Summer is here, the Easter season is over and we now re-enter “Ordinary Time.” The big temptation is to sigh, but don’t! Let’s look at why we shouldn’t. The first reason is to look at the first feasts of Ordinary Time after the Easter season. The Church sets forth a “spiritual lineup” which illustrates She takes seriously the mandate of Jesus on Pentecost Sunday to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The Church provides us with the spiritual compass from which we set out to the four corners of the earth to bring the joy of the Gospel, restoring all things in Christ and leading the world back to the Father.
Secondly, we see from the readings that carry us throughout the Easter season, that the life of the early Church, the ordinary time which followed Pentecost was anything but “ordinary.” Miracles abounded and the Church grew at incredible rates as a small band of brother apostles took the words of Jesus to heart. From Pentecost onward, the infant Church lived a true life in the Holy Spirit, which makes the extra-ordinary the “ordinary” (or new norm) for the life of the Christian. In other words, the life of the Christian is nothing less than a life of heroic virtue that flows from a living faith, a firm hope and burning charity.
As we reenter Ordinary Time, the Church sets our spiritual compass for the new evangelization with four great feasts: Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let’s look briefly at their connection and the wisdom of the Church in putting these at the forefront of our meditation throughout this liturgical period.
At Pentecost, the Church is sent out on its mission to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The first Sunday of Ordinary Time, Trinity Sunday, reminds us of the goal of that mission – a goal that is communion with God who is a family of Persons. All of our evangelization is oriented to bringing the world to the ultimate goal of our striving – union with God. What will sustain our efforts and journey to the Father? Well, the Church answers that with the second feast day following Trinity Sunday: the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The Church points us to that Sacrament which She calls “Most Holy” because it is the source and summit of the Christian Life. In other words, our spiritual life as Catholics can’t live without it – we can’t make substantial (perhaps “super-substantial” is more fitting) growth without it. We are what we eat and there is nothing more “organic” to the Christian life than the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, Whose Life, sacrificed for ours, gives us true life.
Then we have the two feasts we celebrate this weekend: the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. One saint who we can especially thank for his preaching on the inseparable nature of the two hearts of Jesus and Mary was St. John Eudes (1601—1680). The fitting juxtaposition of these feasts came only after the Second Vatican Council, which highlights the closeness these feasts share in the teaching and life of the Church.
I’d like to focus the remainder of this reflection on today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I recall to your attention my last reflection at the end of my Marian series for the month of May, where we meditated on the importance of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This feast provides us with additional insights as to why we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart. First, we turn our attention to the Heart of Mary. Why is this important? Because it reminds us that our spirituality is a relation with a person and not an object. There is nothing mechanical about authentic Christian spirituality. It is one that speaks cor ad cor (“heart to heart”) and it is in the heart where we find the influx and outflow of life, which takes place at every beat. And the most important force which comes into and flows out of our heart is Love. When our heart stops beating, our time to prove our love for God and our neighbor comes to an end . . . as the great saints always remind us, in the end we will be judged by how much we have loved. So, devotion to the heart of Mary is about understanding what made hers so beautiful and good that God would take His own from her – and about asking the Holy Spirit to make our heart the same.
Secondly, why is “Immaculate” emphasized with Mary’s heart? As we have seen in previous posts, “Immaculate” speaks not only to Mary’s sinlessness, but to the unique mystical, spousal union she shares with the Holy Spirit. Because of Mary’s perfect union with the Holy Spirit she is without sin and immaculate in every way, in her heart is found the perfection of the eight Beatitudes—especially “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Just imagine how Mary’s Immaculate Heart would have allowed for a clarity of knowledge, and wisdom of God, in an immeasurably greater way than all the saints and angels combined.
In conclusion, this feast highlights that at the heart of Christian spirituality is the heart of Mary, from whose heart the Sacred Heart of Jesus took flesh. It was the humility and love in her Immaculate Heart that made possible the mystery of the Incarnation and, consequently, our redemption. The Immaculate Heart of Mary, therefore, becomes God’s touchpoint with humanity—and consequently, the beginning of our touchpoint back to God.
Therefore, as we head out into the deep (duc in altum!) during this “ordinary” time of the Church, let us refocus our spiritual efforts on the beautiful truths and mysteries wrapped up in these last four feasts ending with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Herein do we find our way forward in the new evangelization. Meditating on the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we find ourselves meditating on two hearts joined as one. And as Mary is the model of Christians, we must ask ourselves whether our hearts desire the purity, the humility and the love of the one creature called Immaculate, who shows us the way to the heart of the Trinity in a way like no other. Mary Immaculate, to you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve! Keep us free from all sin! With hope and trust we reach out to you! Take us by the hand and show us the way!
- The Month of Our Blessed Lady
- Fatima, Mary and the Moslems
- The Powerful Crown of Roses
- In the End My Immaculate Heart Will Triumph!
Art: Painting of Virgin Mary, Johann Burgauner, 1849, CCA-SA; Holy Spirit Detail of Chair of Saint Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica, Sergey Smirnov, own work 03.05.2008, CC-SA; Trinità (The Holy Trinity), Luca Rossetti da Orta, 1738-9, PD-US; Detail of Adoration Jesus Christ Blessed Sacrament Eucharist Monstrance, Liz Estler, 2014, PD-self; Modified detail from Painting with St. John Eudes with fathers and sisters of the congregations founded by himself. Painted for the ceremony of beatification of Eudes, author unknown, 1909, PD-US copyright expired; The Heart of Mary, Leopold Kupelwieser (1796-1862), date not listed, CCA-SA; all Wikimedia Commons. L’Annonciation [The Annunciation], Nicolas Poussin, ca 1653, Restored Traditions, used with permission. Emblem of the Missioners dels Sagrats Cors, with the Sacred Hearts, author unknown, 1910, PD-US copyright expired; Mirror of detail of Immaculée Conception (Immaculate Conception), Michel Oster, 19th century, PD-US copyright expired; both Wikimedia Commons.