Our Sacred Hearts
Updated: Jan 15
The 2022-2023 Curious Matter Holiday Installation
DECEMBER 24, 2022 – JANUARY 29, 2023
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”– Proverbs 4:23
THE HOLIDAY SEASON is about love and giving. The birth of a baby—the Nativity—signals hope and ushers in a time that allows us to dream big and to try and make those dearest dreams come true. It is about new beginnings. Each year, when we create the Curious Matter Holiday Installation, we share from the Roman Catholic teachings and traditions, the images, and icons we marveled at in childhood. From those, we endeavor to identify something universal, a lesson or sentiment that transcends religion and connects us all as humans. Alongside that intention, we always note the problematic institutional church. While our installations focus on lessons of love, not failings, this year we asked ourselves: what lingers when we try to set aside very real experiences of violence, injustice, and inequity? Can we wave all that away for the season? Through the image of the Sacred Heart, we contemplate that question.
In the face of human failure, what are the limits of forgiveness? Do we put qualifications on what and when we forgive? Are we open with our love, or do we reserve it for those we deem worthy? The Sacred Heart teaches us that even after the most horrific actions and behaviors, love and forgiveness is always the correct response. This does not mean that it is easily done or easily achieved. The Sacred Heart, which symbolizes the brutal, violent circumstances of the Crucifixion, is a reminder that the ideal for humanity is to love unconditionally and forgive without hesitation.
The first and most significant meaning of the Sacred Heart is love. Christ’s unfailing love for humankind. It is a profound and mystical symbol. Its message is for us all to practice love for each other as Christ does for us. The Sacred Heart reminds us that even through his betrayal, suffering, and death, Christ’s love endured. Forgiveness is the second significant meaning of the Sacred Heart. It is through His forgiveness and mercy that He is willing to purify the sins of humanity with the flames of divine light. Even though the Sacred Heart is a symbol of love and forgiveness, it is often depicted in a shocking manner. It is a disembodied, floating heart, fiercely radiating flames, crowned with thorns, and pierced with a lance, the noticeable wound often dripping blood. Early depictions of the sufferings of Christ had been created by those who ardently believed that the mortifications to the Man of Peace should be depicted as gruesomely as possible to vividly illustrate the sins of humanity. These tactics of horror and violence to frighten people into contrition are less prevalent today. Depictions of love and forgiveness are now gentler.
A gentler forgiveness is something we encourage each of us to practice towards ourselves as well as towards others. We were taught to follow Christ’s example, his way of love and forgiveness, but we don’t always succeed. Our hearts need their own protection. For many of us, a sentimental and satisfying holiday, like those depicted in the popular entertainments churned out this time of year isn’t a possibility. We all don’t puzzle into those greeting card sponsored configurations comfortably. Not all of us are welcomed home or find satisfactory resolutions to the conflicts that may plague us, nor do we experience the unconditional acceptance that we envision for ourselves. One of the Sacred Heart images we’re presenting in our installation is surrounded by twelve stars. Each star symbolizes a heavenly entity surrounding in union and protection the heart of Jesus. Among them are the Angels, the Powers, the Virtues, and the Saints. These twelve stars are champions and protectors, a guard of honour. We can surround ourselves with our own champions and protectors as well—our personal angels, our recognized saints, or our chosen family. To extend forgiveness and love to those who breach our boundaries and trigger our negative experiences can be an enormous challenge. To practice forgiveness and love towards ourselves can be equally challenging. When we don’t live up to our personal highest ideals, let us be gentle.
Collectively, we have all lived through an exceedingly dark time that science and politicians could offer no end to. But the cycle of life will not be held back. We are putting the darkness of disease and isolation behind us because it is time. We may feel tentative, or we may feel ready, but move on we must. Stagnation is death, and this is not a season of death, rather a season of rebirth. The symbolism of the Sacred Heart offers a similar message. The love that the universe has for humankind cannot be dimmed. The light of love shines bright, even though there are those who wished to dim or destroy it. This is the message of this season, that even in the darkest time of the year, the promise of renewal, a birth, will be there to give us hope.
With the combined blessings of love and hope, we wish you the best of each for the holiday season. May we all move forward in strength and with a renewed sense of possibility.
Co-Founders, Curious Matter
© 2022 Curious Matter used with permission