Jose Rizal’s statue of the Sacred Heart: a theological interpretation


by Fr. Victor Badillo, S.J.

Jose Rizal's statue of the Sacred Heart

Jose Rizal's statue of the Sacred Heart

Attached is a picture of a statuette.  Jose Rizal carved it when he was a
student at the Ateneo.  He carved it from a piece of batuling, a hard word,
with a penknife.  He was then 14 years old.  The year, 1875.  *

In 1896, he died for his country, shot in the heart by an execution squad. He is now the national hero.  He is a national here who never bore arms.  No national hero has more public statues in other countries than he.  2011 is 150th anniversary of Rizal’s birth.

The statuette is that of a man whose left hand is hanging by his side with palm facing away from him.  His right hand is bent at the elbow with his fist high against his left chest where his heart was.  Held in that fist is a heart.  The heart is surmounted by flames, and a crown of thorns encircles it.  In the middle of the chest is an ugly jagged hole.

Jesus is offering his heart which he has torn from his chest.  In offering his heart he tells us, in deeds and not in words, that he loves us to the extent of giving his life for us.  This is the message of the crucified Jesus.  This is the message of the Heart of Jesus.  On the cross, blood and water flowed out.  By this he died.  By giving us his heart, he dies.

He is offering his heart not to be put beside our hearts.  No.  He is offering his heart to replace our hearts.  “I will take your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.”  I will take your human heart and replace it with the heart of God.  God work is not accomplished until he has replaced with his heart the hearts of every man.

He is not a giver until his gift is accepted.  Jesus did not redeem the world by his suffering and crucifixion until the Father accepted it, when he raised him from the dead.

He gives us his heart so that in turn we give our heart, his heart, to others.  To have his heart is to love as he does.  Greater love than this no man hath then that he lay down his life for his friend.  He loves us so that we become able to love him.  We cannot love him until we have his heart.

At the feeding of the multitude, he feeds them with his word and then feeds their bodies.  Later he tells them, “You come to eat bread.  Whoever chews my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever.”  In the feeding of the
multitude, he lets his disciples distribute the bread.  As they do, they tell the people, “This bread is the gift of Jesus.  At mass, the priest says, “This is the body of Jesus.”  At the Last Supper, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and says, “Take this broken body and eat it.  Take this spilled blood and drink it.”

In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Jesuits’ Fr Gen
Kolvenbach, S.J. on devotion to the Heart of Jesus.  Never in his latter
does he use the phrase Sacred Heart.  It is always Heart of Jesus, Heart of
Christ, or Heart of the Savior.  From the very beginning of the devotion,
the Holy See has forbidden the representation of just a heart.

Rizal’s representation of the Heart of Jesus as Jesus with his heart in his fist and with an Emptied Chest is not only unique, but dynamic and effective. Conventional representations show a symbolic heart adorning his chest, almost passive.

The Society of Jesus has accepted the responsibility to spread the devotion to the Heart of Jesus as a munus suavissimum (most sweet mission orders).

God bless you and all your efforts.  Victor Badillo SJ

The Crucified Mummy Christ in Our Lady of Pentecost Church in Quezon City

A few weeks ago, my friend and I went to Our Lady of Pentecost Church near Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.  The church looks like a church from the outside.  But inside it looks more like a museum for modern art, with its cylindrical, two-floor design.   The stark simplicity of geometrical forms from candlesticks to the priest’s chair forms a striking contrast to the elaborate baroque churches of centuries past.  The centerpiece is a huge crucifix on the altar wall.  I can’t gaze at the crucifix for long: it is terrifying.

On two cross beams was nailed a man with linen cloths wrapped around him–a crucified mummy.  The linen cloths are in the motion of unwrapping, perhaps suggesting resurrection.  The artist tried to combine the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ in a single image, as the picture of the Divine Mercy, for example, combines the white garment of the resurrected Christ with the rays of blue and red suggesting water and blood which flowed out of the side of Christ during his agony on the cross.

But the iconography of the crucified mummy Christ does not speak of biblical truths.

First, it was customary in Jewish burial that the dead be wrapped in strips of linen cloths, as done, for example, to Lazarus.  But Jesus was not wrapped with strips of linen: his burial was made in haste because he died at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday and Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) begins at 6:00 p.m.  Since no one can do any work in the Sabbath, Jesus was most likely wrapped only by a Shroud (see Shroud of Turin).

And second, even if we assume that Jesus was bound with linen strips in his burial, then the icon should not depict him also crucified at the same time.  True iconography is based on the literal texts of the scriptures.  Departing from this is perilous (and scary).  And we must also remember that icons are meant to instruct the illiterate and the ignorant.  So woe to us who put stumbling blocks in the understanding of these little ones.  For the good of their souls, this crucified mummy Christ must be replaced by a more traditional crucifix.

The Icon of the Sto. Nino de Cebu in the Philippines: For Faith or Luck?

Yesterday, the third Sunday of January, is an Ordinary Sunday for the rest of the Roman Catholic world.  But for us in the Philippines, it is the  Feast of Sto. Nino de Cebu—a dispensation of the Holy See (A short history of the feast is here).  Thus, in the last Sunday’s liturgy we hear the following passage from the Isaiah:

At the first time the land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephtali was lightly touched: and at the last the way of the sea beyond the Jordan of the Galilee of the Gentiles was heavily loaded. The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy. They shall rejoice before thee, as they that rejoice in the harvest, as conquerors rejoice after taking a prey, when they divide the spoils. For the yoke of their burden, and the rod of their shoulder, and the sceptre of their oppressor thou best overcome, as in the day of Median.  For every violent taking of spoils, with tumult, and garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire.

For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:1-7)

This passage from Isaiah is the basis for the icon of the Sto. Nino de Cebu (housed in the Basilica run by the Augustinians).  The usual icon is the Infant Child holding a globe on his left and and a sceptre on his right as he blesses the people.  On the Infant’s head is a bulging crown with a cross (similar to the chess notation for a queen).  The Infant’s cape is spread out and dotted with flowers.  The color of the cape is sometimes gold, but a more proper would be the traditional red (embroidered with gold), for it reflects best the verse “garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire.

In other icons, the Sto. Nino is dressed according to the trade of the owner.  If the owner is a farmer or fisherman, the Sto. Nino is dressed with camisa de chino (cotton long sleeves) with matching straw hat (usually termed as Sto. Nino de Palaboy or the Wandering Child).  If a the owner is a student, the Sto. Nino wears a crisp white polo shirt, brown shorts, socks, and shoes.  A possible biblical basis for this practice may be the word “Immanuel,” meaning “God is with us” even in our daily life (but I prefer the kingly icon).

The Sto. Nino is usually placed in business establishments to bring good luck.  But “luck” is a Chinese superstition.  Catholics should not believe in luck.   We Catholics should not fear the predictions of Chinese astrology based on the twelve animals and the five elements.  For as Paul said,

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Rom 8:38).

We should not put the icon of the Sto. Nino in our homes and offices as a talisman for good luck; rather we should put Sto. Nino as a sign of our faith in a good God.

Biblical Iconography of Our Lady of Guadalupe

I. My New Age Background
II. My Encounter with Our Lady: “Somewhere I have never travelled” by e. e. cummings
III. Book Review: A Handbook on Guadalupe

Since that time Mama taught me how to read.  She taught me how to read the bible and its imagery.  And I learned that she is the Lady of Revelation:

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

The Seat of Wisdom:

For she is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.  For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness. (Wis 7:25-26)

The Ark of the Covenant:

You shall make an ark of acacia wood…. Plate it inside and outside with pure gold…. Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory…. This propitiatory you shall then place on top of the ark. In the ark itself you are to put the commandments which I will give you. (Ex 25:10-21)

When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the screening curtain, and cover the ark of the covenant with it; then they shall put on it a covering of fine leather, and spread over that a cloth all of blue…. (Num 4:5-7) (NRSV translation.  In NAB blue is violet)

And a whole lot more.

The icon of our Lady is a true abstract art, for it is based on strict rules for interpretation as provided by the Scriptures.  Each detail of the icon adds a new layer of the interpretation.  Since a multitude of layers of symbols are superimposed, the task of the icon reader is to try to identify each layer and translate it into a page of text.  For example, “morning (sun rays) star, evening (crescent moon) star”.  This means Venus.  But evening connotes a sense of “falling,” since the sun sinks into the West.  And the black crescent also suggests a “pit.”  Thus, we may translate this series of pictures into the text of Isaiah, which is traditionally interpreted as the Fall of Lucifer, the Light-Bearer:

How have you fallen from the heavens, O morning star, son of the dawn! How are you cut down to the ground, you who mowed down the nations! You said in your heart: “I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my seat on the Mount of Assembly, in the recesses of the North. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!” Yet down to the nether world you go to the recesses of the pit! (Is 14:12-15)

Who can fathom the riches of Guadalupe?  Whenever I look at her, I always see something new.  Like Wordsworth watching daffodils, “I gazed—and gazed—but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought.”

V. Rediscovery of My Catholic Faith

Book Review: Handbook on Guadalupe

I. My New Age Background
II. My Encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe: “Somewhere I have never travelled” by e. e. cummings.

I read the Handbook on Guadalupe.

I learned that the picture of Our Lady is actually a message in the form of picture-writing, an Aztec hieroglyphics.  And the message says that Our Lady is not god but a human being for she looks down and not straight towards us.  Yet she is greater than the sun god for she blots him out; the moon goddess, for she stands over her.  She is an empress because she wears a Turquoise (blue green) mantle.  She promises paradise for her mantle is adorned with flowers and song.    She is pregnant because her sash is tied high above her waist.  The God she serves is marked by the sign of the cross on her brooch.  Her messenger is at her feet, the Eagle Who Speaks, Juan Diego’s Aztec name.  And she is kissing him for she touches him with the edge.

The stars on Our Lady’s mantle form the constellations present in Mexico City just before sunrise on 12 December 1531, but the constellations are seen from the outside of the dome of the heavens (God’s point of view).  The missing stars can then be deduced: the Corona on her forehead, the Virgo on her heart, the Leo on her belly.  This answers the riddle of the sphinx: the lion with a woman’s head.  Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son” (Mt 1:23).  And the child’s name is  Jesus, of the House of David, of the tribe of Judah (c.f. Lk 1:31-33):

Judah, like a lion’s whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts—who would dare rouse him? The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, While tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage. (Gen 49:9-10)

How the picture of Our Lady was imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma (a standard Aztec clothing consisting of a long rectangular cloth with a slit in the middle for the head) was recounted in Nican Mopohua.  To Juan Diego, she spoke the following words:

Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Do not fear this sickness of your uncle or any other sickness, nor anything that is sharp or hurtful. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you. Do not let your uncle’s illness worry you, because he will not die now. You may be certain that he is already well.

How can anyone not be moved?

IV. Biblical Iconography of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Rediscovery of My Catholic Faith

Christ the King Procession

Last Sunday, in our parish in Makati, we had a procession for the Feast of Christ the King.

Three white-robed sacristans walked in front: the one at the center carried a pole with a mounted cross, the sign of the Son of Man that Constantine saw in the heavens, the night before the decisive Battle of the Milvian Bridge, on the same date last month, October 28, 312 A.D.; the other two held similar poles but with candles, which signified the light of Christ piercing the darkening day.

The band followed next in their crisp, green uniform, with golden, twisted cords. Their tuba and trumpets brayed over the bellowing drums, as when the Hosts of the West marched towards the Black Gates, shouting, “The King Elessar has come to reclaim this land! Depart hence or yield them up!” But the band knows no song for Christ the King: no Christus Vincit, no Christus Herat, no Christus Imperat. Instead, the band played songs from the mass like the “Ama Namin,” and I am content. The better must not be the enemy of the good.

Four men carried the picture of Christ the King. Christ wore a double crown gold and bejeweled, signifying his kingship over heaven and earth (c.f. Mt 28:18). His cape was red as His Most Precious Blood: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing” (Rev 5:12).  His left hand held a golden scepter, shaped like a reed, which signified He who shall bring justice on earth (Is 42:1-3).  His right hand is raised, with three fingers pointing upward, signifying the Trinity.  His Most Sacred Heart was burning in flames, pierced by a cross and crowned with thorns: “It is not you they reject; they are rejecting me as their king” (1 Sam 8:8).

Two men walked behind the image, and twenty women followed, praying the rosary.