weaves around the heart, and stylized flames purify the space surrounding it.  I used this text from John of the Cross:

How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, Where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, How tenderly you swell my heart with love.

Just before I left for California an Irish RC friend gave me a Sacred Heart medal on a keychain as a gift.  And in Berkeley, I went to feed a piece of bread to the fish and turtles in the courtyard pond at CDSP and … at an Episcopal Seminary!  a really stupid Sacred Heart statue, all chipped and funky, stood on the rim: a white Jesus pointing to his heart,  looking more like he’s pressing a button to show off his lovely pale pink and baby blue beams. 

If all this grosses you out, you probably grew up with that visceral venoumous recoiling against all things Roman Catholic, as I did.  A few months ago I could not imagine noticing Sacred Hearts in churches or courtyards, or painting a devotional card, or dreaming of, or singing an office of, or meditation upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

But at last night’s meditation I did. 

Now you have to appreciate the shift in this old apophat, this pray-er in darkness from infancy.  Because of this Abbey of the Imagination project, I’m composing image-full meditations for beginners in prayer.  And the richness of discovery brings forth wonders and laughter.  For example, when I was meditating at New Camaldoli, upon nothing, suddenly  “finding” the reserved sacrament in the “treasury” of my cathedral of prayer, in the undercroft of the Lady Chapel.  Good work, Unconscious!  No “treasures” appear in the “treasury.”  Nothing but the consecrated host, in a box shaped like the Ark of the Covenant, in the “womb” space beneath the lovely chapel, pregnant with Presence.  I didn’t work at it.  This image just came up in silent prayer.  And of course I had to laugh.

So I’m writing this post for you.  Here’s the image that came up in meditation after Vespers of the Sacred Heart last evening. 

The Sacred Heart hovers over the altar in the crossing of your abbey of the imagination, the “heart” of the church.  Surrounded by purifying flames you feel a Presence of love.  You may float toward the Heart, and go into the Wound-opening in the side.  And within the Heart, you rest, without pain in your body, like a fetus in a womb, absorbing the sweet warmth, the comforting glow of fire outside, the heart shapes itself to your own fully resting floating body, the ambient sound not unlike a gentle heartbeat.  Compassion flows through you, nourishes you, fills you – you draw from this embracing, wide, universal heart of love, compassion for the whole world, as much as you can bear. 

And then, of course, you leave the Heart.  You have to leave the abbey church.  You have to exit through one or another of the sacred portals to go to your work, perhaps with a little more pain for your love of the world than before.


One Response to “Sacred Heart”

  1. Martin Wessendorf Says:

    Dear Suzanne–Sorry to have to reach you this way, but mail from your account on bounced and your old Cornell account appears defunct. Do you have a new e-mail address?

    …and, from the Heart of Technology (sacred or not), thanks for your meditations.


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