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Dehonian Spirituality includes prayers and reflections based in spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon; it is published weekly by the US Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
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April 3, 2015 

 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
In the era in which Fr. Dehon lived, Catholic sensibilities understood redemption through the lens of the passion and death of Jesus.  A focus on sacrifice and suffering tended to overshadow the resurrection.  Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as popularized by Margaret Mary, elicited the need for reparation to console Jesus, whose wounded Heart was often unacknowledged, disregarded, or simply ignored. 
 
The abundant life that proceeded from the faithfulness of Jesus’ ministry and consequent death remained an unstressed aspect of the Paschal Mystery.  Unsurprisingly, Fr. Dehon seldom writes about the resurrection, but his understanding of the gift of the Eucharist clearly shows his appreciation of an Easter faith.      
 
“Under the appearance of death,” Dehon writes in a meditation entitled, The Priestly Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, “the Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is living the most active life.  The words of the Song of Songs [5:2], I slept, but my heart was awake, are very applicable to the gentle Master living in the Eucharist.  No words could better express the mystery of Jesus’ life in the Sacrament of the Altar and the part played there by his adorable Heart—mystery at once of death and life—where all that is visible speaks of death, but the divine Heart is throbbing with life.
 
“Yes, his Heart is the Heart of God and he lives his eternal life; it is the heart of a man glorified by the fact of resurrection, and he lives the everlasting life of the elect in heaven.  It is the Heart of the Son of God, and God does not sleep.  How could he who is eternal life, that is to say, he who is the plentitude of all life in an eternal present—how could he sleep?  How could weariness relax the members of the Almighty and close the eyes of him who is the Light of all beings?  Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep [Psalm 121:4].
 
“The Heart of Jesus in the tabernacle is also the Heart of his risen and glorified humanity.  Now those who have risen from the dead die no more, and the Blessed do not sleep.  Their gaze, fascinated by the brightness of the divine Face, is absorbed in a ravishment sweeter than the most tranquil and refreshing slumber. 
 
“Jesus knew the sleep of death the evening of his burial, but his Father roused him gloriously and he will never again die.  I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever” [Revelation 1:18].  And his life overflows into his Church, into his apostles, and into faithful souls awakening everywhere zeal and virtue.”
 
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, The Priestly Heart of Jesus, 31st Meditation
 
 


 


Oblation: the daily practice of offering oneself to God's will

For Fr. Dehon, oblation, which implies the total giving of oneself in love, is not an isolated action but a lifestyle.  In meditating on the Sacred Heart, Dehon traces Jesus’ lifestyle of oblation from the moment of his incarnation to his supreme sacrifice on the cross and into the present through the Eucharist. 
 
In explaining oblation as the lifestyle of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Dehon appears to emphasize its negative aspects.  He employs a cluster of words that are practically synonymous: sacrifice, immolation, and holocaust; victim, oblate, and priest.  However, he insists that this challenging lifestyle must be rooted in a deep love, without which any sacrifice makes no sense and has little value.
 
Still, this side of resurrection, this lifestyle of oblation can seem severe in its demands.  Interestingly, an ancient Easter hymn casts a celebratory glow on Jesus, who, as Love incarnate, is the sacrificial Lamb, the Victim, the Priest, and life-giving Bread.  Fr. Dehon writes, “It is by his love, by his Heart, that Jesus exercises his priesthood and immolates himself for the glory of his Father and for our salvation.  The Church reminds us of this in the Sacred Liturgy.  In the [Vesper] hymn of the Paschal Season, Ad regias Agni dapes, she shows us Love, the Priest, or the priestly Heart of Jesus, offering the redeeming sacrifice.”
 
As only poetry can do with an economy of imagery, this hymn evokes the sweep of saving events.  The blood of the Paschal Lamb protects the Israelites from the final plague in Egypt [Exodus 12:1-13], ransoms followers from futile ways [I Peter 1:18-19, 23], and washes white the robes of the faithful [Revelation 7:14].
 
As pure Love, Christ is simultaneously the one who offers [that is, the priest] and is himself the offering [that is, the victim], in order to make available a feast of his own Body and Blood [that is, a sharing in his entire being].  Indeed, the Eucharist anticipates the final victory over death and “the marriage supper of the Lamb” [Revelation 19:9].  Those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” [Revelation 14:4], experience in their bodies the paradox of the Paschal Mystery. 
 
In singing this Easter hymn, Fr. Dehon celebrated the redeeming sacrifice of the loving Heart of Jesus and committed his own life to the same loving work.  Although it was not his nature to celebrate his own efforts, he knew that a life of oblation, both demanding and satisfying, is life with Christ. 

 
At the Lamb’s high feast we sing / Praise to our victorious King.
Washed our garments in the tide / Flowing from his pierced side;
Praise we him, whose love divine / Gives the guests his Blood for wine,
Gives his Body for the feast, / Love the victim, Love the priest.
 
Where the Pascal blood is poured, / Death’s dark angel sheathes his sword;
Israel’s hosts triumphant go / Through the wave that drowns the foe.
Christ the Lamb whose blood was shed, / Paschal victim, Paschal bread;
With sincerity and love / Eat we manna from above.
 
Ad regias Agni dapes, St. Ambrose, 4th century; translated by Robert Campbell, 1814-1868
 
   
 



 
 
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

The lifestyle of oblation embraces with love the reality of the Paschal Mystery.  Where do you experience death within yourself?  Where do you experience life within yourself?
 
For you, what is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection?
 
In what one, specific way can you be faithful to Christ’s life that overflows within you?




 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

April 5, 2015, the Church celebrates Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord.  In your kindness throughout the coming Easter Week, please remember in your prayer those whose struggle to be faithful brings them, not only to the cross, but also to abundant life with Christ.   
 
You may find helpful the following Oblation Prayer for the Easter Season, adapted from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
 
Jesus,
on the first day of the week
you rose from the dead.
You appeared to your disciples,
imparting a joy that no one can take from them
and a peace that the world cannot give.
As you breathed the Holy Spirit into them,
you sent them forth to bear fruit that would last.
 
With Thomas, the Apostle,
we contemplate your wounded side
and acknowledge you as our Lord and God.
Send us forth to bear witness to you,
the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
By knowing you and the One who sent you,
may everyone experience the joy and peace
of eternal life.
Amen.

 

 

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The backstory
 
Each week reflections and prayers based in the Dehonian charism are published on the Dehonian Spirituality page of the U.S. Province website of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. This is an email version of that update. 

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The Dehonian Spirituality updates are edited by David Schimmel, U.S. Province director of Dehonian Associates. Questions or comments for David? Click here

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