Brookline Carmel Bulletin
June 11, 1961
Cor, arca legem continens O Heart, the Ark containing the Law-
Non servitutis veteris, Not of the ancient servitude,
Sed gratiae, sed vaniae, But of grace, of pardon,
Sed et misricordiae. And of mercy.
(Hymn from Lauds, Feast of the Sacred Heart)
The Ark of the Covenant was a chest of modest proportions, measuring roughly 2x2x3 feet in dimension. It contained the tablets of the Law, Manna, and Aaron’s rod (the one that turned into a serpent before Pharaoh, and later flowered). The designation ‘of the Covenant’ was given it because its contents figured prominently in the history of the children of Israel at about the time the agreement (covenant means agreement, or bargain) between God and the Israelites was contracted. In fact, the building of the Ark was itself included in the terms of the contract. God instructed that two golden cherubim be surmounted, one on each side of the Ark, so as to form a kind of a throne. Later the glory of God came to rest upon that throne between the Cherubim, and it was called a ‘propitiatory’ to signify how close God was to His people. At any rate, after the terms of the Covenant were read to the people, God commanded Moses: “Say to the Children of Israel, ‘If you do all the things that I have commanded you, then I shall be your God, and you shall be my people’”. Notice, this was a conditioned alliance. Would the Israelites fail to keep their part of the bargain, they would cease to be His people, i.e., He would cease to be all in all to them.
The Old Covenant was one of rigorous justice. Every law had its sanction, and punishment for every misdemeanor was scrupulously exacted. Forgiveness was almost unheard of: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. (This was a Law with teeth). Favor in the eyes of God was dearly bought in those days. Or rather, the Law demanded a frightful exactitude from the pious Jew before it would give him the assurance that he was walking blamelessly before the Lord. How well, then, did Aaron’s rod symbolize the Old Law. First, it had the bite of a viper: “What shall we say, then? Is the Law sin? By no means! Yet I did not know sin save through the Law”. (Romans 7, 7) “For sin having taken occasion from the commandment deceived me, and though it killed me.” (Romans 7,11) And yet again, it was the same Law that gave birth to Jesus Christ and in Him the New Covenant, somewhat like a bitter, poisonous stalk that yields a most beautiful flower and a most salutary fruit.
But that Covenant has now long since been voided and been supplanted by a New. The old Ark with its meager capacity has yielded to the New Ark, the Heart of Jesus, the incomprehensible length and width and depth of whose love for us has been revealed on Calvary. New, too, is the Law the New Ark enshrines: a Law of grace, of pardon, and of mercy. In short, a Law of Love.
A Law of grace! A grace is the same thing (original meaning) as a favor, something free, given at no cost to the recipient, a pure gift. It has been God’s good pleasure to bestow, out of the abundance of His goodness, an extraordinary favor: filial intimacy with Himself, a share in His own divine life. It doesn’t cost us a thing to have the assurance of God’s good will toward us. Why, He is the one, He and His Son, who have paid the incalculable price of Calvary to convince us of it.
A Law of pardon! Jesus’ love for us blinds Him to our debt, for love is blind. St. Therese perceived this and said so beautifully, “Jesus cannot do sums.” Then she went on to explain how she always approached Him from His blind side, the side of His Heart. Thus He did not see her sinfulness; He felt only her warm and tender love; He perceived only the precious worth of her soul, a soul brimming with confidence in His loving paternal Heart.
A Law of mercy! It is one thing to forgive a debt, to absolve of guilt and the obligation to pay the penalty. It is quite another to forget about the offense completely, and to admit the culprit to intimacy and even heap greater favors than before upon him (Cf. Ezekiel, 16)
The Heart of Jesus is an inexhaustible fount of divine riches and it seeks out empty hearts to fill. We cause the Law of Love to go into effect when we cite ourselves as worthless before God in the secret tribunal of conscience. On one occasion the Prophet Eliseus was besieged by a widow who was in turn besieged by her creditors. All she had to her name was a little oil in a pitcher. He advised her to borrow as many empty vessels as possible from her neighbors, and closing and locking herself into a room with her two sons, to start pouring the oil into the empty jars. She kept filling them one after another. “Give me yet another,” she said finally. “There are none left”, they replied. And the oil ceased to flow (4 Kings 4, 1-7)
This was written for our instruction. We are supposed, periodically, to enter into solitude with our memory and intellect and all the proofs of our nothingness and emptiness borrowed from our past history. These we present to Jesus (whose name is as oil poured out), who from His Heart fills us with divine riches. When we stop offering proof of our indigence, then only does the outpouring of Mercy cease.
Besides being a symbol of Divine Love for men, the Sacred Heart is a symbol of the Divine Mercy. Mercy is a virtue that can only exist in those who in some way are rich and powerful. The inclination of one who is rich and powerful to assist a loved one who is poor and weak is called Mercy. Love can exist without mercy, but mercy cannot exist without love, Mercy is then, the movement of infinite wealth stooping to enrich infinite poverty; the movement of infinite goodness to impart itself to him who is evil and wretched; the movement of infinite strength to confirm and support him who is infinitely weak. Love is the total giving of self to one who is in some respect an equal. Mercy is the giving of self to one who stands far below. God can exercise mercy towards us; we can exercise mercy toward those less fortunate than ourselves. It does not operate in reverse order.
We are now able to love God because Sanctifying Grace makes us ‘equals’ with God. Still, we were not equals with Him at all times. To raise us to that supernatural state required an act of the Divine Mercy. For it was God Himself who stooped down and imparted His own Divine Life to our souls, thereby making us members of His own family. We are the children of God.
The Divine Mercy, then, is constantly ‘on the prowl’ here upon earth seeking out sinners to take away their sins, to alleviate their misery, to bestow the divine life of Grace. What great rejoicing there is in Heaven when an erring soul surrenders to the appeal of Divine Mercy. How greatly does the Heart of Jesus exult in the triumph of His Love. How terribly heart-broken the Divine Saviour feels, when His advances to the soul are neglected, or ignored, or despised.
The Heart of Jesus suffers indescribable torments when souls He loves dearly abandon Him to center their affections upon some mere creature. (Really, Jesus does not suffer now in Heaven; He suffered all this when He foresaw the future sins of men during His agony in the Garden). To love creatures is not necessarily wrong, provided our love remains centered upon Jesus Christ. But when we do center our love upon creatures, then we become one with those creatures, we take on their characteristics. Now all creatures, when compared to God their creator, are mere nothings. St. John of the Cross reminds us that created splendor, when compared to the splendor that is God appears as profound darkness. Mere created beauty, when compared to the Beauty that is God appears utterly vile. Mere created goodness, when compared to the Goodness that is God is supremely loathsome. So when we spurn the love of Jesus for the soul, when we embrace creatures and make them the object of our affections, loving them for their own sake and not for love of God, then we become as vile and loathsome as they.
Imagine some unfortunate child stricken with some crippling ailment. Who can look upon the tortured, twisted body of such a child and not feel his heart break with sympathy. Now suppose it lay within our power to cure that child with a mere touch of the hand, a caress of love. Wouldn’t we be urged powerfully from within to relieve the child of its misery? How then would we feel if, when we approached to embrace the child, it refused to let us make use of our healing powers? Wouldn’t that cause our hearts even greater pain? Yet that is precisely what happens when we sin, and do not throw ourselves upon the Divine Mercy. Sin cripples the soul, makes it a tissue of misery and wretchedness. The heart of Jesus pursues us to cure us and make us whole. We neglect, ignore, and despise His advances. Despite this we know that Jesus will continue to wait and watch for us to return to our senses and to Him. He promises He will not turn us away. He tells us that we glorify His Heart when we do. How long can we resist Him? When are we going to start loving Him to folly?
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