Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, Esto Mihi Iesus

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20060907Depart%20from%20me.jpg

Luke 5:1–11

The Fisherman's Boat

Today’s Gospel opens with the people “pressing upon” Jesus to hear the Word of God. Eagerness to hear the Word is a sign of spiritual vitality. So too is the desire to be close to Jesus. But already Our Lord is intimating that His Word and His presence will be mediated through His Church. “Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat” (Lk 5:3). The fisherman’s boat becomes the pulpit of the Word; even more, it becomes an image of the Church called to bear the Word across the waves of history.

Peter's Marian Holiness

After preaching to the people, Our Lord addresses a personal word to Simon: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4). Duc in altum! Put out into the deep! Simon answers the Master honestly, “Master, we have laboured all the night, and have taken nothing!” — and then he obeys — “But at Thy word I will let down the net” (Lk 5:5). This simple exchange opens for us a window into the soul of the Prince of the Apostles. Peering into his soul, what do we see? We see that Simon Peter, for all his blustering masculinity, in the secret of his soul resembles Mary, the Virgin Mother of the Lord. “How shall this be, since I know not man?” —and then — “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:34, 38). “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” — “But at Thy word I will let down the net” (Lk 5:5). A pattern emerges here. It is the Marian pattern of holiness. There is no holiness that is not Marian. Even Simon must, in some way, be conformed by the Holy Spirit to the Virgin Mary in her humility, in her singleheartedness, in her trusting obedience.

My Eyes Have Seen the King

Peter directs his co–workers to let down the nets. “And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish” (Lk 5:6). So great was the catch that it filled two boats, and the boats began to sink. Simon realizes that He is in the presence of the transcendent power of God. “He fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Here, Simon resembles the prophet Isaiah who, in similar circumstances, cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!” (Is 6:5).

Do Not Depart From Me

There is in the Sistine Chapel an amazing tapestry entitled The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (Pieter van Aelst, 1450–1533). It depicts Simon on his knees before Jesus. Saint Andrew is standing behind him. Simon’s whole body is leaning toward his Master. His sleeves are rolled up, revealing the muscled arms of a man accustomed to hard physical work. His hands are folded and thrust forward. The most striking thing in the tapestry is Simon’s face. Although his mouth is saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8), his eyes are saying, “Do not depart from me, for I am a sinner, and you, you alone are my Jesus, that is, He who saves me from my sins!”

Fear Not

How does Our Lord respond to Simon’s mixed emotions? Does He listen to Simon’s words and withdraw from him? Or does He read the deeper prayer in Simon’s eyes, and respond to that? Our Lord’s project for Simon surpasses anything Simon could have imagined. “Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Lk 5:10). The great adventure of Peter and the Church begins. “And having brought their ships to land, leaving all things, they followed Him” (Lk 5:11).

The Cry of the Heart

The Lord Jesus is not afraid to entrust the designs of His Heart to sinful men. He allows us to experience His power and our own weakness. He waits for us to say, “Do not depart from me, for I am a sinner, and you, you alone are my Jesus, that is, He who saves me from my sins.” How close this prayer is to the beautiful invocation murmured over and over again by the English and Irish Martyrs: Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi Iesus, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Jesus.” Whether you are overwhelmed by the awareness of your sins, or annihilated by the nearness of the Thrice–Holy God, lift your face to Jesus, allowing him to read in your eyes the deepest cry of your heart: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Jesus.” And then, follow Him.

6 Comments

I like the tapestry very much. I like this post too. Thanks.

What does the opening title in latin mean? When you put the latin in can you also provide a translation? This would be so helpful.

Dear Anne, It is as I wrote in the text: "How close this prayer is to the beautiful invocation murmured over and over again by the English and Irish Martyrs: Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi Iesus, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Jesus.? Whether you are overwhelmed by the awareness of your sins, or annihilated by the nearness of the Thrice–Holy God, lift your face to Jesus, allowing him to read in your eyes the deepest cry of your heart: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Jesus.? And then, follow Him."

More often than not when give a Latin title the translation is in the body of the text!

Yes Father, it might be easier for you but apart from the word Iesu I just had not got a clue what the other words meant. My husband did latin o'level and got an A grade and he too did not have a clue. It would just help a little to know the english translation next to the title. Nonetheless, the words are divinely inspired and therefore awesome in its entirety. THank you so much for your kind response.

Were the martyrs trying to follow Christ as they cried out "Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi Iesus"? I don't understand why they cried out this particular phrase.

The invocation is simply a prayer calling upon Jesus (Saviour) to be a Saviour in the martyrs' hour of great suffering.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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