>A 21st Century Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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>This morning, as I was working on my Lenten devotional book, we were asked to reflect on Joel 2:13: “Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord our God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relents of evil.”

As I sat and reflected, the iconic image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus popped in my head.

I have to admit, I have always been fascinated by Sacred Heart images because, frankly, they are an iconic rendition of anatomic hearts, as opposed to Valentine’s Day hearts. (not quite anatomically correct, but “correct enough.”) Anatomic hearts placed outside the chests of Jesus and Mary. As I reflected on the passage, I came to realize what we are asked to do when we try to emulate the love of Jesus is literally, to wear our spiritual hearts outside of our chests, where they can be pierced, torn, and crushed, without the protection of a bony rib cage. We are asked to do, what, at first glance, appears blatantly fatal.

But when we think about the icon that has developed over the years, ever since Margaret Mary Alacoque had her first vision of the Sacred Heart in 1673, perhaps it is not as fatal as it seems. Yes, the traditional Sacred Heart icon has a wound from the lance used at the Crucifixion, and is often shown bound by a crown of thorns. But what always strikes me is that it is often surrounded by fire or radiance that emanates from one of the great vessels of the heart, and the heart is not consumed by it. It reminds me that yes, our own most secret heart–our own sliver of the Sacred Heart of Jesus–can be pierced, squeezed, and bound, but cannot be consumed or destroyed.

I am in a unique position to think about the Sacred heart, because I have literally held (and removed) hearts from autopsies in my own hands, and sliced them into pieces to examine them. I have held still lifeless hearts scarred from myocardial infarctions, crushed from cardiac tamponade, and literally torn open from ventricular blowouts. I have touched the gray stony hearts affected by amyloidosis and hearts rendered flabby and useless from cardiomyopathy. I have cradled hearts in my hands repaired by bypass, and dissected malformed hearts from infants who died of congenital heart defects. I’ve run probes through hearts with patent foramen ovale and atrial or ventricular septal defects. I have had an intimacy with the anatomic heart that few are allowed to experience.

Yet I so often find myself incredibly unwilling to allow others to touch my beating, radiant secret heart impregnated with the love of Christ’s own sacred heart–even barely allow it to be seen. But the longer I ponder it, I come to realize it is exactly what separates me from Jesus, and it is what I must learn to do to love more fully.

There’s no doubt–the times I have exposed the love of my own sacred heart has been a mixed bag. Sometimes there are incredible joys associated with it. But other times have been excruciatingly painful and have caused me to withdraw, to shrink back, to say “never again.” Yet it always seems that the more I become enmeshed in my prayer life, “never again,” turns to “Ok, I’ll give this one more shot.” When I look back, I realize the end result is a more firmly “muscled love” and a glint to the radiance I didn’t see before.

It made me realize that I need to think more often about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and how to bind it to my own a little more often. The traditional prayers for this, however, seem long and a tad ponderous–so I decided to craft a slightly more contemporary (and shorter) version.

A 21st Century Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
by Kirkepiscatoid

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy;

Heart of Christ, hear our prayer,
Heart of Christ, graciously hear us.

Heart of Heaven, have mercy on us.
Heart of the World, have mercy on us.
Heart of All that is Holy, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, wellspring of all goodness, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, radiant with holiness, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, transplanted in all of us, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, formed in the womb of Mary, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, who lived and walked and ministered, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, who lifted up the lowly and poor in spirit, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, who forgave your tormentors, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, who died on the cross, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, who transcended death and lives among us, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, heart of our common life, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, heart of our own capacity to love, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, heart of the Eucharist, grant us peace.

Almighty and ever-living God, look upon our secret hearts and show us the heart of your beloved Son within them, and help us see the mirror of His incarnation within us. Grant us courage to show our hearts to those who live and walk among us, and the vision to see His incarnation in others. Free us from the slavery of the fear of exposing the heart of our holiness in our daily walk through the world. Let the radiance of our own sacred hearts be a beacon to guide others to you. We ask this in the name of your beloved Son, who lives and reigns forever and ever; Amen.

>"Give us this day our daily bread"

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It’s an oft-repeated line from a prayer so common, even people who haven’t darkened a church door in decades know it…but it is possible it means more than “feed me every day?”

I got to playing with the literal Greek in this line:

“Tou artos hemon tou epiousion didou hemin to kath hemerau”

Literally, “The bread of us the daily give to us these in the day.” Two of the words actually have some vagaries to them–Epiousion (“daily”) and hemerau (in the day).

Let’s start with epiousion. In secular Greek, this word is often used to describe the daily “soldier’s rations.” (Hence the picture of the MRE at the top of my blog post!) In particular, it described the soldier’s rations given the night BEFORE the battle, for the NEXT day (since they would be busy fighting.)

So is it possible this line actually means, “Give us today, the bread we need tomorrow?” Is it a call to be well-provisioned for the battles we may fight in this world tomorrow?

Let’s go a little further, and play with the word “hemerau.” This is one of those words where it kind of depends on the context. “Hemerau” is used to mean, literally, daylight in one context–a context where evil things happen in the night, in darkness, and are exposed in the light of day. In another context, it means a 24 hour day. Still a third context uses the word as “all the days of our lives,” or the last day of this age–which, in the context of the early church, would have been the day of Christ’s return. WHOA!

That really expands the line, when you realize what we may be asking for in this line of the Lord’s prayer, “Give us today the bread we need for the Day of Christ’s Return.”

Thinking about this made me all prayerfully poetic.

O God, provider of all things necessary for our lives–
You distribute our portion, whatever our portion is allotted to be.
It looks so big–so big, in fact, I’m not sure I can eat it all.
Why did you put so much on my plate?
But then you remind me that you didn’t expect me to eat it all today.
Some of this is for tomorrow, some for the next day,
And some for the next day after that.
Some of it is meant to fortify me for the battles ahead in my life,
And some of it is not meant to be eaten
Until the two of us can share it face to face
In the glory of light perpetual.

It is my portion, Lord,
I will accept it in love and humility,
Grateful that you feed me not just for today,
But for many days ahead
And have provided me enough
That I can share freely
With those who might be hungry
Because they misplaced their portion.
May they do the same for me. Amen.