Thursday, 3 June 2010
I have never liked statues of the Sacred Heart before I saw this one.
It’s really tiny, as you can see.
What is it that I like about it?
Well, other statues of the Sacred Heart I have seen have struck me as religious kitsch gone mad. Lurid colours, and Jesus with a challenging glare, pointing uncompromisingly to the in-your-face Post-Office-Red exposed heart with its golden crown on his breast.
When I looked at them, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be seeing. An accusation? A reproach? It looked a bit Frankenstein to me, and I didn’t like it.
I didn’t know what (in meditation) I was meant to do with it.
And then I saw this tiny statue.
I liked his face, beautiful, quite grave and serious, with that sort of little frown that people get when something is difficult for them to say: he looked shy.
He has some rather complicated robes on, and it seemed like he had drawn them aside so I could see, and said: ‘Look’. Like he was showing me his heart, and it was something that was not easy to do; needing trust, because our hearts are vulnerable. And that reassures me that hidden under all the complications and obfuscation of the details of daily living and the overweight ecclesiology of the Church, is his heartbeat of love; and if I will take the time to stop and look, he will draw it all aside so I can see the invitation to be with him.
And then, the statue is so small: and I always think of Jesus as powerful and strong. But because the statue is small, and the demeanour of the figure looks so shy and vulnerable, it makes me see Jesus differently.
Like I should slow down, and approach him gently, draw near him quietly, because he has quiet things to say himself.
And the look on his face tells me that this gift of his heart, it’s a costly thing. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a kind of flaming billboard, it’s a tender, sensitive thing; and it’s a privilege to be given the opportunity to approach the heart of someone who loves so much, and who gave so much. It’s also a privilege that after someone was tortured to death, he should come back not to condemn or complain or take revenge, but with enough softness to offer his heart like that, and let me see – see that it was wounded, that it was hurt, that he suffered so much; but that he still loves me.
There’s something else I love about this statue. To take the photograph, I held it in one hand (because obviously I needed the other hand to hold the camera): but normally when I look at it to think about Jesus, I cup one hand around the other, and make a kind of nest for it, cradle it in both my hands. Now, it’s made of bronze I think, and when I hold it in my hands like that, the natural thing is that my thumb curls round and tends to rub against where the knee of the statue is. But that part – where my thumb rubs – is worn shiny. Someone else has held this tiny figure in just the same way, and cradled him in their hands, and looked at him as I do. I wonder who? Someone else has loved him very much, and looked intently, and asked his permission to take refuge in the loving-kindness of his vulnerable Sacred Heart.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus: such a private thing, a meeting between just him and me; and yet knowing that same intimate time of revelation and confession, learning to love, learning to see, happens with people who love him everywhere, until his knees are rubbed quite shiny by their thumbs!