The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association Home Page
The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association Home Page

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives



Return to:  Home > Archives Index > Christology Index

Historical Christology

Chapter X
Jesus Christ in Symbol and Devotion

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The person of Christ is more deeply venerated in the Catholic world than even most Catholics realize. No doubt Christians in the Protestant tradition have a great respect for the Savior, and their piety is permeated with references to Jesus Christ, to a point that Catholics sometimes apologize for their "institutional religion" and apparent lack of emphasis on the One who stands above all forms of institutionalism.

Actually devotion to Christ is widespread in the Roman Catholic Church, and, though obscured for some people because of semantics, it is the most popular form of piety practiced by millions of the faithful-- under the form of cultus of the Sacred Heart.

The expression itself, "Sacred Heart," seems to have been coined in the early Middle Ages, most likely among the ascetical writers in the Cistercian tradition of St. Bernard. But the concept of Christ's physical heart symbolizing His humanity and His theandric love for mankind is based on the Scriptures where the heart is regularly symbolic of the affections and where the Savior says of Himself, "Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart."

In modern times, the cultus of the Sacred Heart received its main impetus through being taken up officially by the Society of Jesus as an effective means of bringing the people to a realization of the personalist dimension of their faith. Jesuit involvement insured the practice of a wide promotion and, theologically, of intellectual status. Their writers have published a library of explanation and defence of a devotion that to this day is suspect in certain quarters as less than "respectable" or as good enough for the simple believer but not fully consonant with hard-headed Christianity in a secular world.

Opposition to the cultus was born with the rise of Jansenism, one of whose premises was the claim of selective salvation, that Christ had not died for all men, and therefore anything suggesting God's universal salvific love ran counter to a cherished teaching of Jansenius and his followers.

Jansenism and the Sacred Heart

The theological history of worshipping Christ's humanity, with special reference to His physical heart, began with Cornelius Jansenius, although the full development of the issue did not come until more than a century later.

Many church historians are agreed that Jansenism should be conceived in great measure, if not essentially, an organized opposition to the dogmatic and ascetical teaching of the Society of Jesus. (1) Personal motives may have played a part in this. Jansenius is said to have sought admission to the Order and to have been rejected; hence he joined the ranks of its enemies. What is beyond question is the aversion he felt for the sons of St. Ignatius. On the occasion of the Saint's canonization in 1622, he scoffed and derided the Jesuit founder. In 1624, and again in 1626, he made a trip to Spain to prevent the Jesuits from opening a university in Madrid, and to restrain their teaching privileges. Back in France, he continued the assault, writing to a confidant, "It seems to be God's will that I should exert myself everywhere against the Jesuits."   (2) This was in 1627, when he "initiated against the hated adversaries the paper war which, continued by his friends and admirers, has not yet come to an end after all these centuries." (3) The masterpiece which emanated from this virulence was the Augustinus, published in 1640, two years after the author's death, in which the Jesuit doctrine on grace was equated with Pelagianism, and Jansenius' own theory of the supernatural order was given to the world. (4)

The co-founder of Jansenism was Antoine Arnauld, the protege of Jansenius' collaborator, du Vergier de Hauranne, more popularly known as the Abbot of St. Cyran. Where Jansenius was heavy and speculative, Arnauld had a consummate mastery of his native tongue and was eminently practical. But he was at one with the master in his hatred of the Jesuits, which he crystallized in his De la frequente communion, first published in 1643, and destined to become, with Augustinus, the arsenal of Jansenist theology for subsequent generations.

Two of the five condemned propositions of Jansenius are formally Christological and paved the way for later Jansenist attitudes on devotion to Christ's humanity. According to Jansenius, "There are some of God's commandments that just men cannot observe with the powers which they have in their present state, even if they wish and strive to observe them; nor do men have the grace which would make their observance possible." And again, "It is Semi-Pelagian to say that Christ died or shed His blood for all men without exception." (5)

Consequently, in Jansenius' system, Christ's mandates as found in the Gospels are illusory, and His promise of grace to everyone who comes to Him in faith is not true. Moreover, if He is not Savior of all men, but only of those whom He wants to save, and deliberately excludes certain people from even the prospects of heaven, Christianity is not a religion of love. It is more akin to Manichaeism that postulated an evil deity in conflict with God, and causing some persons to be lost because they were helpless against the demoniac Power that forced them to sin. Jansenism went beyond Manichaeism even, since it saddled the one God with both operations: inevitably saving those predestined to heaven, and depriving the damned of elementary grace to keep the commandments or keep out of hell.

In spite of repeated condemnations by the Holy See, Jansenist ideas not only continued in existence but spread to other countries outside of France. Under pressure from Louis XIV, Arnauld took refuge in Holland, the birthplace of Jansenius, where his followers were supported by the sympathetic Calvinist government. They elected one of their number, Cornelius Steenhoven, as bishop, and had him receive episcopal consecration from a Catholic bishop at that time under suspension. The schismatical sect established a diocese at Haarlem in 1742 and their organization, known as the Old Roman Catholic Church (De Oud-Roomsch-Katolieke Kerk), has survived to the present day.

Another and more significant group of Jansenists was established in Italy. Here the movement was along aristocratic rather than popular lines, as in France, and consequently its impact on the masses was less effective. Clerics in the highest ranks of society in Italy either openly or sympathetically espoused the principles of Jansenius and Arnauld. Among these, the most famous was Scipione de Ricci, nephew of the last Jesuit General before the suppression of the Society, and subsequently Bishop of Pistoia.

Born at Florence in 1741, he died in the same city in 1809, having ruled the diocese of Pistoia from 1780 until his forced resignation in 1791. Although related to the Jesuit General, Ricci conceived a hearty dislike for the Society already in his student days in Rome, where he came under the influence of the Jansenist sympathizers. Returning to his native city, he wrote and spoke openly in favor of the Jansenists in France and Holland, and within a year of his ordination was publicly expounding Jansenius’ doctrine on grace. Not long after his elevation to the See of Pistoia, he joined the Grand Duke of Tuscany in an overt attempt to Jansenize the diocese under his jurisdiction, if need be at the cost of severance from Rome.

Ricci's extant sermons breathe the unmistakable spirit of Jansenius and Antoine Arnauld. It is a principle of faith, he held, that very few adults will be saved. Priests must ever keep this fact before the minds of the people, in order to draw them away from evil and move them to salutary repentance. Consequently, it is contrary to this established truth to give absolution freely, or admit to Holy Communion the majority of penitents. (6)

The climax in Ricci's effort to reform his diocese was reached at the Synod which opened at Pistoia on September 18, 1786, in the Church of St. Leopold, under the presidency of the bishop. There were 234 participants, including 171 parish priests and thirteen religious. The theologian Tamburini, known for his Jansenism, was appointed "promoter" of the Synod. As Ricci remarked in his memoirs, Tamburini was to be the leading spirit in this movement against "the old machine of papal monarchy." (7) After ten days of session, the Synod published its decrees which, together with the Acts of the Council, fill two volumes in the modern edition.

In his correspondence with the Jansenist Church in Holland, Ricci expressed the hope of a similar establishment in Italy. Fortunately for the Catholic future of that country, "this full flowering of Italian Jansenism" was not supported by Ricci's fellow bishops in Tuscany; only two out of sixteen are known to have been in sympathy with his ideas. He was also opposed, with violence, by the Tuscan laity. "With his innovations, Ricci had outraged the most sacred sentiments of the people…. They gave full vent to their fury, which did not subside until Ricci had taken flight." (8) When the cathedral chapter joined the popular demonstration, the bishop had no choice but to resign, which he did on June 3, 1791.

Efforts were made to forestall a formal condemnation of the Synod of Pistoia, but Pius VI, "to fulfill his apostolic and pastoral duty," caused eighty-five tenets to be cited from the records and decrees, each one to be censured separately to avoid misunderstanding. On August 28, 1794, the Pope issued the Constitution, Auctorem fidei, incorporating the cited passages and corresponding censures.

Three of the condemned propositions deal with Christ's humanity and the cultus of the Sacred Heart. The first claims that Christ's humanity may not be adored directly without blasphemy; the second charges that devotion to the Heart of Christ, as part of His human body, is at least dangerous if not heretical; and the third rebukes those who worship the Heart of the Savior because they confuse a part for the whole, and render homage to a creature that is reserved to God.

The proposition which asserts that to directly adore the humanity of Christ, and above all a part of that humanity, is always to render a creature the honor due to the divinity--in as much as by the word "directly" it is intended to blame the cult of adoration which the faithful render to the humanity of Christ, as if the adoration given to the humanity and the living flesh of Christ, not considered simply as flesh but as united to the Divinity, were a divine honor paid to a creature and not rather the same unique adoration which adores the word Incarnate and the flesh which is His own-- this proposition is false, captious, prejudicial and injurious to the pious cult of the humanity of Christ which the faithful have rendered and must render to it.
The teaching which rejects the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as among those devotions described as new, erroneous or at least dangerous--if understood of this Devotion such as the Apostolic See has approved it—is false, rash, pernicious and injurious to the Apostolic See.
In the same way, the proposition which censures the worshippers of the Heart of Jesus (even by that name) for not perceiving that the sacred flesh of Christ, or even the whole humanity when separated and divided from the divinity, cannot be adored with the worship of latria--as if they were adoring the Heart of Jesus separated and divided from the divinity, whereas in reality they adore it as it is: the Heart of Jesus, the Heart, that is, of the Person of the Word, to Whom it is inseparably united in the same way as the bloodless body of Christ in the three days of death was adorable in the sepulchre without separation from the divinity--this proposition is captious, and injurious to the faithful who worship the Heart of Christ. (9)

With the publication of Auctorem fidei, the doctrinal base was given for a form of Catholic piety that has received more frequent and detailed approval from the Holy See than any other devotion in the Church. Almost every pontiff from Pius VI to Paul VI has written, often at length, in support of what Pius XI said contains "the very substance of our holy religion." (10)

Among the extant memoirs of John XXIII is the record of a dedication he made of his life to the Sacred Heart. This dedication as seminarian, he testified, helped to stabilize his whole spiritual life.

Through the grace of God, I am profoundly persuaded and convinced that it is my compelling duty as a Christian and a seminarist, to dedicate myself wholly and always to His divine service and His holy love.
As I proceed further along the way of perfection and perfect charity, I am inspired by the consideration of how intimately Jesus deserves to be loved by me, His poor creature, both for His divine perfections and for the immense love of His most Sacred Heart.
Therefore, during the holy Spiritual Exercises of this year of grace 1900…while I am sacramentally united to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus through holy communion…I promise the most Sacred Heart, with all the solemnity and power this act of mine may have, today and at all times, by the grace of God, to keep myself free from the slightest attachment to any voluntary venial sin. (11)

Against the background of Roncalli's monumental achievements in the next sixty years, this solemn act of piety shows better than any documentation in what high regard the popes have held the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Theology of the Sacred Heart

While upwards of sixty full-length papal statements testify to the value of this cultus, the latest and most theological analysis of devotion to the Heart of Christ was made only as recently as Pius XII. In Haurietis Aquas, (1956), he synthesized the existing forms of the devotion in the Church, organically based it on the sources of revelation, and showed how its use satisfies the most demanding conditions for a life of union with the Savior.

The crucial problem that needed authoritative solution was the exact relationship of the symbol of Christ's heart to what it signified. Was it merely symbolic, or did the symbol itself become part of the cultus; and in either case what aspect of Christ was the focus of devotion, or was it the whole Christ without formal distinction? Haurietis Aquas clarified the issue in a few paragraphs.

The heart of the Incarnate Word is rightly considered the chief index and symbol of the threefold love with which the Divine Redeemer continuously loves the Eternal Father and the whole human race. It is the symbol of that divine love which He shares with the Father and the Holy Ghost, but which in Him alone, in the Word namely that was made Flesh, is it manifested to us through His mortal human body, since "in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
It is moreover the symbol of that most ardent love which, infused into His soul, sanctifies the human will of Christ and whose action is enlightened and directed by a twofold most perfect knowledge, namely the beatific and infused.
Finally, in a more direct and natural manner, it is a symbol also of sensible love, since the body of Jesus Christ, formed through the operation of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, has a most perfect capacity for feeling and perception, much more than the bodies of all other men.
Since Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Faith affirm that there is the highest possible harmony and agreement in the Most Holy Soul of Jesus Christ, and that He clearly directed His threefold love to accomplish our redemption, it is therefore obvious that we can most correctly consider and venerate the heart of the Divine Redeemer as signifying the image of His love, the proof of our redemption and the mystical ladder by which we climb to the embrace of "God our Saviour."
Wherefore His words, actions, teachings, miracles, and in particular those deeds which more clearly testify this love for us --the institution of the Holy Eucharist, His most bitter passion and death, His Most Holy Mother whom He lovingly gave to us, the founding of the Church and the sending of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles and upon us--all these we must regard as proofs of His threefold love.
In like manner we must lovingly meditate on the pulsations of His most Sacred Heart by which, so to say, He kept on measuring the time of His sojourn on earth up to the last moment when, as the evangelists testify "crying out in a loud voice 'It is consummated,' and, bowing his head, gave up his spirit."
Then the beating of His heart stopped, and His sensible love was interrupted until He arose from the tomb, in triumph over death.
But after His glorified body was again united to the soul of the Divine Redeemer, the Conquerer of death, His Most Sacred Heart never ceased, and never will cease, to beat with imperturbable and calm pulsation. It will likewise never cease to signify His threefold love by which the Son of God is bound to His heavenly Father and the whole human race, of which He is by perfect right the mystical head. (12)

Pius XII went on to say that, while the Church has always praised the devotion to the Sacred Heart, "at the same time she is vigilant to safeguard it with all her strength against the errors of naturalism and so-called sentimentalism." To this end, he urged a diligent study of the principles on which the cultus is based and the implications to which it gives rise. Otherwise a potentially effective instrument for the Church's sanctification will remain unused, or may degenerate into vague piosity that lacks theological strength.

The analysis which follows is an effort to meet this demand for understanding what most people practice without further thought, but which needs exploration at least by those who are leaders in the Christian world.

Doctrinal Analysis. The logical introduction is to make a preliminary survey of the basic elements which constitute the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

These elements are manifold, and taken separately or seen out of context they may be enlightening facets of religious insight but also confusing. There is so much detail and so many unanswered questions are raised if the matter were not first offered in organic outline, that a broad general outline seems necessary.

"One of the difficulties, of course, is that issues are thus brought up at the beginning, before anything like an adequate treatment is possible. But this seems to be less serious than to enter into medias res and trust that somehow the disparate parts of a very complex subject will be tied together. Better see the subject in preview beforehand, and fill in the details later on.

Anticipating the analysis, it may be useful briefly to review the different aspects of the concept of devotion in general, in order to understand more clearly the meaning of devotion to the Sacred Heart.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, "Devotion is a certain act of the will by which man gives himself promptly to the divine service." Considered internally, therefore, devotion properly speaking has reference to the service or worship of God; it pertains essentially to the will either as a habitual disposition or a specific act of the volitional faculty; and one of its characteristics is promptness or readiness of response to motivation.

While there are degrees of devotion, even the lowest implies a certain quality of perfection which should be kept in mind when approaching the cultus of the Sacred Heart. Writing for the laity, and a fortiori for the clergy and religious, St. Francis de Sales distinguished grace, charity and devotion. "In so far as divine love beautifies our souls, and makes us pleasing to His divine majesty, it is called grace. In so far as it gives us strength to do good, it is called charity; but when it reaches such a degree of perfection, that it makes us not only do good, but do so carefully, frequently and readily, then it is called devotion." No doubt this notion is more refined than we wish to make it when speaking of devotion to the Sacred Heart, yet we must stress the idealism to which papal documents constantly refer when they urge the faithful to practice the cultus of the Sacred Heart.

It is instructive to know that Francis de Sales, the great theologian of the love of God, also describes devotion in more simple terms as merely an elevated form of the third theological virtue. "Charity and devotion differ no more," he says, "the one from the other, than the flame from the fire." Given infused supernatural love of God there will be devotion every time this love goes into action; although here too the idea of spontaneity is associated with the presence of devotion.

A word should be said about "devotions" and "devotion." Pius XII warned there are some who "join the very essence of this devotion with other forms of piety which the Church approves and encourages but does not command. They put it on an equal footing with those other forms of piety. They look upon this devotion as some kind of additive which one is free to use according to his own good pleasure." (13)

Consequently devotion to the Heart of Christ, otherwise than other devotions popular so called, is mandatory. It belongs to the substance of the Christian religion.

Moreover within the cultus of the Sacred Heart, there are different expressions which this worship may take, and that vary according to personality, spiritual orientation and circumstances. They are not the immediate subject of our inquiry. Strictly speaking they are not "devotions" but practices of a devotion which they presuppose and from which they draw meaning and supernatural value.

Schematic Analysis

                    (ULTIMATE OBJECT is the Second Person of
                    (                the Trinity united with
                    (                the Father and Holy Spirit
                    (                in one Divine Nature
                    (         (PSYCHOLOGICAL ELEMENT is Love:
                    (         (  I. Uncreated and Divine
                    (         (     1. Immanent in the Trinity
                    (         (     2. Operative outside the Trinity
                    (         (        a. Creative and Providential      
        (OBJECTIVELY(         (           - Creation
        (           (         (           - Conservation
        (           (         (           - Universal Providence
        (           (         (                       
        (           (         (        b. Redemptive and Supernatural
        (           (         (           - Incarnation
        (           (PROXIMATE(           - Redemption
        (               OBJECT(           - Mystical Body
        (                     (           - Eucharist & Mass
        (                     (           - Divine Grace
        (                     (
        (                     (  II. Created and Human
SACRED  (                     (      1. Spiritual and 
HEART   (                     (         supernatural love in the 
DEVOTION(                     (         human will of Christ
        (                     (      2. Sensible love in
        (                     (         Christ’s bodily
        (                     (         affections
        (                     (
        (                     (SENSIBLE ELEMENT is the physical
        (                                Heart of Christ as the
        (                                Symbol or Sign of the
        (                                three-fold love: divine,
        (                                spiritual and sensible.
        (            (IN THE MIND: Recognition and Understanding of
        (            (             God's Manifestation of His Love
        (            (             through
        (            (                 - Revelation
        (SUBJECTIVELY(                 - Human History
                     (                 - Personal Experience
                     (IN THE WILL: Volitional Response to this
                                   Manifestation, through Gratitude, 
                                   to a return of Love which is
                                       - Affective
                                       - Effective

The explanation follows the preceding schema in sequence. Not all the items will be equally treated at present. Some are only summarily considered here, but reserved for fuller treatment later on. The immediate purpose is to give a comprehensive picture of the main aspects of the Sacred Heart devotion in the language of theology.

Considered objectively, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is seen in its objective or "out there" viewpoint as that something towards which our attention is directed.

Examined subjectively, the devotion is viewed in its subjective or personal response on our part. It is the reaction expected from us when we are confronted with the objective evidence of divine love.

The difference between the ultimate and proximate objects of the devotion is not subtle. Synonymous with the ultimate object is the total object to which the Sacred Heart devotion is directed. It is therefore the end or final reality envisioned by the Church in offering the cultus of the Sacred Heart to the faithful. Stated concretely, this ultimate reality is the Second Person of the Trinity, really distinct as a personality yet united with the Father and the Holy Spirit in one Divine Nature. To be stressed is the oneness of the Second Person with the other two Persons in the Godhead.

Correspondingly the proximate object is proximate because it is nearer to us. Perhaps more clearly it should be called the special object, since it represents that aspect of the Second Person upon which we specially focus. It may also be called the intermediary object, as the means by which we attain to the ultimate object of the devotion.

This proximate object has two elements, or components, which respond to our twofold nature as spirit and body. The psychological element answers to the needs of our spiritual nature, and as regards the Second Person (united with the other two in the Trinity) is the aspect of love under which we view or on which we concentrate in the Sacred Heart devotion.

The love in question is first of all uncreated and divine. However it can be seen in two different ways, either as eternally existent in the Second Person and "shared" perfectly by the Father and the Spirit; and then it is said to be immanent or interior to the Trinity. Or it can be viewed as operative outside the Trinity, in time, through the whole gamut of natural and supernatural creation.

On its operational side, divine love is productive "naturally" in the works of creation properly so-called; in the permanent conservation by which the things made are upheld in being through the omnipresence of God, to keep them from lapsing into the nothingness from which they came; and in the universal providence by which God directs all creatures to their final end.

Viewed supernaturally, divine love became Incarnate when the Second Person took upon Himself our human nature. His immediate purpose was redemptive, in that we had sinned and needed to be redeemed for our sins. At the same time, even apart from sin, the Incarnate Son of God is the unique meritorious source of supernatural life for all mankind, from the first man in Paradise to the end of time.

Christ redeemed the world by His life, passion and death. But that was only inceptive. He continues the work of redemption through the Mystical Body, which is the Church, that He founded while on earth and through which He channels all the grace to mankind.

While the Mystical Body is itself the great Sacrament of the New Law, its most efficacious means of grace is the Eucharist as sacrifice repeating the oblation of Calvary in the Mass, and as sacrament abiding with us in the Real Presence and nourishing us in Holy Communion.

Taken comprehensively, the supernatural operation of divine love in our favor is the outpouring of divine grace, which is both external and internal. Externally grace includes every creature that God places into our lives, including ourselves, as means leading us to the beatific vision; and internally grace is both the supernatural life of God in our souls and those myriad supernatural illuminations of mind and inspirations of will, by which we are directly led by the Spirit of Christ to the final destiny of our existence.

So far, the love we have been considering was uncreated and divine--either as immanent in God or as productive outside of God in the world of creatures. Now we examine the second and third objects of devotion to the Sacred Heart, which are created and human. They are made possible only because the Second Person assumed a perfect human nature, like to ours in all things except sin.

Since Christ’s humanity was a composite of soul and body, the love in Christ as man was also a composite of spiritual volition, which was graced by the infused virtue of charity in His human will to make it supernatural; and of sensible or bodily emotions, notably of those "natural" affections in which the whole man is involved and which manifest themselves internally by a variety of feelings and externally in all the words, gestures and actions which are the language of love.

Parallel with the psychological element in the devotion to the Sacred Heart is the sensible one, which is so familiar that the devotion is named after it. This element is the physical Heart of Christ, the organ of flesh in the human body of the Savior, but now considered as the symbol or sign of the threefold love which forms the psychological aspect of the devotion.

Not unlike the proximate object in its relation to the ultimate, so the sensible element is related to the psychological as means to end. We focus upon the physical Heart of Christ as the apt and natural image that symbolizes the three loves that are found in Him; but we do not stop at the image. We use it and pass through it to reach proximately the love which the Heart synthesizes, and ultimately God Himself in the Second Person united with the other two in the Trinity.

At this point we can separate the terms of our analysis into two parts, namely, "Sacred Heart" and "devotion," Taken objectively, the love to which we direct our attention under its proper symbolization corresponds to the expression "Sacred Heart." Taken subjectively, the response which this love is to evoke in us corresponds to the word "devotion."

The devotional side of the cultus of the Sacred Heart, therefore, must be our reaction to the manifestations of love, shown us in revelation in the Old and New Testaments, in the records of past and current history, both secular and religious, and, most intimately, in the personal experience that each of us has had of divine benevolence in our regard.

First the mind is to come to a knowledge of this love. The will is a blind faculty which demands evidence and motivation supplied by the intellect in order to act. Not only notional recognition but real understanding is required. And in the degree to which we see clearly and profoundly the measureless love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our wills are moved to love in return.

Derived from knowledge are two stages of volitional reaction to the love of God: gratitude and love in return.

According to St. Thomas, the basic condition for attaining to the perfect love of God is recollection of God’s benefits, since all that we have, in body and soul and external possessions, has come from Him. Consequently to love Him with a perfect heart, we must earnestly reflect on everything He has given to us." Such reflection begets gratitude, which is the fertile soil of love. (14)

Finally devotion to the Sacred Heart fructifies in love: for Christ, the God-man, and through Him to the Holy Trinity.

This love is not sterile, and the benevolence we have towards God loving us in Christ is not unproductive. It manifests itself within the volitional faculty by acts of affection, and, under command of the will, by effective deeds.

Volitional acts of affection will be mainly of three kinds, according to different motivation. Joy and complacency are stimulated by reflecting on the divine perfections, especially as incarnated in the person of Christ: His infinite wisdom and power, mercy and liberality. We are pleased to see His greatness and goodness and, without envy, join with Him in rejoicing over His perfections.

Along with complacency is the desire to increase the divine goodness as far as possible. Since we cannot do this in favor of His intrinsic perfections which are infinite, we cultivate a zealous desire to increase His external glory, through extending His kingdom in the hearts of men-- beginning with our own and extending to the whole world.

Naturally consequent is sorrow for sin if I desire to see Christ honored and loved. When I reflect on my own sins and those of others I am grieved over the dishonor done to His divine majesty and the ingratitude to the Savior's mercy. So I wish to make amends for the offenses committed against God.

My effective response to divine love, through commanded acts of the will, are counterparts of internal affection. They are essential elements of any genuine love of friendship, which consists precisely in the exchange of whatever goods are separately possessed.

My desire to advance the glory of God is manifested, beyond mere affection, by using every means at my disposal to grow in personal sanctity, and doing everything in my power to increase the knowledge and love of God in the souls of others through the apostolate.

Obversely, the sorrow I feel over sin which offends the honor of God urges me to the practice of penance and mortification to expiate these crimes and offer reparation to the Sacred Heart; and through Him to the Holy Trinity.

Symbolism of the Heart. Assuming that the physical Heart of Christ belongs to the essence of the Sacred Heart devotion, it is more than academically important to understand why this symbolism is used at all. Why should worship of the love of Christ be combined with the cultus of a symbol of His love? Do we not unnecessarily complicate the process by introducing what may seem to be an extraneous element? If I know from revelation that the guiding principle in God's relations with man, and the leading motive in Christ's work of redemption is love, does it not appear superfluous to resort to symbolization in recognizing or responding to this love?

Granted that the love of Christ is well known, it does not follow that therefore a symbol of this love is superfluous. As we know from experience, symbols or signs often serve the purpose of calling to mind what might otherwise not be adverted to, or forgotten, or not so easily recognized. Thus various colors in the vestments at Mass become symbolic of certain invisible realities like joy, hope, sorrow and penance.

Symbols have the further value of calling spiritual verities to mind and, in a way, epitomizing them under one simple form or insignia. The national flag, for instance, summarizes all the ideals and aspirations of a people; their past history and future hopes; their distinctive features as a nation.

At times symbols indicate or stand for an action, of an order of reality that transcends the image or sign. A contract countersigned by both parties may symbolize the end of years of combat, as in war, or be the treaty of cooperative actions between nations.

As we approach revelation, we find the Old Testament replete with signs chosen by God and used by Him and His prophets at every stage in the history of the chosen people. Symbolization therefore is part of the structure of the divine economy, where fire and water, light and wind, and especially the prophetic language of men like Isaias, Ezechiel and Osee are the normal way that spiritual verities are communicated to the people. The same is true with the Judaic ritual and forms of worship, in which animals were offered, gestures performed and words pronounced that were highly symbolic as expressions of internal sentiments of soul.

In the New Testament, Christ repeatedly used signs and symbols to manifest and explain the mysteries of faith. So indispensable were they to His instruction that without using the principle of analogy (which Gives substance to symbolization), these mysteries could not have become intelligible to His listeners or through them to us.

The whole sacramental system is a classic application of the same principle, where an external rite confers ex opere operato, i.e., by the very fact that the ritual is performed, the grace internally which the rite externally symbolizes.

Taken collectively, the foregoing reasons for the function of symbols may be reduced to this: they serve the purpose of making the mysteries of faith somehow more intelligible by drawing upon our knowledge things known from nature; they clothe spiritual truths in bodily form and thus help the whole man, body and soul, comprehend and respond to the thing symbolized; they help to synthesize or epitomize (somewhat as happens in mathematics) a vast quantity of ideas within a single, sensibly perceptible sign; and most importantly they not only manifest but, under divine power, may produce the spiritual effects which they symbolize.

Yet in the symbol of the Heart of Christ we have something which surpasses all that has been said. Even where the signs belong to Christian revelation, are ordained by God and have every claim, they are still external to the person of the Savior. But the Sacred Heart is part of His human nature and hypostatically united with the divinity. It is consequently an intrinsic part of the reality which it symbolizes. It not only signifies His love but experiences the affections of the Incarnate Son of God.

As described by Pius XII, the primary symbolic purpose of the physical Heart of Christ is to signify or image forth His three fold love--as God, in which He shares the divine nature with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as man in His human will endowed with supernatural grace and infused charity, and also as man in the affections of His sensitible faculties.

Therefore the basic function of the Sacred Heart, as symbol, is to manifest and proclaim to mankind the love of Christ which is the soul and center of God's economy of salvation.

More than this, the Heart of the Savior is also depictive of a new and extraordinarily effectual outpouring of His love on the human race in the present age of the world's history.

Not only is the Heart symbolic of a special descent of heavenly grace, but in quasi-sacramental fashion it confers the blessings thus symbolized. Time and again papal documents speak of both functions: of a new bestowal of divine mercy on a world that has need of more than usual assistance from God, and of the promise of an abundance of supernatural gifts out of all proportion to the effort expended or the apparent insignificance of the means used.

While there is no question of equating the efficacy of the Sacred Heart as symbol with the power of the sacraments, we have an analogy that finds warrant in ecclesiastical documents and to which the apostles of the devotion frequently refer.

Leading this efficacy is the changed attitude which the cultus of the Sacred Heart has brought into otherwise Christian circles that were tainted by the concept of a vengeful Deity, arbitrarily dividing mankind into the saved and the damned. Naturally speaking and without revelation, men scarcely come to the knowledge of a loving and merciful Providence; if they do, the concept is laden with superstition and error. The Scriptures and Christian tradition are clear enough, but the clarity was obscured. What the saints and mystics devoted to the Sacred Heart did was to restate, under the Church's direction, the elemental mystery of Christianity that "God is love," and that, in spite of appearances to the contrary, "for those who love God, all things work together unto good."

Trinity as Ultimate Object. Pius XII in Haurietis Aquas placed a new stress on the Holy Trinity being the ultimate object of devotion to the Sacred Heart. "Essentially," he said, "this devotion is nothing else than devotion to the human and divine love of the Incarnate Word, and to the love which the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit have for sinful men." Not only the human love of Christ, nor even only the love of the Second Person, but these together with the love of the First and Third Persons of the Trinity are the proper object of veneration under the symbolism of the Sacred Heart.

However long before Pius XII, the Church in her documents clarified the fact that the human and divine love of the Savior were to be the focus of attention. Pius XI in Miserentissimus Deus wrote that, "From among all the proofs of the infinite goodness of Our Savior none stands out more prominently than the fact that, as the love of the faithful grew cold, He, divine Love itself, gave Himself to us to be honored by a very special devotion."

Leo XIII in Annum Sacrum pointed out that Christ is "the only begotten Son of God the Father, having the same substance with Him." And "in the Sacred Heart is a symbol and sensible image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ," which He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

The Roman Pontiffs, therefore, not only included a responsive love of the Trinity within the ambit of devotion to the Sacred Heart; they placed the divine and infinite charity of the Second Person, united with the Father and Holy Spirit, at the acme of this devotion.

If we would find the historical source on which Pius XII drew for his clearly Trinitarian focus in the Sacred Heart devotion, we have it almost verbatim in the writings of St. John Eudes (1601-1680), a contemporary of Margaret Mary and with her the great modern apostle: of the Sacred Heart.

"We have three Hearts to adore in our Savior which, nevertheless, are but one simple Heart by virtue of the hypostatic union"--Eudes introduces his subject. What follows is his explanation of the first of these Hearts, and a summary of the Trinitarian scope of devotion to the Sacred Heart.

The first is His divine Heart existing from all eternity in the bosom of His adorable Father, which is but one Heart and one love with the love and Heart of His Father, and which, with the Heart and love of His Father, is the source of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when He gave us His Heart, He also gave us the Heart of His Father and of His adorable Spirit. Hence His marvelous words: As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. "I love you with the same Heart and the same love wherewith I love my Father."
My Father loves me with an eternal boundless and infinite love; I love you also with a love that is eternal, boundless, and infinite. My Father causes me to be what I am, God like to Himself and only Son of God; and I make you to be by grace and participation what I am by nature and essence, that is to say, gods and children of God, seeing that you have but one and the same Father as I, a Father who loves you with the same Heart and the same love wherewith He loves me. My Father has constituted me universal heir of all His goods; and I make you my coheirs. I promise to give you possession of all my treasures. My Father finds all His pleasure and delight in me; and I take my delight and pleasure in you. (15)

St. John Eudes goes on to add that "the second Heart of Jesus is His spiritual Heart, which is the will of His holy soul." While "the third Heart of Jesus is the Sacred Heart of His deified body"--the ensemble corresponding exactly to the tripartite division made by Pope Pius XII.

What bears accent, however, is that the first of these Hearts, for Eudes as for Pope Pius, is the goal and ultimate source of motivation in the cultus of the Sacred Heart. It may be worth recalling the theological foundations of this focus, how perfectly it squares with Catholic teaching on the co-equality of the three Persons.

As decreed by the Council of Florence, the three Persons are one God, not three gods. They have one substance, one essence, one nature, one divinity, one immensity, one eternity.

Because of this unity, the Father is entirely in the Son and entirely in the Holy Spirit. The Son is entirely in the Father and entirely in the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is entirely in the Father and entirely in the Son. None of the Persons precedes any of the others in eternity, nor does any have greater immensity or greater power. From eternity, without beginning, the Son is from the Father; and from eternity and without beginning, the Holy Spirit has preceded from the Father and the Son.

The clearest way to express this unity among the Persons is to call it numerical. They have but one divine nature among them.

When we speak of the Sacred Heart symbolizing, above all, the love which existed from eternity in the Second Person of the Trinity, we ipso facto include this same love as it co-existed with the Son in the Father and the Holy Spirit in their common possession of the same divine essence.

Moreover, love in respect of God can be taken in a twofold sense. It can be used essentially in so far as it implies an act of the divine will or a relation to the thing loved, and, in this sense, it is common to the three divine Persons (as noted above). St. John speaks of it when he says that "God is love." Following the explanation of St. Thomas, if love is understood essentially, the three Persons love one another and themselves by or through the divine essence. They love in one and the same act of the divine will, which is only one in God, and this act of essential love is identified with the divine essence.

But love in God may also be understood in a personal sense, in which case it means the love that proceeds from Father and Son and is the resultant of their loving. Thus conceived, divine love is a proper name for the Holy Spirit.

Both kinds of immanent divine love, i.e., interior to the Second Person and shared with Him by the whole Trinity, are signified by the symbol of the Sacred Heart. Essential love is symbolized in that all three Persons possess the same divine nature and have only one divine will. Personal love is symbolized in that Father and Son love each other mutually as a single principle of what is called "active spiration," and the terminus of their charity is the Holy Spirit, whom tradition often denominates simply as Love.

Before entering on a detailed study of the evidences of divine love in our favor, we should remember that whatever God accomplishes outside Himself in the realm of creation is the common effect of all three Persons in the Trinity. No exception can be made. From the lowest of natural and material things in the universe, to the highest in the order of grace, all are simultaneously and univocally to be attributed to the entire Triune God.

In the Scriptures, the work of creation is referred equally to one or the other of the Persons: "All things were made by Him (the Word)… The same God who works all in all….But all these things one and the same Spirit works… For in Him (the Word) were all things created in heaven and on earth."

As taught by the Church against the Albigenses, "We firmly believe that one alone is the true God…the Father generating, the Son begotten, the Holy Spirit proceeding: consubstantial, coequal, co-omnipotent, and coeternal, one principle of all things, the Creator of all visible and invisible things."

St. Augustine expressed the same idea, observing that, "as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are inseparable, so they work inseparably." And again, "The works of the Trinity are inseparable." (16)

This principle has grave importance for a proper understanding of devotion to the Sacred Heart. When we say that the primary object of this devotion is the divine, uncreated love of Christ, as operative in the world of creation, we should see that Christ as God never acts alone. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equally productive of the works of nature and grace.

Creative and Providential Love. Although the eternal imminent love in the Trinity is objectively prior, yet from our viewpoint the love of the Trinity poured on the world outside of God is subjectively prior to us. Indeed to the extent to which we recognize the depths of this divine charity expended on creatures and on us in particular, we shall also respond in love in return.

Our immediate concern is with what is commonly called the "natural" creation, as distinguished from the supernatural order of grace. Actually there is no purely natural order, and therefore all creatures, even the irrational and inanimate, participate in the elevated state to which the human family has been raised. For the sake of convenience, however, we here deal with three aspects of the created world without directly adverting to their supernatural implications. The aspects are creation itself, conservation, and divine providence.

Moreover since we are directly treating the devotion to the Sacred Heart, we confine ourselves to the bearing which divine love has on the creative and providential side of its activity. The redemptive and supernatural phase, in the strict sense, will be handled later.

God's ultimate purpose in creating is to manifest His perfection through the benefits He bestows on creatures. It is not to increase His happiness nor to acquire any perfection.

There is a true sense, of course, in which the goodness of God is the ultimate end of creation. Yet since God is infinitely perfect and perfectly happy, and would have been had the world not been made, His intention with reference to this goodness is uniquely to communicate it to creatures.

When we speak of God's intending to communicate His goodness, the latter should be taken ontologically and not just morally. In other words, it is not only that God's benevolence moves Him to communicate, but the whole panoply of His attributes, the infinite fulness of the divine being is the reason why He creates and in which He has creatures to participate.

Correlative with God's infinite altruism in creating, not for His benefit but for ours, is the sovereign freedom of this creative activity. God was in no sense compelled to bring the world, out of nothing. There was no internal necessity arising from His nature or one of His attributes which required Him to create. There was no need for Him to create, as though He would have been less perfect by not creating. God was also free not only to create or not, as He chose, but free to create this or another world had He so desired.

In terms of devotion to the Sacred Heart, the implications are manifold. Since Christ is divine, as Second Person of the Trinity He made the world out of nothing. Together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He brought into being what before had not been, and without whose infinite power it would never exist.

Being infinitely perfect, the Godhead could not profit from creating, and therefore the Sacred Heart (symbolizing the divine creative love) represents the pinnacle of conceivable generosity--sheer giving with no possibility of self advantage, and perfect love with no shadow of egotism.

Viewed from another angle, the consummate freedom with which God creates further illumines His infinite charity. If love is noble when freely given, that love must be supreme which has no constraint. Again the Heart of Christ signifies creative love at its highest, because it communicates with perfect liberty.

So much for the past. But if God created the world out of nothing, out of pure untrammeled love, then, except for that same creative power sustaining the world in being, it would lapse into the nothingness from which it came. This perpetual support of creatures in their existence is conservation, which may be called a continual creation.

God must therefore be understood as keeping all creation in existence, every moment of time, and concurring in its activity in everything it does, Necessarily, since creatures do not cease to be contingent beings, i.e., such as need not exist, once the Creator brings them into existence. They were nothing before He made them; of themselves they remain nothing no matter what they possess, since all they are and have are a continuous giving from the Creator.

Relative to the Sacred Heart as symbolic of creative love, the doctrine of conservation adds a new stress to the greatness of this love. St. Augustine wrote that "God who made things is more nigh to us than are those many things which He made." It cannot be otherwise because no matter how close other things are to us, or how much we depend on them, God is closer in the deepest sense of nearness of a cause to the effect it produces. Otherwise than secondary causes among creatures, God is the continuous Primary Cause of all things, not only bringing them into being but so utterly sustaining them that, except for this sustenance, they would not only be changed, or weakened, or even merely destroyed, but simply cease to be.

In as much as God is so near to us, we have only to recognize this nearness to profit from the reality. It puts new meaning into the Catechism answer that "God is everywhere," by focusing attention not on a pious fancy but on the metaphysical fact that God dwells in us with the kind of proximity that beggars description. Realization of this truth produces confidence in having God so near, reverence at being so close to the Infinite, humility at the condescension of God towards His creatures, prayerfulness in being able to address Him in our own souls, a sense of power in knowing that His power is so close at hand, reverence at living in such intimacy with the Deity, and a wholesome fear at the thought that nothing we could possibly do escapes Him.

However, the love of God that we worship as the Sacred Heart extends beyond creation and conservation to His providential care for mankind.

Providence means the adaptation of means to end. Theologically it is the divine ordination or disposition of all created things to their appointed end. St. John Damascene calls it "the will of God by which all things are ruled by right reason." It leaves no room for chance or fate. In our regard, it is the personal interest or concern which the Trinity takes in our welfare, directing all our actions and every circumstance of our lives towards the realization of our immortal destiny.

Thomas Aquinas, following the Scriptures, says the Providence of God is like the care with which a father governs his family, or a ruler directs a city or state. The father administers everything for the benefit of his wife and children, while the ruler's highest solicitude is for the welfare of his subjects. In both cases the providential care devoted to land, buildings and business generally is subordinated to, and regulated by, the primary end in view. The same, to an infinite degree, is how God provides for the world of creation. Everything else is administered for the sake of man, on the principle that the closer any creature approaches the nature of God, the higher its position in the order of divine Providence.

In the context of devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Providence of God is an expression of His infinite love, which implies on our part an absolute confidence in the final outcome of whatever enters our lives, or whatever we see in the world around us. Both types of Providence are significant, and call for corresponding kinds of trust: God's provident care for us personally, and His provident government of all things. The first type demands confidence that our past sins are forgiven and our weakness will be no obstacle to salvation; the second requires looking at the whole picture of reality, and not be scandalized at the prosperity of the wicked or the sufferings of the good.

The Incarnation. By any standard, the consummation of divine love towards mankind was the assumption of human nature by the Deity. In terms of devotion to the Sacred Heart, we have in the Person of Jesus Christ an expression of God's love for us that spans every aspect of His.

All three Persons of the Trinity were effective agents of the Incarnation on its physical side: in the creation of the human soul of Christ, the formation of His human body, the union of His soul and body and the further union of this body and soul with the Divinity.

However it was proper only to the Second Person to assume human nature in such close union that the nature should be sustained in existence not by anything created but by the uncreated personality of the Word of God. For although in the Trinity there is only one nature, operation and will, there are three Persons. And of these only the Son communicated His personality with human nature; only He, and not the Father nor the Holy Spirit, was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Finally since it is the property of the Holy Spirit to be the love of the Father and the Son, and to proceed from them in one spiration of charity, therefore charity, mercy, kindness, and all the effects in creation which proceed from the goodness and love of God are specially ascribed to the Third Person. For this reason the Holy Spirit is called the author of the Incarnation which, of all the works of God is the greatest proof of His love for us.

When St. Paul speaks of the Incarnation, he says, "the grace of God our Savior has appeared to all men," and thus epitomizes in a sentence the depths of divine love in becoming man.

Grace either means love and is called grace because it is given to us gratuitously and is the first divine gift from which all others proceed, or it means the gratuitous gifts themselves emanating from the love of God. In the first sense grace is present in God, in the second it is in ourselves who have received the gifts of God.

In both senses the Incarnation reaches the acme of divine love. By becoming man, God showed greater affection towards the human race than even towards the angels. "For it is not angels that He is succoring; but He is succoring the offspring of Abraham". Mankind has thus been gifted with more grace and raised to a higher degree of glory than the angels.

Further evidence of the grace of God in the Incarnation is the fact that by comparison all other works of creation pale into insignificance. The Incarnation has been called the masterpiece of God's love for man. A Virgin conceived and God is born of a woman. God descends into a stable, and man ascends to the very throne of God. Love, we know, is testified in words, works and labors undertaken for the person loved. But where words merely lead us to believe that we are loved, and works to see this love in action, labors undertaken for love of us make us feel the affection and move us to love in return.

In the Old Testament, men dared to say of the Lord, "What does God know? He judges as it were through a mist. The clouds are His covert, and He does not consider our affairs, for He walks about the poles of heaven" (16) But all this is changed. "No longer does He walk about the poles of heaven, but lies in a manger bed of straw. And more than considering the evils we suffer, He now suffers them along with us. Till now He had not known what it means to wander about at night, homeless, with no one to take Him in; but now He knows this, and much more besides. Hunger, thirst and cold are no longer strangers to Him. In Bethlehem, if anywhere, the love of God becomes not only visible but actually tangible." (17)

At the birth of Christ all the other attributes of God, except His love, were obscured and hidden from view. His power in that He became a helpless child; His wisdom because He seemed unable to speak; His goodness because He was make like to sinners, and subject to the penalties of sin; His dominion because He took on the form of a slave; His happiness because He became filled with miseries; and His majesty because He chose to be born like an outcast in the company of witless beasts. Yet in proportion as all the rest was obscured, the greatness of His love for us became more clear.

If we would appreciate the meaning of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, we must understand something of the depths of love which prompted the Son of God to become substantially united with created, human nature. If love by definition is unitive, and the intensity of love is measured by the degree of union, the hypostatic union of God and man in Jesus Christ is the ultimate that even the wisdom of God could devise.

This union is the most intimate and closest possible. All creation, of necessity, is a union between God and the thing He made and in which He dwells. For unless He were present the creature would cease to exist. But until God took abode in the womb of Mary, nowhere did He unite Himself so closely with a creature as to become one substance and being with it--so that after union, human flesh also became the flesh of God. The nearest parallel is the union of our soul and body. Just as truly as our body and soul conspire to act in harmony and the action of the one becomes the action of the other, so in Christ the union of His divine and human natures is so intimate that whatever He does as man is at the same time an action performed by God.

The union of Christ's two natures was not only most intimate, but the result of this union was a single personality. Conceivably God might have united Himself to human nature otherwise than He did. But our faith leaves no room for doubt. Although truly human, yet Christ is a divine Person. No abstraction here; no worship of an ethereal divine power but a real, living, thinking, willing Person--like ourselves as man, yet withal divine. How easy it now becomes to come to God, to pray to Him, and join our sentiments and aspirations with His.

Moreover the union of God with man is permanent. Though not eternal with the eternity of God since there was a time before God became man and a moment when He took on human nature, yet once having become man He will never cease to be so. Even during the three days between the Passion and Resurrection, the divinity of Christ was united to His human soul and body separately. After the Resurrection Christ is full man again, body and soul, body glorified and immortal, soul beatified and impassible. He will remain the God man forever.

We are liable to forget that the union between God and human nature in Christ is universal, in that although He assumed only one body and soul, yet in doing so God really took upon Himself the whole of humanity. This is no less true than if He had successively joined to His divinity a series of human beings. While it is transcendently important for our Redemption that Christ is truly God, it is equally important (and inspiring for our practice of virtue) that He is man--one of us, our Brother in the flesh, like to us in all things except sin, in whom all of us, weak and strong, black and white, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, are united in a bond so close that (in the Mystical Body) St. Paul compares it to the several members of a physical human body.

Correspondingly inspiring is the fact that God's union with human nature is sensibly perceptible. It might not have been so, but is. Here we have God, the almighty Creator of heaven and earth, sun, moon and stars, of angels and men--visible to human eyes, audible to human ears, palpable to human touch, affable to human lips. He smiles and talks and hears and walks, this man whom our faith bids us to call God.

No doubt God must love us immensely to have made possible this permanent coalescence with our nature. It is more, however, than a passive expression of charity. This union is dynamically active as the source of all gifts and graces and blessings--on earth as a prelude to heaven, and in heaven as the perfection of our joy, come to us uniquely through Jesus Christ.

Mary's role in the Incarnation is so intimate and her association with Christ so intrinsic that we cannot adequately speak of God's gift of becoming man without including the parallel gift of His Mother.

"It is highly fitting," Pius XII assures us, "that after due homage has been paid to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Christian people who have obtained divine life from Christ through Mary, manifest similar piety and love of their grateful souls for the most loving heart of our heavenly Mother.” The operative terms are "divine life from Christ through Mary," and "the loving heart of our heavenly Mother." (18)

Mary's place in the economy of salvation is that of intermediary. She freely cooperated with God in consenting to the Incarnation, giving birth to her Son and thus sharing with Him in spirit the labors of His passion and death. Truly therefore our divine life comes to us from Christ, but through Mary as His Mother,

Comparable to the three-fold love of Christ symbolized by His Heart, we venerate a two-fold love of Mary under the symbolism of her Immaculate Heart: her spiritual, supernatural charity resident in the will and her sensible affections arising from the body. Actually these two Marian loves comprehend the whole affective life of the Blessed Virgin, not excluding her mental and cognitive powers, all of which in Scripture is commonly described as the "heart," The complexus of this interior spirit is signified by the physical heart of Mary, not unlike the symbolization of the Sacred Heart.

But always the veneration to Mary's heart is the honor given to a pure creature, whose unique dignity rests on her cooperation with God in human flesh. Yet without this cooperation, we should not have the Sacred Heart of Christ, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother."

The Redemption. We pray in the Nicene Creed, "Who for us men and for our salvation descended from heaven and was made flesh." Thus the immediate purpose of God's becoming man was to redeem us from sin and lead us to heavenly glory. The devotion to the Sacred Heart, as understood by the Church in the Litany to His honor, stresses the redemptive love of God for a fallen human race. Christ is addressed as "propitiation for our sins…our peace and reconciliation…victim for sin…salvation of those who trust in Thee…hope of those who die in Thee."

Again we make the familiar distinction between the ultimate operative agent in the Redemption, which is the Trinity, and the meritorious cause of our salvation, the Second Person become man and dying on the cross to redeem us from sin. Both evidences of divine love are objects of the cultus of the Sacred Heart, but the emphasis here is on the divine love of Christ the Redeemer.

St. Paul teaches that all men, Jews and heathens, stand under the curse of sin, and that they are justified by a free gift of divine love. In other words, fallen man cannot redeem himself. "All have sinned and need the glory of God (that is, the grace of Redemption), being justified freely by His grace through the Redemption that is in Christ Jesus". (19)

God was not compelled to redeem mankind either by internal necessity or by external compulsion. Since even the elevation of man into the supernatural state is a free gift of divine love, then all the more free is the restoration of the supernatural unity with God which was destroyed by grievous sin.

Even on the presupposition of the divine resolve of Redemption, the Incarnation was not absolutely necessary. Only if God demanded a full atonement would the infinite insult to God in sin have to be balanced by an infinite act of expiation, such as a divine Person alone could perform. Since He did demand such atonement, the Incarnation was necessary hypothetically. In fact God did become man in order to satisfy the divine justice. His doing so is the greatest proof of His love.

Christ offered Himself on the cross as a true and proper sacrifice for our salvation. All the elements which constitute a sacrifice were verified. As man Christ was at the same time sacrificing priest and sacrificial gift. As God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He was also the receiver of the sacrifice. The act of sacrifice consisted in the fact that Christ, in a disposition of the most perfect self-surrender, voluntarily gave up His life to God by permitting His enemies to slay Him, although He had the power of preventing it.

Christ's vicarious atonement is superabundant, that is, the positive value of the expiation is greater than the negative value of the sin. In the words of St. Paul, "wherever sin abounded, grace has abounded yet more" (Romans 5:20).

Christ died not only for the predestined, and not only for the faithful, but for all mankind without exception. Few things bring out the significance of the Sacred Heart devotion more forcibly than this article of the Catholic faith, which the Jansenists denied and against whom (as Pius XI declared) the revelations to Margaret Mary were made. Acceding to the Jansenists, Christ died only for the predestined. This was condemned by Innocent X. Yet the latent error, of restricting God's love and limiting the fruits of the Redemption, runs deeper than Jansenism. It is almost axiomatic in religious systems outside Christianity to limit the benevolence of the Deity in favor of certain people, and consider others condemned by Fate with no recourse to mercy or, in Catholic terms, to the grace of Redemption.

Mystical Body of Christ. The most emphatic statement on the relation between the Sacred Heart and the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, occurs in Haurietis Aquas.

From the wounded Heart of our Redeemer was born the Church, which is the dispenser of His blood. From this wounded Heart the grace of the sacraments, from which the children of the Church draw supernatural life, flowed most profusely, as we read in the sacred liturgy, "From the pierced Heart, the Church, joined to Christ, is born…You pour forth grace from Your Heart." (20)

We know that the Mystical Body on earth is the Church, so that in giving birth on the cross to the Church Christ brought into being that extension of Himself which is the Mystical Body. In the context of devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Mystical Body is, after the Incarnation, the greatest gift of His love to mankind and correspondingly the most powerful motive for loving Him in kind.

In appraising the gift of His Church, the first element which should impress us is the fact that Christ adapted the society He was founding to our human nature and needs. He made it a Body, with all the qualities that characterize material reality as distinct from pure spirit.

Since the Church, in God's loving providence, is a Body, it must be perceptible to the senses, which makes membership in the Church easy to establish and the ways of salvation therefore easy to find.

Corollary to its being a Body, the Church has a multiplicity of members, with different functions, united in the prosecution of a common end. This unity in multiplicity is at once a source of strength, member from member, and an instrument of sanctification through humility, obedience and charity that need to be practiced to retain ecclesiastical unity.

The Body of Christ is a living organism, and like every vital substance requires suitable means to enter into life, to grow and mature according to its nature. "Similarly the Savior of mankind out of His infinite goodness has provided in a wonderful way for His Mystical Body, endowing it with the sacraments, so that, as though by an uninterrupted series of graces, its members should be sustained from birth to death, and that generous provision be made for the social needs of the Church." (21)

As described by St. Paul and the tradition of the Fathers, the Church is not only a Body, it is also the Body of Christ. He bears a relation to it which is so intimate that St. Augustine often equates the two, as in the phrase “Christ preaches Christ." and practically identifies the Lord with the Society which bears His name.

Our penetration into the mystery must follow the same analogy as before, comparing the Church to a human body and Jesus Christ in the role of its Founder who brought it into existence, its constant Support by His divine Spirit, and its loving Savior by His cross and eternal Redemption. Reflection on these affinities underlay the Gospel of St. John and the Pauline Epistles, and occasioned the most sublime insights of the great mystics. Under different similitudes, the alliance of Christ with the Church, as Bridegroom with His Spouse and the Vine with the Branches, is the inspiration of the Christian liturgy and the material for constant prayer. It is also the mainstay of devotion to the Heart of Christ.

Christ is the Originator of the Church, which was born of His open side on the cross. Various terms are used to describe the event: as a parturition, creation, formation, foundation and consecration. But the basic concept is the same, that "Christ by the pains of His flesh gave birth to the Church, which He clothed in the swaddling bands of His precious Blood."

Christ is also Head of the Church by a variety of titles. His relation to the Mystical Body is not only inceptive and historical, as with other founders of societies, but permanent and enduring. This relation is not merely external, as when a man produces an object outside of himself, but deeply intrinsic, where the creator of his creature is intimately bound to that which he made; and most important, Christ's affinity with the Church is not passive or impersonal, as in natural institutions between the ruler and governed, but most vital and dynamic, and comparable only to the power that flows from the human head to all the organs and members of the body.

The highest relationship between Christ and the Mystical Body goes beyond the fact that He founded the Church and directs her as the invisible Head. He sustains and animates the Body in a manner that transcends the capacity of the mind to comprehend. Just as a human body has an invisible soul which gives it life and personality, so the Mystical Body has an animating principle that gives it vital existence and finally accounts for all its activity, This principle of life is the Holy Spirit of Christ which He promised to send to those who believe in Him, symbolized in the "rivers of living water" described in St. John and used as the opening title of the encyclical on the Sacred Heart, Haurietis Aquas, "You shall draw waters with joy out of the Savior's fountains."

The immediate function of the term "mystical" is to describe the character of the union that exists in the Catholic Church as the Body of Christ.

Otherwise than in other societies, the Church is mystical because her purpose or end is supernatural, to lead her members to the heavenly Jerusalem in which the Church Militant becomes the Church Triumphant.

The Church is also mystical because it was founded not by human but by divine volition in the person of the Son of God.

Since adherence to the Church means adherence to Christ Himself, there are consequent intrinsic changes effected in her members, between themselves and with Christ, which are unknown in any merely human     institution. Hence the Church is a mystical and simply natural society.

By the same token, the Church is a mystical society because the ultimate explanation of her nature is a strict mystery, which transcends the capacity of our minds to comprehend.

Above all the Church is a mystical reality because it is supernatural. Incorporation into the Body of Christ is the fruit of selective liberality on the part of God in the person of Christ. "No one comes to the Father, except by me…Without me you can do nothing…You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." Membership in the Church, therefore, is a gift of infinite love which carries with it benefits in this life that are accepted only on faith, but destined to be recognized in their full import when we reach "to perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fulness of Christ."

A final interpretation of the mystical element in the Body of Christ, and a source of inspiration for the cultus of the Sacred Heart, is derived from the Church's character as a visible entity that confers supernatural grace on its members.

The more closely we examine the nature of the Church of which Christ is invisible Head, the more it appears that she is a combination, or better, an amalgam of two principles, the one spiritual and supernatural, and the other material and sensibly perceptible. This amalgam makes her the Mystical Body of Christ. She is not merely an invisible society known to God alone, nor a purely human institution which claims obedience in discipline and external duties, She can no more be the one without the other than man can be a body alone or a spirit alone. And in this above all we see the great love of God become man, the Founder and Sustainer of the Church.

This fusion of visible and invisible elements is causally interdependent. Comparable to what occurs in one area of the Church's operation, her sacramental system, is perennially taking place in the Church as a whole. Her external preaching of doctrine, teaching of discipline, and the juridical forms by which she governs the faithful carry the assurance of an invisible efficacy which as far transcends the material instruments used as the raising of Lazarus exceeded the sound of Christ's voice or the conversion of the Mediterranean world was beyond the capacity of a dozen Jews.

The Body of Christ is mystical, then, because it is sacramental, not only in the functional sense of an external action signifying the conferral of interior grace, but on the cosmic level of a visible entity whose Body, in all its amplitude, is a manifestation of God's loving presence on earth, begun at the Incarnation and extended to the end of time.

Christ, having been lifted up from the earth has drawn all to Himself. Rising from the dead, He sent His life-giving Spirit upon His disciples, and through Him has established His Body which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation.
Sitting at the right hand of the Father, He is continually active in the world that He might lead men to the Church and through it to join them to Himself, and that He might make them partakers of His glorious life by nourishing them with His own body and blood. (22)

Whoever is finally saved, therefore. owes his salvation to the Church. It is through the Church that Christ pours out His saving gifts of salvation on those within the "visible boundaries" of Catholicism, those who are Christians but not professed Catholics, and on that majority of the human race which is neither Catholic nor Christian. For the love of Christ, signified by His Heart, is universal in the graces won for mankind on the cross, and universal in their distribution to every child of Adam until the end of time

Eucharistic Heart of Christ. Time and again the Roman Pontiffs, in speaking of devotion to the Sacred Heart, single out the Eucharist as par excellence the object of this devotion and the greatest proof of God's love for us. "The divine Eucharist, both as a sacrament and as a sacrifice--the one He bestowed on men, the other He Himself continually offers ‘from the rising of the sun even to the going down’ and the priesthood (which makes the Eucharist possible) are all really gifts of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus." They are His "most precious benefactions" to mankind because, on reflection, they are seen to be communications of Himself. (23)

There are three aspects of the Eucharist in their relation to the Sacred Heart, each related to the other and the ensemble giving us a complete picture of this cardinal mysterium fidei. We have first the Real Presence, then Holy Communion as sacrament and finally the Sacrifice of the Mass.

To appreciate the doctrinal significance of assimilating the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart, we must examine the meaning of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The dogmatic source for this analysis is the teaching of the Church, as expressed in Mediator Dei, and Mysterium Fidei that “the Word of God is identical with the Son of the Virgin Mary, who suffered on the cross, who is present in a hidden manner in the Eucharist, and who reigns upon His heavenly throne." What does our faith mean when we profess that Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and the Christ of history (now in heaven) are identical? (24)

There are several possibilities. The Eucharist and historical Christ may be the same in having the same divine nature, or the same human nature, or in having the same human spirit, or the same human body --or in having not only the substance of the same nature, body and soul, but also the same physical properties. Faith requires us to say that in the Eucharist is the totus Christus, the whole Christ, who is present on earth in the Blessed Sacrament with all the perfections of humanity, including His living and physical Sacred Heart.

The most valuable consequence of this doctrine is that it removes the barrier of space and time between us and the visible life and death of Christ on earth. In literal truth, Christ Himself is with us in the Eucharist, God in the human flesh He received of the Virgin Mary.

We should expect the Sacrament of the Eucharist to be closely identified with the Sacred Heart since the latter devotion is primarily practiced with reference to Holy Communion, as in the Nine First Fridays or in the Communions of Reparation.

Dogmatically the Blessed Sacrament derives its meaning from the Real Presence. If the purpose of the latter is that Christ might be with us to receive our homage and love, the purpose of Holy Communion is that we might receive Him as our food.

If the finest proof of love is the desire to be near the one loved, its highest expression is the actual union of the one who loves with his beloved. No more intimate union of Christ with ourselves can be conceived, where we are joined body for body, faculty for faculty, soul for soul and Heart for heart with the God-man--all with a view to transforming us into Christ, as a prelude to the perfect union between Christ and us in heaven after death and after the last day.

The function of Holy Communion is the logical result of our physica1 union with the living Sacred Heart, namely, food for the soul's life of grace, just as necessary as natural food for the sustenance of the body; medicine for the soul's disease, venial sins forgiven as to guilt and punishment, mortal sins as to temporal punishment due to them (subsequent to confession), and the incursion of the passions healed along with the ravages of former sins; and antidote against future lapses into sin by weakening the strength of the unruly feelings, giving us wisdom to avoid occasions of sin, and shielding our wills against the allurements of vice.

All the sacraments have what is called their special sacramental efficacy, produced by their characteristic sacramental grace. In the Blessed Sacrament this grace is primarily to unite the communicant with Christ in supernatural charity, and to increase mutual love among the faithful for the love of God.

What can be more honorable or a more worthy object of desire than to be made, as far as possible, sharers and partakers in the divine nature? Now this is precisely what Christ does for us in the Eucharist, wherein, after having raised man by the operation of His grace to a supernatural state, He yet more closely associates and unites him with Himself. For there is this difference between the food of the body and that of the soul, that whereas the former is changed into our substance, the latter changes us into its own. So that St. Augustine makes Christ Himself say, "You shall not change Me into yourself as you do the food of your body, but you shall be changed into Me." (Moreover) what Christ intended when He instituted this venerable Sacrament was that by awakening charity towards God to promote mutual charity among men. (25)

The Blessed Sacrament therefore is not only the Sacred Heart in physical reality, but is also the love of God in all its aspects: it was the love of God which prompted Him to become man; it was the same love which caused Him to remain with us in His humanity under the Eucharistic species; it was love again that invites us to receive Him as God in human flesh in Holy Communion; it is mainly to increase our love for Him that we receive the Eucharist; and it is through the Sacrament that our love of God is mainly directed to a greater love of others in the works of Christian charity.

In a manner of speaking, the Real Presence allows us to be deceived in sight. We see only a wafer of what looks like bread, yet know on faith it is Jesus Christ. Holy Communion is deceptive to nature in the matter of taste. Again what seems to be bread is really the food of angels and the Body and Blood of the Son of God.

Comparably the Sacrifice of the Mass is naturally contrary to history, which tells us that Christ make only the oblation of Himself on the cross, yet we know on faith that this sacrifice is repeated on the altar in the Mass.

There are two phases in the Mass: it is first of all our sacrifice to God, the most acceptable in the world and infinitely pleasing to the heavenly Father because it means the offering of His own divine Son. The Mass is also God's gift to us, in that through the Mass He gives us the graces we need to be redeemed from sin and grow in His love.

In order to appreciate what the Mass means, we should briefly consider what it is. The Mass is Calvary. It is the same identical sacrifice offered to God the Father, i.e., the Body and Blood of His only-begotten Son, offered by this same Son, through the hands of a mortal priest. The only difference is in the manner of offering, because where the cross was bloody, the Mass is unbloody. In all essentials, however, they are the same since Christ is really and truly present on the altar, the same in human nature that He was on the cross as priest and victim.

While there are many points of contact between the Mass and devotion to the Sacred Heart, the most important is that of Reparation.

Theologically viewed, Reparation is the obverse of sin on two levels: giving honor to God precisely to compensate for the dishonor of offending God; and making some recompense in voluntary self-sacrifice to repay this debt of punishment which sin deserves because it disrupted the right created order of things.

On both levels the Mass is the most effective way of expiating sin and of making that Reparation which the Heart of Christ desires of His faithful.

Objectively, since an infinite Victim offers Himself to the heavenly Father, the propitiation for guilt and remission of punishment is potentially infinite. As expressed by a classic writer on the subject, "The entire ransom paid for our redemption, the immense treasure of satisfaction and merit which was acquired of the cross, are all upon the altar.”

Subjectively, however, the application of this remissive power of the cross through the Mass is finite, since it is conditioned by all the factors that constitute our voluntary responsiveness to the will of God. We are allowed to complete, as it were, what was wanting in the sufferings of Christ. And in the degree to which we live out this self-immolation and unite it with the oblation of Christ on the altar, we make greater or less Reparation to the divine Majesty, for guilt as well as punishment, for ourselves as well as for others.

In the degree to which our oblation and sacrifice will the more perfectly correspond to the sacrifice of Our Lord, that is to say, to the extent to which we have immolated love of self and our passions, and crucified our flesh in that mystical crucifixion of which the Apostle writes, so much the more plentiful fruits of propitiation and expiation will we garner for ourselves and for others. (26)

St. Thomas adds a note of clarification on just what in ourselves finally determines the efficacy of our reparative union with the Mass, "In satisfaction," he says, "the affection of the offerer is weighed rather than the quantity of the offering. Hence Our Lord says of the widow who offered two mites that she cast in more than all the rest. So that although this offering (of the Mass) suffices of its quantity to satisfy for all penalty, yet it becomes satisfactory in favor of the person for whom Mass is said or the person by whom Mass is offered, according to the measure of their devotion." (27) Keeping in mind that devotion is a species of love, it is love then which decides how expiatory our sacrifices are in union with the Sacrifice of the Altar.

Divine Grace. Recalling that love essentially consists in giving, and that the Heart of Christ is primarily symbolic of divine love, we see how the concept of grace fits into the economy of God's dealings with the human race. We also get some idea of how intrinsic to the worship of the Sacred Heart is a proper understanding of divine grace in all its manifestations.

If we were to single out the main element in grace, we should say it is "giving." Grace may in fact be defined as "a supernatural gift of God to rational creatures to help them attain the beatific vision." It is therefore a gift freely conferred by God, and its finality or purpose is the attainment of heaven.

Keeping these two foci in mind, "gift" and "heaven," we can see how the three principal kinds of grace--habitual, actual and external--answer to the definition. Without going into detail on one of the broadest subjects in theology, even a summary analysis should make us realize the depths of love inherent in the notion of grace.

Sanctifying grace is a supernatural state of being, which is infused by God and which permanently inheres in the soul.

The Scriptures describe justification as the presence of a divine seed in man, "whosoever is born of God commits not sin, for His seed abides in him”; (28) as the anointing, seal and pledge of the Holy Spirit; as a participation of the divine nature; as eternal life. The Gospel of St. John and the letters of St. Paul explain justification as rebirth, as a new creation, as inner renewal.

Theologians identify five special effects of sanctifying grace. Through its infusion, sin is destroyed, the soul is made beautiful before God, a person becomes a child of God and heir of heaven, a foundation received for gaining merit before God, and God enters the soul to inhabit our spirit with His special presence.

In virtue of its sanctifying power, habitual grace liberates us from grievous sin and establishes a permanent supernatural relationship to God. St. Paul calls the Christians "saints" and enjoins them to "put on the new man, which has been created according to God in justice and holiness of truth." (29)

Sanctifying grace gives the soul an ineffable beauty. Sts. Chrysostom, Basil and Ambrose compare this beauty to a vessel or statue of gold, to a crystal or gem, to transforming fire, to an image of divine activity. In fine, the beauty of the soul in grace attracts the Heart of God, and invites His outpouring love.

Adoption is the gratuitous acceptance of a person outside one's offspring to be one's son and heir. While human adoption presupposes a community of nature between the adopter and the adopted and establishes only a juridical and external relationship between them, in the divine adoption there is communication of supernatural life, a sharing in the very life of God, and a mysterious bond between the soul and God which corresponds by analogy to the natural generation of the Son of God.

Through the gift of grace, we merit from God in the sense that by our good works we acquire a real claim to supernatural reward from God. What we merit "in justice," as distinct from meriting "according to divine good pleasure," are: an increase of sanctifying grace every time we perform a good action in the state of grace; eternal life if we die in the friendship of God; and an increase of glory or happiness in heaven.

Lastly be reason of grace, we become temples of the Holy Spirit, in whom the three Persons of the Trinity dwell as in their home or habitation and establish between themselves and the person in grace a bond of friendship that can best be described as an inchoate beatific vision. This indwelling, as a manifestation of the love of God, i.e., the personal love of the Father and the Son, is appropriated to the Holy Spirit. The New Testament speaks equally of the indwelling of the first two Persons also. "If anyone love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him". (30)

In addition to the transcendent gift of sanctifying grace, the love of God confers numerous actual graces on the soul. They are called actual because they come and go, and their function is to assist in the performance of supernatural acts.

Since we are examining grace against the background of the Sacred Heart which symbolizes divine love, it is enough to review here the evidence of Gods liberality and generosity in the bestowal of actual graces on the soul.

Given the fact that these graces are supernatural, they are absolutely undeserved, unmerited by themselves through any naturally good deeds on our part, and, except for the love which moves the Trinity to communicate, are above (super) all the demands, rights, privileges and powers not only of humanity but of all created natures, whether human or angelic.

Yet they are indispensable for salvation: whether for the beginnings of faith in the unbeliever, or the first turning to God for the sinner, or for resisting severe temptations and meeting heavy trials, or, what is most necessary, for keeping in the friendship of God over a long period of time even to final perseverance.

Clearly not all persons are objects of the same amount or intensity of grace, here considered as illumination of mind and inspiration of will. Certainly God wills all men to be saved, and beyond salvation desires their sanctification. Nevertheless in the designs of providence those who receive more have more to be grateful for. Here especially the cultus of the Sacred Heart takes on a rare dimension. If the Heart in general signifies God's love, the extent and depth of this love (and its personalization) are not the same for all. Nowhere it seems do these differences and variations become more prominent than in the distribution of actual graces; which means that both the intensity and peculiarity of these supernatural visitations in my regard should determine the intensity and particularity of my return of love to God.

Recalling our generic definition of grace, we saw it is a gift of God which leads a soul to the beatific vision. Included in this concept are habitual or sanctifying grace (internally uniting the soul with God) and actual grace that is specially and directly infused into the mind and will by divine power. The latter is internal grace because God produces it supernaturally within the soul.

However, besides actual internal graces there are also actual external ones which are external precisely because not produced immediately by God inside the mind and will, but originating instead in some created object--beginning with ourselves and extending through the whole gamut of creation. In a word, external graces are any and every creature which enters or forms part of our lives, and is therefore providentially intended to lead us to the beatific vision.

Thus the two essential elements are verified in external grace: it is a gift, since nothing in our lives beginning with ourselves is strictly due to us but comes from the divine bounty, and its finality is to be instrumental on the road to heaven.

In general, everything under God's supernatural providence except formal sin, qualifies as an external grace. There are no exceptions: spiritual and material things, the pleasant and painful, persons and things are all graces.

These external graces operate in three ways to effect their purpose as instruments of salvation and sanctification: they purify, enlighten and unite the soul with God.

Purification is accomplished by cleansing us of inordinate affections and fears. While the process differs for different people, as a rule God uses painful creatures to detach us from pleasant things which are not good, and to call forth from us patience and confidence in the acceptance of the unpleasant things of life.

Illumination by way of creatures should be looked upon as God's own spiritual direction. Creatures are the normal method He uses to teach us what we should know of His will, how His will must be fulfilled, how much we need Him to remain faithful to His demands on our generosity, and who besides ourselves ought to be loved and attended to in the service of God.

Not the least secret that creatures teach is the lesson of our own weakness and futility, which engender humility of heart; and correspondingly of the emptiness of creation to satisfy our deepest desires, which strengthens our conviction that our hearts were indeed made only for God and cannot rest until they rest in Him.

Union with God is the terminal effect of purification and light through the creatures that God places into our lives. The principle underlying this unitive function is that God loves us through creatures and desires to be loved by us through creatures in return.

Moreover the mode of God's loving us through creatures is the pattern of what our charity towards Him should be., His love is selfless, since as an infinitely perfect Deity He cannot be enriched by whatever we give Him; it is effective in that He brought His eternal affection for us into overt effect outside of Himself through creation and subsequent gifts; it is indwelling love since He abides in all His gifts, naturally and supernaturally; it is a laborious love which, in human language, exerts itself in tracing our meandering ways and in spite of infidelities never tires of pursuing us; and lastly it is a self-giving love whose purpose in giving us creatures is only that terminally we might possess the Creator in heavenly beatitude.

No where does the Sacred Heart more dramatically symbolize the love of God than in Christ's conferral of grace from Him as God, through Him as Man, and leading to Him as the Man-God who is the consummation of man's existence.

Grace and the Human Affections of Christ. In our analysis of the proximate object of devotion to the Sacred Heart, we have so far examined the main aspects of divine love specifically as divine and uncreated. We saw this love revealed itself as immanent within the Trinity, and manifests itself in the natural and supernatural orders of creation, the Incarnation and the economy of divine grace.

As we should expect, this uncreated love of God, symbolized in the Heart of Christ, holds priority in our devotion. However it is not the only object of veneration and, in fact, viewed from our approach to Christ comes after the human phase in which the Savior appears as man, endowed with volitional powers and affections like ours, and enriched with supernatural charity.

It would seem needless to emphasize the fact that Christ had a true human will once we assume that His humanity was perfect in all essentials. Yet there were some who denied this, and while their error is no longer prominent it remains as a constant reminder that the Savior was not a strange divine energy masking under human form, but God Himself in the fulness of our humanity.

The Monothelites argued that if we admit two wills in Christ, human and divine, we must admit that the will of Christ as man was not the will of God, and that the one was contrary to the other; therefore in Christ, there can be only one will, the will of God.

But this is specious. It does not follow, if there are two wills in Christ, they must be contrary to one another. Christ Himself said He came not to do His own will but that of the Father who sent Him. His whole life was one of submission to the will of the Father. Physically in Christ there are two wills, although morally speaking there was but one, because the human will was in all things subject to the divine.

How important this is may be seen from its consequences. If the Savior had no human will, His humanity would have been a lifeless instrument in the hands of the Divinity. Without a human will all His obedience to the Father--"Not my will but thine be done"--would have been pretence. If He had no human will He had no human virtue, no merit. His death would have been no free-will offering, the Cross would be void and we are still in our sins. No wonder the Church has always held that while Christ's human will was perfectly submissive to God, it was truly distinct from the divine will and free in all its operations.

Accordingly our attention, under the symbol of the Sacred Heart, to the human love of Christ (and not only His divine) is directed to something most real and empirical, of which the pages of the Gospels give us ample evidence and which continues to be active in the Son of Man abiding with us in the Eucharist and living in heaven at the right hand of His Father.

The Holy Spirit dwells in Christ with such fulness of grace that greater cannot be conceived. This is confirmed by the Scriptures which bear witness to the sanctification of Christ's humanity through created grace. "Full of grace and truth," says St. John. And in the Acts of the Apostles we are told "how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit."

Among other reasons why the human soul of Christ was gifted with sanctifying grace, is the fact that it made possible His outpouring of grace upon the human family through supernatural merit.

From Jesus Christ there flows into the Body of the Church all light through which the faithful receive supernatural enlightenment, and every grace, through which they become holy, as He Himself is holy. Christ the Founder and Originator of holiness. Grace and glory rise up from His inexhaustible fulness.

Christ's fulness of grace, therefore, which derives from the hypostatic union, is the reason why the grace of Christ, the Head, overflows to the members of His Mystical Body.

Concerning the Word Incarnate, who is full of grace and truth, St. John says, "and of His fulness we have all received; grace for grace". St. Paul teaches that Christ as man is Head of the Church, which is His Mystical Body. Just as a person's life is regarded as being sited principally in the head, so the supernatural life-power of grace flows from Christ, the Head, to the members of His Mystical Body.

We distinguish, of course, between Christ's bestowal of grace as God and as man. As God He is the author of grace, creating this gift by divine power; as man, however, His humanity is the instrument of the Godhead. By reason of His divine dignity, He merited grace through His human activities, especially His passion and death--but only because His soul was filled with sanctifying grace which is the basis of human merit. As instrumental cause, He confers grace on us, i.e., upon individuals; through the ordinary channels and by means of the sacraments, notably the Holy Eucharist and the Mass.

The activity of Christ, the Head, in bestowing grace, extends first of all to all actual members of the Mystical Body. Yet it goes beyond this actual membership to affect also the potential members of Christ's Church. The former receive His grace as by a title in virtue of their incorporation into the Body of Christ; the latter receive it through divine liberality, but never in such abundance or with such assurance that their lot equivalates the condition of practicing Catholics. Their state, even in good faith, is one in which they remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps that can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church.

All the graces, then, that are promised in such abundance through devotion to the Sacred Heart come to us from Christ as God, through Christ as man, and because of Christ the God-man, whose divine love created these supernatural gifts and whose human love merited them for us on the Cross and now channels to us through His Mystical Body.

It would be easy, to make an anthology of passages in the New Testament in which the affections of Christ are stated or implied, although the list might well cover most of the narrative portion of the Gospels and all the Christological texts in St. Paul.

St. Mark recalls the dialogue between Jesus and the rich young man, who asked what he should do to gain eternal life. After he told the Master that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, "Jesus looking upon him, loved him".

St. John's Gospel is a mosaic of statements by and about Christ in which His affectionate personality is vividly portrayed by "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He is said to have "loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." On the night before He dies, Christ, "having loved His own who were in the world, loved them to then." This was the prelude to His discourse at the Last Supper in which He told His followers to "love one another as I have loved you" and thereby established a new law in human relations, unknown before in the Gentile or even the Jewish world.

St. Paul's constant exhortation to the Christians is that they "walk in love, as Christ also has loved us". The model of the early Christians, virgins and the married, is the love which the Son of God in human form had shown to a fallen mankind.

More important, however, than recalling these passages is seeing their implications. The sensible affections of Christ approach the heart of the Sacred Heart devotion.

The immediate sensible object of this devotion is the physical Heart of flesh in the man, Christ Jesus. Correspondingly the immediate form of love which the Heart symbolizes is bodily, as manifested in the sense affections of the Savior's humanity. Unless He had these emotions, and unless the Heart were a valid symbol of their presence and activity the devotion to the Sacred Heart would have no basis in reality and much less have become what the Popes have called it, “the substance of the Christian religion."

The sensible affections of Christ were never separated from the spiritual, even as our bodily emotions are always conjoined with movements of the will. And since Christ was at once God and man, they were also concomitant with the actions of His divine will--thus leading us from the external evidence of the senses to the knowledge of things invisible, and indeed hidden in the bosom of God. In a word, we come to recognize the depths of Christ's infinite love for us as God from the manifold proof of His sensible love for us as man.

In worshiping the Heart of the Savior we may adore it with the same veneration as belongs to the Deity because the Heart is hypostatically united to the person of the Divine Word. What we see with bodily eyes is the manifestation of human affections, what we understand by reason is a close relation between the heart and bodily emotions, what we believe on faith is that the affections are those of a human nature united to the divinity and therefore the Heart from which they derive is the very Heart of God.

Since Christ is, the same, yesterday, today and forever, His human affections have not ceased with the Resurrection and Ascension. He continues loving us in heaven, and on earth in the Eucharist, with all the natural intensity that we find described in the Gospels. One of the special joys of heavenly glory is to love and be loved by God become man, showing His affection in bodily form.

As true man, with natural emotions like ours, Christ’s sensible love was truly spontaneous. Sometimes we fear that because He was gifted with integrity and therefore had no concupiscence, His feelings lacked that "human touch" which we associate with an instinctive response to stimuli. We forget that integrity does, of course, imply dominion over the appetitive faculties, including the senses; but it does not deny the presence of spontaneity. It only excludes the wrong kind of impulse, which is possible in us but was impossible for Christ. His affections had all the "naturalness" that we admire in human beings, joined to a balanced personality whose feelings were always coordinated with the mind and subordinated to God.

More than once we read in the Gospels how deeply Christ felt and how sensitive He was in His emotional life. He wept over the city of Jerusalem, and again over the death of Lazarus. He was keenly hurt over the rejection by His people, and saddened by the prospects of His passion and death. How perfectly human His complaint to the chosen three in Gethsemani, that they could not watch one hour with Him. At the thought of death and its circumstances, His sweat became as drops of blood. In all this, we learn that affection, sensible emotion, is good; it must be since nothing sinful is conceivable of Christ. We also get some insight into the mystery of God's dealings with men; allowing some to love ardently and be hurt easily at the least coldness or indifference. It was part of the price that Christ paid for our salvation, permitting His sensitive nature to be pained in the very act of having His love ignored and despised.

Responsive Love of the Sacred Heart. The counterpart to the objective side of devotion to the Sacred Heart is our subjective response in mind and will to the divine and human love of the Son of God.

There are two elements, therefore, in the worship of Christ's Heart. One we have seen at length, which comprehends all the manifestations of love that the physical Heart of Jesus signifies. Without this objective evidence of love, there would be no goal or terminus for devotion and no basis for loving in return. By nature and grace we are so constituted that we love only that which is loveable, and in the degree to which its loveableness is seen.

Correlative with this are the reactions that love objectively manifest should produce in us. The faculties of mind and volition are concerned, and in both cases the subjective aspect of devotion is involved, although not in the same way.

Responsiveness of mind to the evidence of God's love corresponds to the first of the theological virtues, namely, of faith. Just as faith in general means the assent of intellect to what God has revealed, and believing the truths of revelation on His divine word; so in the cultus of the Sacred Heart, the mind has first to believe and firmly assent to the evidence of God's myriad revelations of love.

Given faith in this revelation, the will carries on through hope and charity to look forward to the good things that God in His love has promised and, with His grace, to rise even above self-advantage to a perfect love of God in Himself, which is the end-point of devotion to the Sacred Heart.

In the preceding analysis many phases of this subjective response have already been touched upon, though more implicitly than overtly. Here we shall briefly schematize the main issues involved, with stress on the one element that formally defines our return of love to God's previous love of us. This element refers to the will, while presuming the mind having done its part, since it is by the will that we are properly said to practice virtue and only through the will are capable of committing sin.

The schema which follows should be taken as a complement to the one given in the opening. It fills out the devotion part of the worship of the Sacred Heart, as distinct from the dogmatic part already seen. The two together give us what we need, personally and in the apostolate. Without the latter, there is risk of reducing devotion to the Heart of Christ to a passing form of piety; without the former we should have knowledge perhaps but without supernatural fruit.

Analysis of Responsive Love

        (SELF-INTERESTED (Love of Concupiscence,
        (                 which corresponds to the virtue of Hope)
OUR LOVE(             (UNREQUITED (Never verified, since God always
  OF GOD(             (            requites our love for Him)
        (             (
        (             (
        (             (                             (Mutuality
        (             (          (ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS(
        (             (          (                  (Communication 
        (             (          (
        (DISINTERESTED(          (
          (Love of    (          (                         
          Benevolence)(          (MOTIVE = Absolute Goodness of God
                      (          (   
                      (          (   
                      (          (               (Primary is God   
                      (          (MATERIAL OBJECT(   
                      (          (               (Secondary is Self   
                      (          (                and Neighbor
                                 (         (Affective:
                                 (         ( - Joy and Complacency
                                 (         ( - Zealous Desire
                                 (         ( - Sorrow for Offenses
                                 (     ACTS(
                                 (         (Effective:
                                 (         ( - Labor for God’s Glory
                                 (         ( - Reparation for Sin
                                 (          (Memory of God’s Benefit
                                 (          (
                                 (          (Reflection on God’s
                                 (          (      Perfections
                                 (REQUISITE (
                                            (Detachment from Creatures
                                            (Avoidance of Sin

Explanation of the Analysis. Our purpose is to place into context the definition which Haurietis Aquas gives of the devotion to the Sacred Heart: "It is essentially devotion to the love with which God loved us through Jesus, and is at the same time an enlivening of our love for God and man." Viewed from our standpoint, then, the devotion can be superimposed on the theological structure of what the Church teaches us should be our love for God, and of our fellowman for the sake of God. No facet or angle of the worship of the Sacred Heart is alien to this structure.

Self-interested love of God is also called the love of concupiscence, not because of any relation to the sense faculties but because God is loved for the benefits we desire of Him rather than for Himself. Since this love looks to the future, it may be equated with the virtue of hope: whose basic quality is a confident desire of possessing God and of receiving from His hands all the requisite means for attaining final beatitude.

The virtue of hope emphatically belongs to the Sacred Heart devotion, nor should any shadow be cast on its practice, just because it seeks the things of God in the form of self-advantage and not precisely for the sake of God alone.

In practice the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart are a concrete expression of this phase. They are so many assurances of grace and help from Christ to those who are faithful in giving honor to His Heart, ranging from "a large blessing on all their undertakings," to the Great Promise of final perseverance for those who make the Nine First Fridays in a spirit of reparation to the Savior.

Disinterested Love is called the love of benevolence because it wills good to the one loved, without looking for any advantage to itself. In human relations, this benevolence may be one-sided; but with God there is no question of loving Him without being loved in return. He always loves those who love Him. With Him, therefore, the relationship is invariably a love of friendship.

This love of benevolence is the very soul of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Pius XII emphasizes this when he calls the devotion "a most sacred obligation." The faithful, he explains, "know with certainty, that they are primarily led to worship God not for their own spiritual or physical, temporal or eternal advantage, but on account of the goodness of God, whom they seek to serve by loving Him in return, by adoring and thanking Him. If this were not true, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus would not be in accord with the true nature of the Christian religion." (31)

Love of Friendship cannot be mistaken. It carries the twofold mark of mutuality of affection and an effective sharing of gifts between the two who love each other. In the worship of the Sacred Heart, this mutual communication is meant to affect the whole of one's life, as expressed in the Morning Offering, in which an oblation is made of "all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings." Untrammeled love is to animate all of our actions, if not at the very moment they are performed, at least by intention at the beginning of the day.

The Motive of perfect love is what most clearly distinguishes it from all other virtues and even from acts of charity which are not disinterested love. This motive is the absolute goodness of God, which means the goodness of God as it is in itself and not as beneficial to the person loving.

Viewed as devotion to the Sacred Heart, this object of my charity comprehends all the divine perfections: infinite wisdom and power, liberality and mercy, beauty and magnanimity. These perfections come to be known and appreciated from reflection on the love of God in its countless manifestations, whether as revealed in the Sacred Books, or taught by Christian tradition, or experienced in my own personal life.

The Material Object of disinterested love is primarily God Himself, but includes the person 1oving as well as every rational creature who is loved for the sake of God. If I say that I love Him, I must love He loves, and for the same reason. Among the objects of His love are myself and my neighbor. Yet when my love of self or others is truly disinterested, the motive behind it is not personal benefit--no matter how spiritual--but the sheer good pleasure of God.

Acts of the Love of God may be interior and affective, or they may be commanded by a loving will and thus effective. Devotion to the Sacred Heart spans both types, although with certain accents that are characteristic.

Pius XII warned "all to be firmly convinced that in showing devotion to the most august Heart of Jesus, external acts of piety do not play the first and foremost role,” This does not mean that external manifestations of love are frowned upon, but only that to be truly effective they must proceed from a will internally animated with an abiding affection for the Savior.

A short but important distinction should be made between effective love of God which is visibly externalized, as in vocal prayers or liturgical devotions, and effective love which is "external" only in the sense that the free will directs another faculty, like the mind or feelings, to do (or refrain from doing) something from a motive of love. In the latter sense all our internal sentiments of knowledge and experience are subject to this motivation; and accordingly our whole interior life can become a continuous expression of divine love.

Consecration to the Heart of Christ gives these acts of love permanence and stability, and has been recommended often by the Holy See. According to Pius XI, "Among the different practices which directly accompany devotion to the most Sacred Heart assuredly the foremost is the Act of Consecration by which we offer to the Heart of Jesus both ourselves and all that belongs to us, recognizing that all we have comes to us from the infinite charity of God."

Personal consecration may be said to add the qualities of deliberateness, specification and sublime motivation to the fundamental consecrations of Baptism and Confirmation. When we consecrate ourselves to the Sacred Heart, we make a fully conscious act of the will from which results a true engagement of honor that may have been only vague before. We pledge ourselves to the divine Heart to live a life of entire dependence and trustful self-surrender to the will of the Redeemer.

Reparation to the Sacred Heart singles out the injustice done to our God's mercy and seeks to expiate by a voluntary oblation the sins that a person has himself committed, or that others committed against the divine Majesty.

It may take two forms, or rather, has two stages which parallel the affective and effective love of God. On the affective level, the soul that loves Christ is internally pained at the recollection of its own past offences, and the realization of how frequently and deeply divine love is spurned by ungrateful men and women. The affronts against God are taken personally and arouse feelings of sorrow that faintly approximate the experience of Christ in the Garden of Olives.

On the effective level, a soul thus inspired does all it can to undo the evil which sin has caused in the lives of men, to forestall a repetition of the same sins in the future, to pray and ask God for mercy on sinners--either that they return to God's friendship or be relieved of the penalties due to their crimes, and to expiate through penance and mortification the punishment which sins invariably deserve.

The Apostolate is equally intrinsic to the authentic devotion of the Sacred Heart. It is not a coincidence that the principal juridical form which this worship has taken in modern times is the "Apostleship of Prayer." Not only prayer belongs to the devotion. All the works of Christian zeal in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are under the same aegis. So that unless present and active, the devotion is suspect and falls under the ban of Christ.

Consistent with this apostolate theme is the equation that Christ made between love of neighbor and love of Himself. In fact He identified the fulness of His discipleship with the practice of charity, not only as the hallmark of His special friends but as a condition of salvation.

Self-sanctification also comes within the scope of an effective love of God in the devotion to the Sacred Heart. If I truly love God I wish to do all I can for Him, as far as this is humanly and objectively possible. Since God is all perfect, I cannot profit Him in any way, or make Him more happy, But I can profit those with whom His love identifies Itself, namely, the souls redeemed by His blood--beginning with myself and extending to every person in whose favor I can exercise my zeal.

The Lord is glorified, as God the Creator and in the person of Christ, in the measure that I become more holy, since glorifying God is nothing else than the loving recognition and service He receives from His creatures.

Certain conditions are requisite for growing in the love of God or, for our purpose, in the devotion to the Sacred Heart. They are logically related to the essence of love as demanded by the nature of man and by the supernatural destiny to which this love tends.

The memory of God's benefits and reflection on His perfections we have seen in detail. It may be worth adding, however, that something more than a cursory glance at the divine goodness is necessary. Assiduous meditation on the love of God in all its manifestations, especially in the person of Christ, joined to a lively faith will bring to light hidden resources of spiritual motivation that should otherwise not be found.

Moreover, we should remember that God manifests His loving attributes not only in the world of nature, and not only in the physical person of Jesus Christ, but also in the mystical personality of His Church: in the saints and martyrs, priests and religious, the laity of all classes and in every nation. Nor does the revelation stop here. It may be recognized by those with eyes to see in every circumstance of their lives, and in every blessing they receive, not excluding the painful and including what those who are blind to reality call "chance."

Detachment from creatures and avoidance of sin are interrelated and obviously needed for vital development in divine love. In proportion as a man is detached from creatures, he will become attached to God. And the only obstacle to growth in charity is inordinate self-love.

While seldom mentioned in literature on the Sacred Heart, the practice of frequent confession as a means of becoming detached and avoiding sin should be called to mind. Certainly frequent Communion is more directly productive of divine love than the Sacrament of Penance. Yet the latter is a most effective agent for cleansing the soul of those very stains which prevent Holy Communion from producing its full sacramental result.

More than perhaps anything else, the work of becoming spiritually indifferent to creatures and avoiding sin costs most in human effort. Faith tells us that before God what alone matters is the effort we expend and the good will we show, under divine guidance, in the pursuit of Christian perfection. It may seem like a paradox but is eminently true that self-conquest belongs to the essence of devotion to the Sacred Heart, much as the foundation belongs to a building or the roots to a mighty tree. Without detachment from creatures, I should scarcely love the Creator and never for Himself alone; and the more carefully I try to avoid sin, the more nearly I reach the Heart of God.

Chapter X - References

  1. "An observer as dispassionate as Vincent de Paul has said in so many words that Jansenism was born of the desire to discredit the Jesuit Order, and historically the new heresy can best be understood if Jansenius is viewed as the antithesis of Ignatius of Loyola, as the contradiction of, and a reaction against, the Jesuits' teaching on grace, their ascetical and moral theology, their principles on the frequent reception of the Sacraments, and their strong attachment to Rome" (Pastor, The History of the Popes 29 [London, 1938] 152).

  2. Ibid., 151.

  3. Loc. cit.

  4. The five basic propositions taken from the Augustinus were first condemned by Innocent X (May 31, 1653), and subsequently twice by Alexander VII (Oct. 16, 1656 and Feb. 15, 1664). The final condemnation was under Clement XI (July 16, 1705).

  5. Bullarium Taurinense, XV, 720a sq.

  6. Benvenuto Matteucci, Scipione de' Ricci (Morcelliana, 1941) 138.

  7. Memorie di Scipione de' Ricci 1 (Firenze, 1865) 490.

  8. Pastor, op. cit., 39, 149.

  9. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Collectio, XXXVIII, 1261-1282.

  10. Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, I, 4.

  11. John XXIII, Journal of a Soul, New York, 1965, pp. 73-74.

  12. Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, II, 63-70.

  13. Ibid., I, 10.

  14. St. Thomas, De Duobus Praeceptis Caritatis (Opuscula Omnia), Paris, IV, p. 420.

  15. St. John Eudes, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, New York, p. 126.

  16. St. Augustine Contra Sermonem Arianorum, 15 (MPL 42, 694).

  17. Job 22:13-14.

  18. St. Robert Bellarmine, "Sermo de Triplici Nativitate," Opera Omnia, IX, Paris, pp. 87-90.

  19. Haurietis Aquas, V, 192.

  20. Romans 3:23-24.

  21. Haurietis Aquas, III, 75.

  22. Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, I, 18.

  23. II Vatican Council Constitution on the Church, VII, 48.

  24. Haurietis Aquas, III, 71.

  25. Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, V, 7.

  26. Leo XIII, Mirae Caritatis (Encyclicals of Leo XIII, New York, pp. 522 (?).

  27. Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, II, 11.

  28. St. Thomas, Summa Theological, III, 79, 7, 2.

  29. I John 3:9.

  30. Ephesians 4:24.

  31. John 14:23.

  32. Haurietis Aquas, IV, 121-122.

Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon gave to the
Institute on Religious Life

Institute on Religious Life, Inc.
P.O. Box 410007
Chicago, Illinois 60641

Copyright © 2004 Institute on Religious Life

search tips advanced search

What's New    Site Index

Home | Directory | Eucharist | Divine Training | Testimonials | Visit Chapel | Hardon Archives

Adorers Society | PEA Manual | Essentials of Faith | Dictionary | Thesaurus | Catalog | Newsletters

Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association
718 Liberty Lane
Lombard, IL 60148
Phone: 815-254-4420
Contact Us

Copyright © 2000 by
All rights reserved worldwide.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior
written permission of