In the long text version of Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich devotes a chapter to the Sacred Heart. The words Jesus had spoken to her twenty years before as he directed her gaze to the wound in his side — “Look how much I loved you” — she explains as follows:
[It is] as if he said, 'My darling, look and see your Lord, your God, who is your maker and your eternal joy. See what pleasure and delight I take in your salvation, and for my love rejoice with me now . . . All my bitter torment and painful hardship has changed into endless joy and bliss for me and for you.
The image here offers, almost in the manner of a Russian matryoshka doll, its own exuberant vision of torment transmuted into bliss. The heart of Jesus— in Julian’s words “quite riven in two” — shoots forth streams of water that encircle his crucified body. In the simplified curves of this arcing water I discern an image of Mary; the work thereby takes on the guise of a modernist pietà. She enfolds her son, whose death offers “endless joy” to the world. His enfolded heart in turn encloses our own: the collective human heart, embraced within his, the doubled image infusing the world with both water and light. The five wounds, including the nested hearts, become stars, pierced, glowing—the entire image now a fugue of fire and water that both invites us in and sends us out.
As we move toward the Feast of the Sacred Heart (June 12), let us pass along Julian’s vision — to bring love and joy into our suffering world.
Reflection by Connie Solari,
Rivers of Living Water by Michael O’Neill Mc Grath, OSFS,
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