The Icon of the Divine Heart of God the Father: Part 3 – The Meaning of the Ecumenical Icon
In addition to all the aims already explicated in both the introduction and the Father’s revelations, God the Father specifically requested that an “intentionally ecumenical” (unpublished message, 9/15/11) icon be made of His Divine Heart Encompassing All Hearts, for three reasons. So that the icon, with its particular title, serves (1) as an avenue of grace; (2) as a symbol of unity between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, and (3) to facilitate the united, devotional expressions of both the clergy and the laity, toward the Father, from both sides of the ecumenical aisle (John Paul II, 1995a; Paul VI, 1964b).
It is well-known that icons – not paintings – symbolize devotional sensibility in the East (Benedict XVI, 2000; John Paul II, 1999; Lossky & Ouspensky, 1999), in both Catholic and Orthodox churches since, “the beauty of form is also at the service of mystery” (John Paul II, 1996c). Meanwhile, the spirituality of the Eastern Church emphasizes the spirituality of lived theology, prayer of the heart, theosis and deification (Evagrius Ponticus, 2006; Gregory Palamas, 69, P.G. CL, P.G. CL, EPE, 1988; John Paul II, 1996a, b, c; Lossky, 1944/1997; Pseudo-Macarius, 1992; Seraphim of Sarov, 2001; Symeon the New Theologian, 1995; Ware, 1995); over the spirituality of the head (Aquinas, 1274/1920; Augustine of Hippo, 398/1992, 397-426/1995) and scholasticism of the Western Church.
Icons are considered to be theology in color (Evdokimov, 1989; Lossky & Ouspensky, 1999; Trubetskoi, 1973), that serve to open windows onto the possibility of achieving the mystical union between God and man (Baggley, 1996; John of Shanghai & San Francisco, 1980; Lossky & Ouspensky, 1999; Nes, 2009; Quenot, 1992). Specifically, that fullness of mankind’s inheritance that is integral to the universal call to holiness (Paul VI, 1964b), through the processes of prayer of the heart, theosis and deification; as originally set forth by the Fathers of the universal Church (Gross, 1938; Keating, 2007; Lossky, 2001. 2003; Lot-Borodine, 1970; Russell, 2006; Williams, 1999), especially the Cappadocian Fathers. Namely mankind’s, “participation in the divine nature through communion with the mystery of the Holy Trinity” (John Paul II, 1995b): a more central concept of the Christian life in the spirituality of the Eastern Church, rather than in that of the Western Church; as is the stressing of the supreme monarchy of God the Father.
Commenting on the religious significance of icons, in fact, John Paul II (1996d) said that, “By contemplating icons in the whole context of liturgical and ecclesial life, the Christian community is called to grow in its experience of God, and to become more and more a living icon of the communion of life between the three divine Persons.” Meanwhile, addressing the vital need for the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church to re-unify, in his role as primate of the universal Church, John Paul II (1995b) declared that, “We cannot come before Christ, the Lord of history, as divided as we have unfortunately been in the course of the second millennium. These divisions must give way to rapprochement and harmony.” He also stated that, “We must say together from East and West: Ne evacuetur Crux! The cross of Christ must not be emptied of its power, because if the cross of Christ is emptied of its power, man no longer has roots, he no longer has prospects: he is destroyed! This is the cry of the end of the 20th century. It is the cry of Rome, of Moscow, of Constantinople. It is the cry of all Christendom: of the Americas, of Africa, of Asia, of everyone. It is the cry of the new evangelization” (ibid.).
As shall be shown forthwith, all the components of the diptych icon of the Divine Heart of God the Father Encompassing All Hearts, as manifested by the Father in the exterior vision of May 25th, 2010 (Apostolate of the Divine Heart, 2011), incorporate within them not solely the theology of the Western Church, but also the theology of the Eastern Church; in terms of the aforementioned spiritualities. Meanwhile, in emphasizing both the ecumenical nature and content of the icon of His Divine Heart (unpublished message, 9/15/11), God the Father referred specifically to the prayer that His Son Jesus Christ had offered to Him, before the Passion, death, and Resurrection: “May they all be One just as, Father, You are in Me and I am in You, so that they also may be in us; so that the world may believe it was You who sent Me” (Jn 17:21). This prayer of Christ is, in fact, not solely to be found in the gospel of the Apostle John. It is also (1) the call of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the opening words of (2) Ut unum sint (the encyclical on committed ecumenism between the West and the East; John Paul II, 1995a), and (3) the Ravenna document on ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches (JICTD, 2007). The said prayer of Jesus Christ to God the Father (Jn 17:21) has also been consistently referred to by Paul VI (1964b) in Unitatis Redintegratio, his decree on ecumenism; as well as John Paul II (1996d) in his commentary on holy icons.
The Ravenna document (JICTD, 2007) is significant because, according to the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity – Walter, Cardinal Kasper – it represented, “a real breakthrough in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue” (Zenit, 2008) by establishing a common foundation from which to proceed, in the quest toward re-unification of the two Churches. It was in Ravenna that both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church agreed on the basic answers to three questions of paramount importance, for the first time since commencing ecumenical dialogue in the latter part of the 20th century. The three questions were: (a) What is the Church?, (b) Where is the Church? and (c) What are the structures of the Church?
Meanwhile, relatedly to the icon of the Divine Heart of God the Father Encompassing All Hearts, in the words of Paul VI (1964b), “There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart . . . This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name, “spiritual ecumenism.” Words echoed by John Paul II (1995a) in that, “When brothers and sisters who are not in perfect communion with one another come together to pray, the Second Vatican Council defines their prayer as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement;” given that, “You have only one Father” (Mt 23:9). Therefore, “the commitment to ecumenism must be based upon the conversion of hearts and upon prayer” (John Paul II, 1995a), for, “to believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father’s plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ’s prayer ‘Ut unum sint’” (ibid.).
Combining the spirituality of both the Western Church and the Eastern Church into an integrated, easily accessible whole, under the rubric of the universal Church is, in fact, going to be vital for all mankind in the near future. Because without such a combination of spiritualities – that is combining, “the more rational, juridical, organization-minded ‘Latin’ temperament with the intuitive, mystical and contemplative spirit found in the east” (Hebblethwaite, Hebblethwaite, & Stanford, 1995) – unity in diversity (John Paul II, 1995b), accessible to all on both sides of the ecumenical aisle, primarily through the re-unification of the two Churches; the era of peace (Rv 20:1-3) will take longer to ensue and mankind will remain not-so-adequately equipped; to deal both with the increasing darkness that is descending upon the world, and entering into the era of peace itself. Since the said era – the era of the eighth day – will be characterized precisely by the common spiritualization of mankind: that is, the fulfillment of the universal call to holiness (Paul VI, 1964a), through theosis and deification. Whereby the coming of the Kingdom (Mt 6:9-10) will be fulfilled (Lossky, 1944/1997) after centuries of waiting and, “the Father’s face will let itself be recognized, engraved as it is in the depths of the human heart” (John Paul II, 1995b): the light will be thrown, “on the inner workings of the mystery kept hidden through all the ages in God, the Creator of everything” (Eph 3:9). For the era of peace (Rv 20:1-3) is the era of the Reign of God the Father, in the Eucharistic age of the Holy Spirit (Bartolo-Abela, 2011a).
To put it plainly, it is of great necessity for all mankind that both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church re-unify sooner rather than later, for the head cannot be fully alive without the heart, and the heart cannot function fully without the head. As John Paul II (1995b) said, “It is urgently necessary to become aware of this most serious responsibility: today we can cooperate in proclaiming the Kingdom or we can become the upholders of new divisions.” For Christ Himself said that, “Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin; and no town, no household divided against itself can last’” (Mt 12:25); even though He also proclaimed that, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build My church. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it” (Mt 16:18).
Meanwhile, both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are, in fact, true Churches (John Paul II, 1995a; Paul VI, 1964b) rather than churches in name only. Because they are the only Churches presently possessing the full complement of the Sacraments and valid apostolic succession (JICTD, 2007; John Paul II, 1995a, b; Leo XIII, 1894; Paul VI, 1964a, b). Hence, a valid priesthood capable of confecting the Eucharist (John Paul II, 1995a; Paul VI, 1964b): both an avenue and a gift of grace, that emanates precisely from the Core of the Divine Heart of God the Father (the Heart of the Holy Trinity; Bartolo-Abela, 2011b) to the whole world, believers and non-believers alike. Given that even a single Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated well, has the power of attenuating the holy wrath of the Almighty Father; in both essence and fact restraining His Chastisement (Apostolate of the Divine Heart, 2011) from being unleashed fully upon the world. Therefore, re-unification between the aforementioned two sister Churches (John Paul II, 1995a; Paul VI, 1964b) is the easiest to achieve, compared to the re-integration of ecclesial communities, since their common roots are traceable directly back to the Apostle Peter and the evangelist Mark respectively; in terms of Sacred Scripture, teaching and Tradition.
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