Heart of Jesus, Symbol of Love
“Announce it, and let it be announced to the whole world, that I set neither limit nor measure to My gifts of grace for those who seek them in My Heart!”
–Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
The Church, governed and taught by the Holy Ghost, has approved and recommended devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and has enriched it with many indulgences. She has instituted the Feast of the Sacred Heart, which, in the course of years, has increased in extent and solemnity until now it is celebrated solemnly with an octave by the universal Church on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi.
Confraternities have been established, and throughout the Christian world numberless altars, chapels and churches have been dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Through the Apostleship of Prayer, millions of the faithful daily offer all their prayers, works and sufferings for the intentions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. During the past two hundred years or more, the Popes have zealously employed their sovereign power in fostering devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Pope Leo XIII, toward the end of his long pontificate, consecrated the whole human race to the Sacred Heart. Thus the Church has, as it were, earnestly forced this devotion upon us. Zealously to promote the Sacred Heart devotion means to work in the Spirit of God, who ordains that at all times the Church should adopt just that devotion which is of most profit to her, because the Holy Spirit knows the needs of the times and the remedies for the times.
In our age of religious indifference, when fervor and charity have grown cold, Jesus exhibits to the world His Sacred Heart as the symbol of God’s infinite love—the symbol of His own generous self-sacrificing love for men. Jesus shows His Divine Heart as a furnace whose burning rays of love are able to reanimate faith and rekindle love in hearts grown cold and ungrateful.
But why His Heart? Because in every language, in every age, the heart is regarded as the natural symbol of love and affection. What more natural and expressive symbol is there, then, of the excessive love of Jesus than His Sacred Heart? The direct and material object of devotion to the Sacred Heart is the real, physical Heart of Jesus—the Heart of flesh, the living and loving Heart of our Blessed Lord; the Heart that beat in His Divine breast at the moment of the Incarnation.
The Heart that loved us during the life of Jesus on earth, that poured forth Its blood to the last drop on Mount Calvary; the beatified Heart now glorious in Heaven and still dwelling among us in the Blessed Sacrament; the Heart ever united to the Person of the Divine Word, to whom is due supreme homage and adoration.
Besides the direct and material object of the devotion, there is another, called the spiritual object, and that is the infinite charity or love of Jesus Christ, of which His Sacred Heart is a symbol. The substance of devotion to the Sacred Heart really consists in calling to mind and in venerating the unbounded charity and excessive love of our Redeemer under the symbol of His Heart.
In 1765 Pope Clement XIII, when granting permission to the Order of the Visitation for the observance of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, expressed the wish that the faithful in celebrating this feast should:
“Call to mind the principal benefits received from the love of Jesus: 1st, in assuming our nature (His Incarnation); 2nd, in suffering and dying for our Redemption (His Passion); and 3rd, in instituting the Sacrament of His Body and Blood (the Holy Eucharist).”
By this devotion, Holy Church desires to reveal to the faithful the most holy affections, desires and movements of the Sacred Heart, through which our Saviour honored His Heavenly Father, sanctified the faithful and presented Himself to mankind as the perfect model of eminent sanctity. These emotions of the Heart of Jesus are: a burning zeal for the glory of His Father, a boundless love for all mankind, a most profound humility, an unconquerable patience, a total sacrificing and devoting of self to the will of the Father, a perpetual adoration of God’s sovereign Majesty, an unceasing act of thanksgiving, etc.
All these emotions and affections were present even at the first moment of His Incarnation; they animated His Heart to the last moment on the Cross and will continue to animate His Heart in the Blessed Sacrament to the end of time.