Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For Love is strong as Death, longing is fierce as Sheol. Its arrows are arrows of fire, flames of the divine. – Song of Songs 8:6
Recently I had the privilege to venerate relics of St. Teresa of Avila’s heart and arm. For many years I have had a devotion to St. Teresa. I credit her with inspiring me to choose prayer as the “one thing” that anchors my life.
The arm and the heart; this is the perfect image for the life of a Missionary Disciple.
St. Teresa traveled down the entire road of prayer – the via purgativa, via iluminativa and via unitive – to find true union with God. Through prayer, Love pierced the heart of Theresa as an arrow of fire. Her heart was aflame with the love of God. Her entire life was consumed by this Love. This union of hearts with her Savior was the source of her apostolic work.
This must be true for all Disciples on mission. We cannot hope to give away the Love of God to others unless we ourselves are pierced by the divine flame of Love as an arrow to the heart. This can only be accomplished by traveling down the path of prayer until we ourselves find union with God.
St. Teresa was no sluggard when it came to her mission in life. After reforming her Carmelite order, St. Theresa spent twenty years founding 17 new nunneries (and about as many men’s cloisters) throughout the entirety of Spain. It is difficult to imagine the effort it took to found close to one new institution a year – and to do so in the prime of one’s life!
When God call the disciple to accept His mission, he can and will do amazing things. This is accomplished not by our own effort but by the grace of Christ working in and through us. The arm of a Missionary Disciple will work wonders, but only because the heart is in union with Christ.
From the Soul of the Apostolate
Father St. Jure, S.J., commenting on [Song of Songs] 8:6 — “Place me as a seal upon thy heart and as a seal upon thy arm” — says that “the heart signifies the interior, contemplative life, and the arm, the exterior, active life, and that Holy Scripture mentions the heart and the arm together in order to show that both modes of life can be found perfect together in one person. The heart is mentioned first, because it is far more noble and necessary than the arm. Moreover, contemplation is likewise far more excellent and perfect and more meritorious than action. The heart beats day and night; were it to cease for a moment, death would ensue. The arm is only an integral part of the body and moves at intervals. Hence, we should sometimes cease performing external works, but should never relax from our application to spiritual things.”
The heart imparts life and strength to the arm by means of the blood it sends to it; otherwise the arm would wither away. In like manner, the contemplative life, the life of union with God, through the light and perpetual assistance that the soul receives from this intimacy, vivifies the exterior occupations and is alone capable of imparting to them a supernatural character and real usefulness. Without the contemplative life, all languishes; all is sterile and full of imperfections.