At the end of part I of this two-part post, we ended with Benedict drawing the synthesis of hope and joy in their inner-relationship with the Easter message and its significance. He then quotes a passage from the Second Reading, which illustrates the relationship beautifully, first quoting from St. Peter in the Second Reading: “‘by his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’. And he adds: ‘In this you rejoice…’ (1 Pt 1:3, 6). Here too, the fact that hope and joy are theological realities which radiate from the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection and from the gift of his Spirit clearly emerges. We could say that the Holy Spirit takes them from the Heart of the Risen Christ and transfuses them in the hearts of his friends”.
At this point, Benedict clearly introduces into his preaching the image of the heart. On Cardinal Spidlík’s coat of arms, there is the motto: “ex toto corde” (“with all your heart”). Biblically, this phrase is founded in the instruction of how Israel must love her God: “Hear, O Israel…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” (cf. Dt 6:4-5). The heart as the nucleus of man is clear. Hence, the whole human person is called to love, and this is what is meant when the term “repent” is found in the Bible, as in the words of St. John the Baptist. To repent is to re-orient one’s heart—one’s soul, might, personality, attitude, sight—toward the Kingdom of God.
“There is another aspect”, though, the Pope explains: “based on its biblical root, the symbol of the heart represents the seat of prayer in oriental spirituality, the encounter between man and God, but also with other human beings and with the cosmos. And here one should remember that in Cardinal Spidlík’s coat of arms, the heart, that dominates in the shield, contains a cross in whose arms the words PHOS and ZOE intersect, ‘light’ and ‘life’, which are names for God. Therefore, the person who fully receives, ex toto corde, God’s love, accepts light and life and becomes in turn light and life in humanity and in the universe”.
The one who has fully received, ex toto corde, God’s love is Jesus Christ, His Son. In His eternal dialogue within the Holy Trinity, He is not just a mediator, but is the truest mediator, of God. He is God: He is our life, and the light. In Him, “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). May we all open our hearts to the greatest Heart, and in becoming like Him, may we spread the fire of truth, joy, and hope into the hearts of others.
And lastly, regarding the heart, it is a symbol of relationship. Christianity is not an ethical choice or a system of moral practices; nor is it a mere list of supernatural facts. It is about relationship: with God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Christianity is a love story, and the Christian is one who loves, who, with all his heart lives life as a lover, and a beloved of God.
His Holiness closes the homily with a beautiful passage from the Hymns on the Resurrection by St. Ephrem the Syrian, a text “very dear to Cardinal Spidlík”:
“‘From on high he descended as Lord,
from the womb he emerged as a servant,
death knelt before him in Sheol,
and life worshipped him in his Resurrection.
Blessed be his triumph!’ (n. 1,8).”
For the full homily, click here.