It doesn’t sound very romantic, does it? It sounds (and looks) kind of creepy. The Valentine Heart—a cartooned version of our most vital organ, the one that keeps all the blood flowing through the body, pierced through with an ancient weapon used for hunting deer and the occasional wild boar. What does this grisly image (thankfully it’s cartooned) have to do with love anyway? I think everything. I think it’s perfect.
The Age-Old Ache
First, a little history lesson, if you please. Love has always been an invitation into pain, into that age-old ache that Adam first felt when he was “pierced” by the beauty of Eve. He exclaimed those first recorded human words in the Bible: “Here, at last, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” (Genesis 2:23). When we are struck by the beautiful, it’s striking. We groan, in fact, as if we’ve been jabbed in the heart, don’t we?
Here’s a thought from a man who grew up pierced by a love of classical music, which led him to become a proficient pianist in his own right, playing Mozart and Chopin and Beethoven on the ivories. “Genuine beauty... gives man a healthy ‘shock’,” he wrote. “It draws him out of himself, wrenches him away... from being content with the humdrum... It even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart... giving him wings, carrying him aloft.” (Pope Benedict XVI, MWA, 2009)
Can We Afford To Be Disarmed?
Powerful words and provocative too. Beauty it seems disarms us and pierces us. But can we afford to be disarmed? Won’t this mean a lack of protection, control, safety? Many of us have struggled deeply with the wounds of love gone wrong. We’ve wounded others or been wounded ourselves with our disordered addictions. If we have sold our hearts to lust and had them locked in a dark selfish prison, then we are in need of realigning our passions and rightly ordering our love again to others. This never means locking away our hearts so they don’t get hurt or hurt others. C.S. Lewis once wrote:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. (Your heart) will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)
What a chilling thought, and a tragic destiny for the human heart that’s made to be pierced, poured out and filled up with love.
Is this why the Heart of Jesus, at the very end of His mission of love, was pierced as He died for us on Calvary? That’s where the blood and water flowed to give new life to us all; from that pierced side, that pierced heart aflame with love for us! Was that His final lesson for us?
Have Our Hearts Struck Everyday
So the way home to our hearts, the way to rightly ordered love and to living in the beauty of human relationships without fear means not being afraid of the piercing. In fact, one might say we should be willing and ready to have our hearts struck every day by the goodness of creation that abounds all around us.
Though the culture has softened love into luv, and encouraged us to become selfish consumers of sex from gyrating women at Super Bowl Half-Time Shows to pornifying products like ice cream and M&M’s to try and attract us, we can still love authentically. We can live in a culture where “Love is... a journey, an on-going exodus out of the closed inward-looking self toward its liberation through self-giving... toward authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God...” (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, 6)
Valentine's Day may be sweet, glittery, and wrapped in bright paper. But that cartoon heart is still pierced. The shadow of the Cross falls across the path of our pleasures. And it's almost as if we become Peter then—moving with Our Lord through miracles and multitudes, wonders and words of peace for a time, until suffering rears its mysterious thorn-crowned head. When we hear the truth about Love spoken by the mystics, that whatever happened to Jesus must also happen to us, we recoil in horror. "God forbid that anything should happen to you, Master!" said Simon Peter, not knowing that our sins have a price tag. Only Crucified Love can close that deal.
"The Son of Man must be handed over to those who will crucify him..."
Finding True Love in Christ's Heart
When Simon Peter rejected Jesus, I think it was utterly a rejection of the Cross. We don't like pain, pain hurts. Can't Love win in some other way? Just forgive us, shed a single tear and the world will be redeemed! Why this Heart wreathed in flames and thorns, pierced and open and bleeding for all to see? When we see this Sacred Heart, we are tempted to back away, claiming not to know the Man. Then we try to warm ourselves by the dying embers of our man-made fires. Welcome to our world, huddled together in the frosty courtyard of our selfishness while Christ is led into His prison of Love.
As the secular world celebrates the Cartoon Heart with Cupid’s Arrow driven through it, let’s call another Heart in whose wounds we can find true love!
“The piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door, that I may see the good will of the Lord. And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself... Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love...” (St. Bernard, Sermons on the Canticle)
The Novena for Purity
Join Covenant Eyes and the Angelic Warfare Confraternity for nine days of focused prayer with the Novena for Purity, where you’ll ask God to strengthen you in various ways as you seek to live a life of purity.
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Resource Type: 9-Day email challenge