The most ancient special devotion of Christians is doubtless that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Son of God. The holy Sacraments and the other objects of devotion did not yet exist, when the Blessed Virgin Mary found her delight in worshiping the most Sweet Heart of her Jesus; already did Holy Joseph clasp that Heart to his bosom; even then were the Shepherds and the Magi, Simeon and Anna, the Apostles and the disciples attracted to It and by It: they longed to show to It the affection and love of their hearts. But after Jesus had called upon all men to learn, “that He is meek and humble of Heart;” after He had drawn from the treasury of His heart that best of all gifts, the Sacrament of the Most Blessed Eucharist; lastly, after He had willed that, upon the Cross, His Heart should be opened, and continue open, as a place of refuge for all; then was devotion to His divine Heart wonderfully increased.
The Apostles now spread it throughout the world as a special worship. Thenceforth, the Fathers of the Church themselves practiced it most tenderly, and commended it most carefully to others. The Saints of every after age became devoted disciples of the Heart of Jesus. But when came the fullness of time, at which He had decreed to pour forth all the riches of His Heart, the goodness and kindness of the Saviour were made manifest, and Himself revealed His wish that, thereafter, this devotion should be a most especial one; since He declared and promised that He would lavish the abundance of His graces upon all who should consecrate themselves to the worship of His Heart.
The object of this worship is the Heart Itself of Jesus. And since in Jesus Christ there are two natures, the divine and the human, and only one person, the divine Person; the Heart of Jesus Christ is the Heart of the divine Person, the Heart of the Word Incarnate. And because the divine Person is to be honored with the highest worship; the worship to be paid to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which can neither be separated nor taken away from the divine Person, is likewise supreme. This is a Catholic truth, which has prevailed over all contrary errors.
The end of this devotion is threefold. The first, to make Jesus a return for that boundless love, of which His Heart is the symbol, that made Him do so much and suffer so immeasurably for our sake; and induced Him to bestow upon us that sweetest and most precious of all gifts, the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The second, that, through the fervor of our piety, we may, as far as we can, make amends for all the insults which have been, or are even now offered to His most Sacred Heart, which He exhibits to us as the throne of His affections. The third, that imitating what we worship, we may be inspired with the same affections, the same sentiments that animated His Heart during His life of toil and suffering, and still animate It in His blissful and Sacramental life.
From its antiquity, object, and manifold end, it is plain that this devotion is most excellent, most profitable, most solid, and most consoling.
This article is taken from a chapter in The Imitation of the Sacred Heart by Fr. Peter J. Arnoudt, SJ , which is available from TAN Books.