Thursday, June 16, 2011

Theology of the Heart

Mary's Heart at the heart of theology. To quote:
Conversion, penance, atonement for sin: these are the themes which always recur in the "great" Marian apparitions of the last 150 years. In the message of Fatima, they are besides, closely connected with the call for the veneration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A brief consideration of this message can clarify the meaning and the mode and manner of creaturely collaboration in the work of redemption.

"Do you want to give yourself to God?" -- This question of Mary to the children gives the keynote from the very first apparition. Dedication to God, total and unconditional: it is the attitude which befits the creature as creature. It is the attitude of Mary. For man there is nothing more joyful than such dedication. It is fully "connatural" to us. This is the reason why despite seriousness, joy is dominant in the message of Fatima, just as Mary's surrender to God bathed her life in the light of "unspeakable joy" (1 Pet. 1:8).

The "Yes" to dedication however, is also a "yes" to everything that God wills to send. "Are you ready to offer every sacrifice and to accept every suffering which he will send you?" The second question to the children introduces them into Mary's attitude of readiness. The "Yes" to dedication leads into the darkness of suffering. This suffering is not meaningless. It is participation in the work of redemption: "Are you ready.. to accept every suffering... as atonement for the many sins through which the divine Majesty is offended?" Sacrifice and suffering as atonement for sins. The theological core of this message, which has largely grown strange to us, is permanently valid. Presupposed is the elemental sense for the holiness of God ("the Divine Majesty") and linked with this, the deep horror over the nature of sin, "nondum considerasti quanti ponderis sit peccatum!"38. Is that also the meaning of the vision of hell during the third apparition? Shortly before, the children were told: "offer yourselves up for sinners." Atonement does not mean here "work-righteousness" of men; it grows out of the dedication to the holy God, out of the pain over the deadly nature of distance from God. "Atonement", not out of fear before God's punishment, but as sharing in the mercy of God who does not will the death of the sinner.39

In this way, we also get an inkling why the idea of atonement is connected precisely with the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; indeed why there is mention even of atonement for the "offenses to this Heart." Sin as the power of death always affects the heart of the Mother of life. the devotion to this heart becomes the exercise of the dedication, the glorification of God and his mercy which has found an undying echo in this heart.40 Thereby this heart becomes the sign of hope: " I will never abandon you; my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which will lead you to God." Mary is experienced here as a real and personal sign for the certitude of faith that grace has irrevocably conquered. Thus the message of Fatima terminates in the promise: "In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph." Again it is important to pay heed to the theological core of this message: the victory of grace is "personified" in Mary. She is the first of the redeemed; she remains the first-redeemed -- as mother of all the redeemed.41
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