If you have made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem most probably you were taken to the panoramic view on the Mount of Olives. Directly ahead you saw the Dome of the Rock on the magnificent esplanade which was the foundation of the Temple. To the south, on a lower level, you could see the ruins of the city of King David built on a hill. David built his city there for strategic reasons. At the base of the hill, hidden from view, was a spring which guaranteed a water supply in times of siege. The water from the source gushed out into a canal which ran through a hidden tunnel behind the rock and issued into a pool called Siloam.
Each year during the Feast of Tabernacles, which included prayers for rain, the climax of the festival was the filling of a golden flagon with water from the pool of Siloam. The flagon was carried in procession from the pool of Siloam to the Temple. On one occasion Jesus attended the festival secretly and spoke these words recorded by St John (7:37). 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me. Let anyone who believes in me come and drink'. These words of Jesus, and the comment of the Evangelist who explains their significance, are the foundation of our devotion to the Sacred Heart. As scripture says, 'From his heart shall flow streams of living water'. He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive; for there was no Spirit as yet because Jesus had not been glorified (John 7:38-9).
Your visit to Jerusalem will also have taken you to the site of Calvary. It is there that these words take on even deeper meaning. John 19:34 recounts how when Jesus had died a soldier pierced his side and there came out blood and water. These two passages together express the heart of the Paschal Mystery, the mystery of the death and resurrection of Our Lord. The water and the blood coming from the Lord's pierced heart are the sacraments of the Church, but the water is also the Holy Spirit, the living spring which makes the desert blossom, and moistens the grain of wheat hidden in the earth to be transformed into a rich harvest, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.
Following this incident John once again cites a verse of Scripture in explanation. They shall look upon the one whom they have pierced John 19:37 - citing Zechariah 12:10). As the apostles contemplated Jesus on the cross in the light of his resurrection, it was to transform their understanding of God: an understanding which was to express itself in terms of God as three distinct persons in a unity of essence.
When we begin to speak about the Trinity, words fail us. St Augustine, writing about what we understand as 'three persons' said, 'When it is asked, 'Three what', then the poverty from which our language suffers becomes apparent. But the formula, 'three persons' has been coined, not in order to give a complete explanation by means of it, but in order that we might not be obliged to remain silent'.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus springs out of a Trinitarian faith, which in turn springs out of our experience of Jesus crucified and risen. In the bible the heart is a metaphor for our individuality, the place where our passions, desires, intellect and will all come together. It is the place from which love emanates and expresses itself in the body. The human heart however is fragmented and unconditional love is always beyond us. Purity of heart is always before us, a gift which we wait to receive. In the Beatitudes Jesus said, 'Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.
In the prologue to the Fourth Gospel St John writes, 'No one has ever seen God, it is his only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known'. When we contemplate the heart of Jesus we are contemplating the heart of the Son in relationship to the heart of the Father - heart speaking to heart, as St John Henry Newman expressed it. Through the Holy Spirit our hearts too are drawn into that relationship of love, pure love, that knows no boundaries or conditions, revealed on the Cross. When we contemplate the heart of Christ we see what love is and pray that our own heart may be touched by such love. In our prayer of desire the heart of Christ is already at work in us through the Holy Spirit who teaches us to cry out Abba, Father, the Father who is the source of all love. As Richard of St Victor wrote, 'Love is the eye, and to love is to see'. As we are drawn deeper into the love of Christ, expressed in the outpouring from his heart of water and blood on the cross, symbols of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist by which we are touched by God, we have the Trinity within us, even though in our minds we only know the Triune God by the light of faith.
Fr John Deehan is Parish Priest at Our Lady Help of Christians in Kentish Town. This reflection was originally written for the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.
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