Academic journal article Studies in the Literary Imagination

Cor Ad Cor Loquitur: Emotion and the Communion of Believers in Newman's Writings

Academic journal article Studies in the Literary Imagination

Cor Ad Cor Loquitur: Emotion and the Communion of Believers in Newman's Writings

Article excerpt

In his lifetime, John Henry Newman delivered well over a thousand sermons, homiletic efforts distinguished by a directing logic, very much the voice of reason. That much, by even a casual perusal, contemporary readers can still clearly comprehend. Yet, even without Matthew Arnold's personal experience of that "most entrancing of voices, breaking the silence with words and thoughts which were a religious music--subtle, sweet, mournful," anyone approaching the sermons or others of Newman's varied writings must be impressed by the overt emotion that informs the words, words intended to be heard or read (qtd. in Willey 73). If, as Newman maintains in the Apologia Pro Vita Sua, it is "the concrete being that reasons" and "the whole man that moves," this person, for Newman, lives, moves, and has an integrated rational and emotional being in relationship with the Logos en Sarki, the Word in the Flesh (136). (1)

For what is now sometimes termed Incarnational theology (2) lay at the core of Newman's persistent construing and celebrating of divine grace, divine presence. That Newman found the Incarnation "the central aspect of Christianity" may clarify his concern with the sanctification that comes through the sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist, and it may explain his almost irritable dismissal of "paper logic" so that he might embrace a fully human, fully personal, fully passible, and therefore fully emotional Logos (Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine 36; Apologia 136). Conversion and ongoing spiritual conversation will partake of reason but also will remain the language of the heart for the pilgrim soul who, when he was elevated to Cardinal, adopted from Saint Francis de Sales the motto cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaks to heart. This fervent sentiment that informs both early and late sermons is particularly disclosed in Newman's deliberations upon the Real Presence, reflections that prove significant, as well, in his two novels, Loss and Gain and Callista, and also in certain of his more studied theological discourses. For Newman, divinity comes to humanity in a transformative fashion of theosis (3) through two communions, communion in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and communion within the body of believers, and the "religious music" of Newman's voice may best be heard in his full-hearted calling to his fellows to apprehend and to appreciate the God Who became Man so that man might become God.

At this outset, some words of clarification may be appropriate. Francis de Sales discusses heart speaking to heart in terms of an individual's desired engagement with God. In Book Six, chapter one of Treatise on the Love of God, quoting in rapid succession from Psalms and Lamentations, he describes the yearning of the believer for restoration of right relationship with the divine:

       Love speaks not only by the tongue, but by the eyes, by sighs,
and
  play of features; yea, silence and dumbness are words for it. My
  heart hath said to thee, my face hath sought thee: thy face, O
  Lord, will I still seek. My eyes have failed for thy word, saying:
  When wilt thou comfort me? Hear my prayer, O Lord, and my
  supplication: give ear to my tears. Let not the apple of thy eye
  cease
, said the desolate heart of the inhabitants of Jerusalem
  to their own city. Do you mark, Theotimus, how the silence of
  afflicted lovers speaks by the apple of their eye, and by tears?
  Truly the chief exercise in mystical theology is to speak to God
  and to hear God speak in the bottom of the heart; and because this
  discourse passes in most secret aspirations and inspirations, we
  term it a silent conversing. Eyes speak to eyes, and heart to
  heart, and none understand what passes save the sacred lovers who
  speak. (219)

Clearly, for Francis, the hearts that converse with one another are those of the individual and God. I do not doubt that, for Newman, also, the essential interaction remained between those "two and two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator," whom he foregrounds in the initial chapter of the Apologia (16). …

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