Liturgy: peering into the Heart of Jesus

Benedict XVI is guiding us to a healthier vision of the Church’s doctrine, history, public worship and our very identity as Catholics.

There can be no authentic change for a better future without continuity with our past.

I have often in my talks and writings about Pope Benedict’s plan for the Church referred to the liturgy as “the tip of the spear”. 

I have also quite often spoken and written our participation at Holy Mass in terms of Moses’ experience at the cleft in the rock.  Having encountered God in the burning bush and having learned his ineffable Name, later Moses wanted to see God.  Moses asked God to show Himself to him.  God instructed Moses to stand behind a rock with a cleft in it and then glimpse God as God passes before the rock with His back turned. 

Moses encounters mystery.

This is what happens with us during Holy Mass.  This is what we experience in Holy Communion.

We get a glimpse, though the space between the signs, at the vast reality beyond, a reality was cannot grasp here and now.  Only in the time to come will we grasp it.

The Holy Father, in his sermon for the closing of the Year for Priests on 11 June, said this:

We are celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in the liturgy we peer, as it were, into the heart of Jesus opened in death by the spear of the Roman soldier. Jesus’ heart was indeed opened for us and before us – and thus God’s own heart was opened. The liturgy interprets for us the language of Jesus’ heart, which tells us above all that God is the shepherd of mankind, and so it reveals to us Jesus’ priesthood, which is rooted deep within his heart; so too it shows us the perennial foundation and the effective criterion of all priestly ministry, which must always be anchored in the heart of Jesus and lived out from that starting-point.

Note two important things in that quote: First, the Heart of Jesus is opened for us to peer into, opened by the tip of the spear which is the liturgy.  Second, the beating of the heart is like a language, a mysterious message from the Eternal Word, God from all Eternity. 

The liturgy is how we listen to what that Word is saying, how to interpret the beats of His Sacred Heart and determine what they want for us, and from us, and how the Word loves us with ineffable love.

Peering into the Heart of Jesus, listening to His Heartbeat, must also, I think – and I believe the Holy Father would agree – urge us to a serious examination of our liturgical life. 

What we have been doing for the last few decades suggests to me that we have been somewhat blinded by our own notions and deaf to the echoes of our tradition.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The other day, I couldn’t remember where I’d run across the idea of “peering into” the Sacred Heart through the hole made by the spear. Now I remember: the sand dollar symbolism list! The fifth “keyhole” of the sand dollar as the spear wound. Boy, medieval theology is everywhere! :)

    EWTN has a good article on Ratzinger theology dealing with the Sacred Heart. It was written before this year, so now it’s even more interesting with these new comments.

  2. Magpie says:

    When a 28 year old unemplyed loser likes me ‘gets it’, I do sometimes despair of our priests, who still think jokes, novelty, and rock Masses are the way forward. We have a slight problem: how do you teach an old dog new tricks? What if the dog thinks he’s just fine? What if the dog is proud and doesn’t want to learn because he thinks he knows it all?

  3. AnAmericanMother says:


    I have an old dog – and she IS proud and doesn’t want to learn because she thinks she knows it all. “Whistle signals? Don’t be silly! Who’s the bird dog here? You with your puny legs and dull nose can’t possibly know where the bird is! I’ll find it on my own, thank you!”

    The cure is judicious application of the electronic collar (a/k/a “Mr. Sparky”) followed by much praise and pats and allowing her to play a little bit with the mallard. Offering a pheasant as a special treat works too. The collar also has an audible tone so that you can warn the wearer before summoning the Angry Bees . . . .

    Electronic collar correction may be a bit difficult to implement here, although I think it would work remarkably well.

  4. Wow!
    As someone who’s heart is beating a bit irregularly and who had to be put on heart medication, I am so “focused” here!
    What a beautiful meditation upon the Heart of Jesus!
    We don’t appreciate the wondrous fact of our own hearts, beating according to God’s will; sometimes not beating very well.
    And that His Heart was pierced to be opened for us…awesome! And that His heart beats are a language for us!
    I do understand this! I pray that my own heart may be united to His Heart so that if my heart fails, I may be united with His and belong to Him forever!

  5. Tom A. says:

    There is much tradition, speculation, and ledgend associated with the Spear of Longinus (sp?). There was a book called Spear of Destiny. Has anyone else heard these stories and is there any official Church pronouncements on the subject?

  6. nazareth priest: Perhaps Summorum Pontificum was an angioplasty, or a shock to help the rhythm.

  7. irishgirl says:

    Tom A.-speaking of books about Longinus and his spear, have you heard of Louis de Wohl’s novel, ‘The Spear’? Ignatius Press has re-published it. I have this book, and it’s very good.

    Father Z-that’s rather neat, comparing Summorum Pontificum to an angioplasty!

    There are also references to the wound in the Sacred Heart in the writings of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and Sister Josefa Menendez [The Way of Divine Love].

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