Dehonian Spirituality is a weekly e-publication. Mailed most Fridays, it includes prayers and reflections based in the spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians). Text from a recent issue of Dehonian Spirituality appears below.
December 14, 2018
Theme: “The Incarnation: Its purposes”
Reflections from Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Which are the purposes or ends of the Incarnation? On God’s side, God’s glory; on our side, our salvation. Now the sacrifice of our Lord conforms perfectly and definitively to this two-fold purpose.
The glory of God is an adoration, a praise, a thanksgiving, a supplication, an expiation worthy of God, worthy of God’s majesty, holiness, goodness, and sovereign justice. God fully receives this honor, this satisfaction, from the Priestly Heart of his divine Son. “Through him, with him, and in him,” says the sacred liturgy, “God receives all honor and glory.”
The divine and adorable sacrifice of Calvary fulfills perfectly the first end of the Incarnation, which is the glory of God; it also fulfills it definitively. After this divine sacrifice, there is nothing else that could add anything whatsoever to the glory, honor, and satisfaction of God. The Heart of Jesus, Priest and Victim, alone gives to God the glory which is God’s due, and gives it without measure.
The salvation of souls is the second end or purpose of the Incarnation. God willed to unite this redemption and this reconciliation to his glory. It is easy to follow through the scriptures the proofs that it was indeed the sacrifice of our Lord, the offering of his Priestly Heart that paid our ransom.
“You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish” [I Peter 1:18-19]. “Jesus Christ…who loves us and washed us from our sins by his blood” [Revelation 1:5]. “…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!” [Hebrews 9:14]. “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” [Ephesians 1:7].
Our redemption was perfected by the blood and sacrifice of the Priestly Heart of Christ, and it is likewise definitive: “For by a single oblation, Christ has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” [Hebrews 10:14]. It remains for us, of course, to apply to ourselves the fruits and merits of this oblation. This application is made chiefly by the Eucharistic sacrifice of which the sacrifice of the cross is the only source.
The Priestly Heart of Jesus, 4th Meditation
Heart of Jesus: Fr. Dehon’s favored image of God’s loving concern for all creation
The Advent season invites Christians to notice how much their lives reflect the desire for God to dwell among them. Is the desire insistent and strong enough to transform their thoughts, their words, and how they interact with others? In the Litany of the Sacred Heart, the Heart of Jesus is invoked as the “desire of the everlasting hills.” This invocation can serve as both an opportunity for reflection and a call to action.
In the concluding chapters of the Book of Genesis, the dying patriarch Jacob solemnly bestows on his son Joseph a blessing that would last “until the coming of him who is the desire of the everlasting hills” [Genesis 49:26]. This is, however, an inaccurate translation twice removed from the original [from Hebrew to Greek to Latin] that tries too hard to give the passage a messianic interpretation. Most modern biblical scholars would translate Jacob’s benediction as “the blessings of your father are stronger than the blessings of the everlasting mountains, the delights of the eternal hills.”
For people who lived close to the land, mountains spoke of blessings: the comfort of permanence, the majesty of might, and a safe refuge from invading armies. Most significantly, these were designated places—such as Mt. Sinai and the hilltop of Jerusalem—to be in the palpable presence of God. In poetic language, Jacob underscores that his blessing for Joseph was lasting and powerful, and that it promised protection and an intimate relationship with God [see Genesis 49:22-26].
This is what every believer longs for. This blessing is the promise of Advent, which Christians believe is fulfilled through the Incarnation. In this stained-glass image, uplifted hands express a heartfelt desire and the sun rising above the mountains signifies fulfillment. “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” [Luke 1:78-79].
Yet, belief in God’s Word-made-flesh opens up a challenge for Christians, “for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true” [Ephesians 5:8-9]. And the way of peace involves speaking truth to each other and not devising evil against one another [see Zechariah 8:16-17]. Indeed, it is the Christian vocation to embody [or incarnate] Jesus in a world that often chooses to remain blind to his light.
By fixing our eyes on the Heart of Jesus and doing our best to love as he loves, we collaborate with God in responding to the desire of a weary world sitting in darkness.
Image: “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” stained glass window, designed by Angelico Koller, SCJ, originally in Sacred Heart Chapel of Dehon Seminary, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
What is your heartfelt desire?
What difference do you expect God-with-us to make in your life?
What difference do you expect your oblation—doing your best to love as the Heart of Jesus loves—to make in the world?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week of Advent, please remember in your prayers those who sit in darkness, whether by choice or from the consequences of injustice. You may find helpful the following Act of Reparation during Christmas, taken from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in the United States Province.
God with us,
you were born of a woman for our sake.
You came not be served, but to serve
and to give your life as a ransom for many.
You took on our frailty
and shared our condition
in order to bring us the joy of divine life.
make your home among us today.
Transform our hearts by your love;
open them to your Father’s will
so that we may offer ourselves for others
and work for a just and peaceful world.
May your birth overcome human discord,
calm human violence,
and reconcile us all to one another.