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Art Gallery: Paintings & Drawings: Religious

Sacred Heart of Jesus Image
"Heart of Jesus"   Pastel on cotton paper   © 1982 Miriam A. Kilmer
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       The love of God for humanity expressed through the human heart of Jesus inspires my work. It informs my reverence for nature and my commitment to human rights.
       Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a uniquely Roman Catholic phenomenon, although the practice was first popularized there. Its roots are scriptural. Christ himself said: "Take My yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart." (Mt 11:29). As a member of a Pentecostal prayer group, I used to sing this song:
There's a band of love all around God's people
And it's keeping me in the arms of Jesus
Near to the heart of God.
- Author unknown

       That was before I became a postulant and then a novice at the Visitation Monastery in Georgetown, D.C., where my devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was fostered. Over the years, I developed my symbol of the heart, which began as a more anatomical image and became more abstract as I grew in my relationship to Jesus. The heart is open, representing both the wound and Christ's openness to people. While I was working on the heart image, my brother Hugh came up with a simple design for me with the cross on top. I liked it, but I decided that I wanted the cross in the center, showing that Jesus embraced the cross for love. I show flames of love and fervor emanating from the heart.
       When I first attended the Disciples of Christ Church, I was delighted to find that one of their emblem shows an open heart with a chalice and a cross in the center.
       Now, as a Disciple of Christ, my devotion to the Heart of Jesus continues - not as described on the pages you will find when you Google it, with Novenas and "First Fridays," but with simple spontaneous acts of trust and love, and through my art.
       In times of doubt and suffering, and as I recall the great pain and trouble in the world around me, I remember the sufferings of the Heart of Jesus, and place my trust in his love.

       From the earliest centuries, in accordance with the example of the Evangelist, Christ's open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. But there is nothing to indicate that, during the first ten centuries, any worship was rendered the wounded Heart.
       It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side of the wound [the] Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love. It was in the fervent atmosphere of the Benedictine or Cistercian monasteries, in the world of Anselmian or Bernardine thought, that the devotion arose....
       It was to Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a humble Visitandine of the monastery at Paray-le Monial, that Christ chose to reveal the desires of His Heart and to confide the task of imparting new life to the devotion.
       In 1697, the Holy See granted the feast to the Visitandines with the Mass of the Five Wounds, but refused a feast common to all.... In 1856, at the urgent entreaties of the French bishops, Pope Pius IX extended the feast to the universal Church under the rite of double major. In 1889 it was raised by the Church to the double rite of first class. The acts of consecration and of reparation were everywhere introduced together with the devotion. Oftentimes, especially since about 1850, groups, congregations, and States have consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart, and, in 1875, this consecration was made throughout the Catholic world.

- From "Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus" - New Advent, The Catholic Encyclopedia

       For Christ's face, I was inspired by a photograph from the TV mini-series, "Jesus of Nazareth," starring Robert Powell. I painted a series of images of Jesus after this first one, looking at various photographs and striving for a more Jewish appearance.
"Heart of Jesus" has found a home at First Christian Church of Alexandria. Other original pastel paintings by Miriam A. Kilmer are available for sale.