23 April 2010

The Soul in the Heart of Jesus

This writing on the Sacred Heart of Jesus is from the Carthusian, Dom Nicholas Kempf, born at Strasburg, Austria in 1393. To him, contemplation was virtually everything. In fact, to make that very point, he would tell a common Carthusian anecdote which goes like this:

‘The Carthusians have made no effort to extol the saints and spiritually mature men in their midst. Thus a certain Prior of this Order always taught that one should avoid all ostentation, citing the words of the prophet: I keep things to myself. When he died a grace of healing began to work many miracles, and this caused people to flock to that monastery, disrupting the accustomed repose of the brethren. Pondering the problem, the new Prior went to his predecessor’s grave and commanded him by virtue of holy obedience to work no more miracles – because they were disturbing the brethren. He told the dead man that he ought to observe in death what he had always taught in life: I keep things to myself. He worked no more miracles after that and thus the flood of people flowed away. That this Order has always remained in good monastic observance is due in no small part to its having fled the favours and praises of men that arise from sanctity’s signs and miracles’.

Dom Nicholas Kempf told this anecdote to stress his belief that not even miracles should disrupt monastic contemplation. Here is his reflection on the Sacred Heart:

He that abides in Me, and I in him. . . ~ Saint John 15:5

‘Arise (O soul) My love, My beautiful one, and come, My dove’ (Canticle of Canticles 2:13, 14). Arise that is to say, raise yourself up more and more, My love, by perfect charity, a virtue which united to holy prudence, makes you beautiful in My sight. And come, My dove. Come with an upright intention that seeks not itself, but only My honour and My love. Come, ‘my dove’, do not hover about at random, but come ‘in the clefts of the Rock, in the hollow places of the wall’ (Canticle of Canticles 2:14) of dry stones.

The Rock is Jesus Christ Himself; the holes therein are His Wounds, some of them large and others small, but very numerous. The wall spoken of here (maceria) is an enclosure or wall of dry stones, erected for the protection of the vines. This stone wall, without cement, is a symbol of Christ. He is composed of a Body and a Soul. His Soul has all its faculties, His Body all its organs; but there is not mingled with them a mortar made of earth and mire, for in Christ there is no attachment to earthly things. This mystical wall shields the Vine, that is the holy Church, from the attacks of evil spirits. The Tower of Babel was built with cement, but the new and heavenly Jerusalem is built simply with square stones. As to this cavern, or hollow place in the symbolic wall (caverna maceriœ), it is the opening in our Lord's Side.

The soul that would rise and ascend to its well-Beloved when pursued by the kites, vultures and other birds of prey, figures of evil spirits, should fly away as a timid dove, and take refuge in the Clefts in the Rock, namely in the Wounds of Jesus Christ, and above all in the hollow place, that is to say, in the Wound in the Side of Jesus and in His Heart. There she has nothing more to dread. If she builds her nest in the Heart of Jesus, if she there deposits her good works, there finds shelter, there rests and takes her sleep, the spirits of evil will never attempt to set their snares for her. They dare not draw near to the Wounds and the Heart of Jesus. That is why Saint Augustine exclaims in his Manual: ‘In all my afflictions, I have found no remedy more efficacious than the Wounds of Jesus. In these Wounds I sleep in peace and repose without fear. A soldier has opened for me the Side of Jesus; I have entered there, and there I take my rest’.

O my Beloved Jesus, how You have loved me! You have consented to have innumerable holes dug in this hard Rock which is Your Body -- holes in the depths of which I can hide myself. Indeed more, You have opened to me Your Heart, that I may enter there at will. And so that I may be able more securely to come to You through Your Passion and Your Wounds, You stretch out Your Arms and hasten to meet me, always ready to receive me as the hen gathers her little ones under her wings. You desire me to come. You give me this invitation: Veni, amica mea, soul that art My love, come, O dove, enter into My Wounds and into the hollow of My Heart. By this way you can without difficulty come unto Me, not by any other.