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
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
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
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 itis 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."
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
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
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
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.
(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
( ( Christs 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
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
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
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 Christs 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 Gods 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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, Christs
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
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
( ( (
(Love of ( (
Benevolence)( (MOTIVE = Absolute Goodness of God
( ( (Primary is God
( (MATERIAL OBJECT(
( ( (Secondary is Self
( ( and Neighbor
( ( - Joy and Complacency
( ( - Zealous Desire
( ( - Sorrow for Offenses
( ( - Labor for Gods Glory
( ( - Reparation for Sin
( (Memory of Gods Benefit
( (Reflection on Gods
( ( Perfections
(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
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
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
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
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
- "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).
- Ibid., 151.
- Loc. cit.
- 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).
- Bullarium Taurinense, XV, 720a sq.
- Benvenuto Matteucci, Scipione de' Ricci (Morcelliana, 1941) 138.
- Memorie di Scipione de' Ricci 1 (Firenze, 1865) 490.
- Pastor, op. cit., 39, 149.
- Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Collectio, XXXVIII, 1261-1282.
- Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, I, 4.
- John XXIII, Journal of a Soul, New York, 1965, pp. 73-74.
- Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, II, 63-70.
- Ibid., I, 10.
- St. Thomas, De Duobus Praeceptis Caritatis (Opuscula Omnia), Paris, IV, p. 420.
- St. John Eudes, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, New York, p. 126.
- St. Augustine Contra Sermonem Arianorum, 15 (MPL 42, 694).
- Job 22:13-14.
- St. Robert Bellarmine, "Sermo de Triplici Nativitate," Opera Omnia, IX, Paris, pp. 87-90.
- Haurietis Aquas, V, 192.
- Romans 3:23-24.
- Haurietis Aquas, III, 75.
- Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, I, 18.
- II Vatican Council Constitution on the Church, VII, 48.
- Haurietis Aquas, III, 71.
- Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, V, 7.
- Leo XIII, Mirae Caritatis (Encyclicals of Leo XIII, New York, pp. 522 (?).
- Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, II, 11.
- St. Thomas, Summa Theological, III, 79, 7, 2.
- I John 3:9.
- Ephesians 4:24.
- John 14:23.
- Haurietis Aquas, IV, 121-122.
Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon gave to the
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