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Head Into Heart – “The Sacred Heart”: Richard Rohr


I am in the process of reading ‘Immortal Diamond‘, by Richard Rohr, and will be putting up a review in the next few days. Meanwhile, I thought you might enjoy this short extract. He writes as a Catholic, with a love of imagery such as the sacred heart which the more diehard Protestants among us may find hard to share. But he explains why we should try and put this prejudice aside and dwell for a moment on how the image came into being, and why it still resonates.

Extract from ‘Immortal Diamond’: Appendix D – Head into Heart: “The Sacred Heart”

Many have described prayer as bringing your thinking down into your heart. This is not just sentimentality. It was almost the preoccupation of much of Orthodox monasticism, as we see in classics like the Philokalia and the teachings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

It always seemed like soft piety to me until someone taught me how to do it, and I learned the immense benefits of doing it. Probably the best single teacher for me  – on the how – was Robert Sardello in his little masterpiece of a book, Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness.

As a Catholic, I was often puzzled by the continued return to heart imagery among our saints and in our art. The “Sacred Heart ” of Jesus and the “Immaculate Heart of Mary”  are images known to Catholics worldwide, where they are always pointing to their heart and it is ablaze. I often wonder what people actually do with these images. Are they mere sentiment? Are they objects of worship or objects of transformation? Such images keep recurring only if they are speaking something important and good from the unconscious, maybe even something necessary for the soul’s emergence. What might that be?

Next time a resentment, negativity, or irritation comes into your mind, for example, and you want to play it out or attach to it, move that thought or person literally into your heart space because such commentaries are almost entirely lodged in your head. There, surround it with silence (which is much easier to do in the heart). There, it is surrounded with blood, which will often feel warm like coals. In this place, it is almost impossible to comment, judge, create story lines or remain antagonistic. You are in a place that does not create or feed on contraries but is the natural organ of life, embodiment and love. Love lives and thrives in the heart space. It has kept me from wanting to hurt people who have hurt me. It keeps me every day from obsessive, repetitive or compulsive head games. It can make the difference between being happy and being miserable and negative.

Could this be what we are really doing when we say we are praying for someone? Yes, we are holding them in our heart space. Do it in an almost physical sense, and you will see how calmly and quickly it works.

Now the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart have been transferred to you. They are pointing for you to join them there. The “sacred heart” is then your heart too.

The image is Stained glass showing an image of the sacred heart and roses, from chapel that used to be part of a convent (now a Baptist church and school complex) in El Cajon, California via Wikimedia.

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