The above image is only one that overwhelmed me as a new Catholic back at age 33. Symbolic isn't it that I joined the Roman Catholic Church at that age? As I've read from Marian apparitions, Mary our Blessed Mother says there are no coincidences. I'm beginning to believe it.
I used to gaze at these types of images and wrack my soul over how solemn and depressing they were. Why don't they smile? Ever? Their lives were not about Kodak moments. I knew that, but still I didn't get it. Like the crucifix that hung heavily on the massive wall behind the church altar, I was used the empty cross in the former protestant churches we attended. Jesus is risen, he is victorious over sin so why would we leave him there, all broken and bleeding?
It was downright culture shock to become Catholic. I am a martyr that way I guess. It was culture shock to move here in the stix of NC too. But I have always been motivated by challenges that are beyond my finite capability. So I drug my little ones to Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesdays with other homeschoolers where we met with the White Army, a group who associated themselves with the children of the miracle of Fatima. We prayed the Rosary and attached the prayer, "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins and save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls, especially those in most need of Thy Mercy."
My son Scott says the only thing he liked about that meeting once a week was the tree they climbed above the picnic table outside of the chapel. Babies crawled around and Mark, Scott, and Paul type kids fulfilled their sentences of being good in church. I was trying. Trying to get a grip on being Catholic. I believed in the truth of Eucharistic Adoration. Jesus in totality. Body, blood, soul and divinity, right there in that humble wafer thin piece of bread. I believed beyond what I could see. Isn't that what Christians are called to do?
Still...it was stretching.
We were used to being scolded to not worship images, idols, statues. The leap I made was that images, and sacramental articles, like Rosary beads, Holy Water, and statues are there for us to see, touch and feel. To make the connection of "On earth, as it is in heaven." It isn't worship. It is veneration. There is a difference. It took me awhile, but I began to see.
I recently read a book that discussed the Two Hearts, that is, The Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A light bulb flashed. I finally get it.
Certainly we all agree, as Christians that Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. A spear lanced his side, and blood and water flowed. All over us. And that is the point. But what about Mary? What does her heart have to do with this? Shoot, it isn't difficult for me in the perspective of a mother and son. I hug my sons and listen to their vitals beat underneath my ear. I reach back to when I could fit their little backs in the palm of my hand and that much hasn't changed. My heart belongs to them, and theirs to mine. We are in unity as much as we can be.
The author expounded that Jesus' heart and Mary's are in union with one another. I believe that. Jesus had to have a mother. He broke from his crucifixion and proclaimed to John, "Behold your mother." To Mary, "Woman, behold your son." I'm glad to know, she is there. Everything Jesus said on the cross was for all time. It has poignant purpose. We venerate his words and we worship Him through that mystery of the Crucifixion.
So when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we receive Mary as well. Wow. That is why many don't get Mary. It is a blindness. I compare it to the Jews who don't understand Jesus as Messiah. They are blind for a time. I have been receiving the Eucharist now for over sixteen years. Through it and praying the mysteries of the Rosary, her heart dwells in mine. Marian devotion. She lights. She guides. She doesn't take credit, like a real mother. She is proud of her son and she loves all of her children and longs for us to receive His salvation.
I then thought about Simeon in the temple. When he prophesied to Mary and Joseph. Simeon longed for this day that he would behold the Messiah. He then, serious as a heart attack, declared to Mary, "A sword shall pierce your heart." If Jesus' heart wasn't united to Mary's than that statement wouldn't make sense.
Wow. I'm blown away.
Just as in the blessing of marriage, that two are better than one, so it is with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The images of the Two Hearts is still very solemn and antiquely Catholic, but now I get it. I really get it.
Have you ever looked upon an icon, image, or relic and wondered at its significance? Has any tangible article moved you to a deeper understanding in your relationship to Christ?