Tag Archives: heart

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“The Woman and the Dragon”
Revelation 11:19-12:17 in a prayer couplet
(Reading I, extended, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have salvation and power come,
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out,
who accuses them before our God day and night.

They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
love for life did not deter them from death.

Therefore, rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell in them.
But woe to you, earth and sea,
for the Devil has come down to you in great fury,
for he knows he has but a short time.”

When the dragon saw that it had been thrown down to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where, far from the serpent, she was taken care of for a year, two years, and a half-year. The serpent, however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth after the woman to sweep her away with the current. But the earth helped the woman and opened its mouth and swallowed the flood that the dragon spewed out of its mouth. Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.

Revelation 11:19-12:17

The chief battleground of the wars described in Revelation is the human heart.

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts.

Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn, The Gulag Archipelago

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2563

O Immaculate Virgin Mary, Queen assumed into heaven, pray for us!

Word and Eternal Life

Andrei Rublev, Icon of the Most Holy Trinity

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 12:44-50

Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.

John 12:44-45

Jesus is not a one person mission. Again and again, he deferred all of his actions and words to the Father. Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Most Holy Trinity depicts the Son and the Spirit looking toward the Father, the unbegotten origin of the Son and the Spirit. God is, of course, beyond spacetime; thus words like “unbegotten” and “origin,” derived from sensible experience, must be understood as pointers to an ineffable reality.

I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.

John 12:46

John’s Prologue introduces the Word of God who was “in the beginning with God” as Life and Light itself (John 1:1-5). 

And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.

John 12:47

Earlier in the Gospel, all judgment is given to the Son (John 5:22). Passages about judgment expose the core of the human heart. The voice of God in every heart provokes a search for flourishing. Fear of external judgment corresponds to an inner compass groping for Light, Life, Love, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. 

Jesus forgave his enemies from the Cross for they did not recognize him as the Son of God (Luke 23:34). But failure to recognize the Spirit of God, Jesus says, is inexcusable (Matthew 12:31-32). These puzzling Scriptures seem to point to the fundamental orientation of our heart toward the voice and Spirit of God—receptivity or rejection?1

Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.

John 12:48-49

The “word” (dabar) in Hebrew culture is loaded with significance. In Genesis, the word of God has the power to create, bringing light and life into being. A word of blessing, once given, could not be revoked (Genesis 27:1-46). Words have power to heal; they issue forth from the mouth of God to accomplish his purposes (Psalm 107:20; 147:15; Isaiah 55:11). God’s word is a living fire—a hammer that breaks rock into pieces (Jeremiah 23:29). 

In the Mosaic world, word and life (also law and life) are so closely intertwined that they are virtually indistinguishable:

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today, words you should command your children, that they may observe carefully every word of this law. For this is no trivial matter for you, but rather your very life; by this word you will enjoy a long life on the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

Deuteronomy 32:45-47

Jesus, the Word of God, offered himself to the world as Light and Life. A heart shriveled, closed to love, and sunk in darkness is a heart condemned. 

The words of Christ proceed from the Father, for “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30).

And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”

John 12:50

The new Moses elevated the equivalence of word and life to Word and Eternal Life. Jesus is the Word sent forth from the Father to heal and give life to a broken and dying world.

-GMC

1 More than conscience, the Spirit of God produces the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22).

Sacred Space of the Heart

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican)

First Week of Lent, Friday

Matthew 5:20-26

I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. ’But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:20-24

As temples of the Holy Spirit, humans have a God-shaped heart. Thoughts and words that kill shrivel the heart and turn sacred space into a Gehenna. 

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

Heaven is not above
Nor is hell below.
The heart’s demon or dove
Harrows or hallows.

-GMC

Beyond Descartes

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 4:1-5, 11; Mark 2:1-12

The aim of the Christian life may be expressed in many ways: union with God, communion in the Trinity, deification (theosis), the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, returning to the Father’s house (the heavenly Jerusalem), or in the words of the author of Hebrews, entering into God’s Sabbath “rest.” The seventh day is unending peace and joy in the Lord, according to Rabbinic glosses, because unlike the first six days of creation there is no mention of evening. The sun never sets on the glory of God (Revelation 21:23; 22:5).

And whoever enters into God’s rest, rests from his own works as God did from his. Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest…

Hebrews 4:10-11

How are the people of God to “enter into that rest?” The author of Hebrews calls our attention to the faculty of hearing, for failure to “enter” resulted from a failure in listening:

Therefore, let us be on our guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed. For in fact we have received the good news just as they did. But the word that they heard did not profit them, for they were not united in faith with those who listened.

Hebrews 4:1-2 (New American Bible Revised Edition)

Original manuscripts differ concerning the second verse. The alternative reading is exemplified by the Revised Standard Version which reads:

For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers.

The basic message is the same in either version: listening was not accompanied by faith. The hearers did not listen as did their leaders Joshua and Caleb, and the message failed to be received with faith in the heart.

“Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts.’”

Hebrews 3:7-8; 4:7; Psalm 95:7-8

When faith is alive, the voice of the Lord awakens the heart of the beloved:

The sound of my lover! here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
Let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.

Song of Songs 1:8, 14

Almost 1500 years after the bitter desert wanderings, the Bridegroom appeared and called the attention of his Bride to the vital connection between hearing and the heart:

This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’ Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’

Matthew 13:13-15; cf. Mark 4:11-12; Isaiah 6:8-10

Seeing and hearing are our windows onto reality, are they not? “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason,” Immanuel Kant tells us. “There is nothing higher than reason.” Yet according to Jesus, something far surpassing seeing and hearing is required to “understand with the heart.”

The biblical language of the “heart” is foreign to empiricism and rationalism, but it is the key to “understanding,” “conversion” and “healing.” 

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2563

The spiritual heart is the hidden center of union and communion in the Trinity, the Sabbath “rest” of God. 

Johannes Tauler (c. 1300-1361), one of the greatest German Dominican mystics, wrote some of the most striking statements about the interior “Promised Land.”

The Image of the Blessed Trinity rests in the most intimate, hidden, and inmost ground of the soul, where God is present essentially, actively, and substantially. Here God acts and exists and rejoices in Himself, and to separate God from this inmost ground would be as impossible as separating Him from Himself… And thus in the depth of this ground the soul possesses everything by grace which God possesses by nature.1

“No path of the senses will ever lead you there,” Tauler writes. “Within this ground the Heavenly Father begat His only-begotten Son.”2 This union of created and uncreated natures (theosis) surpasses sense perception, images, forms, words, thought and reason.3

The very being (hupostasis) of the Father and Son spoken about in Hebrews 1:3 is found in the heart and “ground” of every human person united to God by grace. 

You were more inward to me than my most inward part; and higher than my highest.

St. Augustine, Confessions, 3.6.11

Faith is the key to entering the Promised Land. 

For we who believed enter into [that] rest.

Hebrews 4:3

The faith of four friends circumvented every barrier between their paralytic brother and Jesus, and made a way where there was no way.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven… I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”

Mark 2:5, 11

There is more to God than meets the eye (or ear). 

May sight and sound 
give way to
Light in the ground
By faith in the heart
beyond the mind of Descartes.

-GMC

1 Sermon 29 from Johannes Tauler, Sermons, trans. Maria Shrady, Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1985), 105.

2 Ibid., 106. 

3 Sermon 37 from Ibid., 126. In different words, the testimony of an imageless, formless “eye of the soul” (spirit, heart, nous, ground) has been present from the time of the ancient desert tradition. 

“Behold, I am coming soon”

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.”

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday (Year II)

Revelation 22:1-7; Luke 21:34-36 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

The heart, our spiritual center, is a space wider than the universe that hosts the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—our uncreated, divine guests. The Blessed Virgin Mary who is inseparable from the Most Holy Trinity is our hostess full of grace. We carry about with us the kingdom of God and the heavenly banquet at all times, renewing our communion with every reception of the Holy Eucharist. 

We are children who receive our daily bread from the Father in pure receptivity. Day after day, divine and heavenly grace is given to us until “that day” becomes today. 

“Behold, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7).

-GMC