Friday, June 11, 2010

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so the kids had these bagels for breakfast.
cream cheese
strawberry jam
half of a strawberry

Devotion to the Sacred Heart is but a special form of devotion to Jesus. We shall know just what it is and what distinguishes it when we ascertain its object, its foundations, and its proper act.

(1) Special object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart

The nature of this question is complex and frequently becomes more complicated because of the difficulties arising from terminology. Omitting terms that are over-technical, we shall study the ideas in themselves, and, that we may the sooner find our bearings, it will be well to remember the meaning and use of the word heart in current language.

(a) The word heart awakens, first of all, the idea of a material heart, of the vital organ that throbs within our bosom, and which we vaguely realize as intimately connected not only with our own physical, but with our emotional and moral, life. Now this heart of flesh is currently accepted as the emblem of the emotion and moral life with which we associate it, and hence the place assigned to the word heart in symbolic language, as also the use of the same word to designate those things symbolized by the heart. Note, for instance, the expressions "to open one's heart", "to give one's heart", etc. It may happen that the symbol becomes divested of its material meaning that the sign is overlooked in beholding only the thing signified. Thus, in current language, the word soul no longer suggests the thought of breath, and the word heart brings to mind only the idea of courage and love. But this is perhaps a figure of speech or a metaphor, rather than a symbol. A symbol is a real sign, whereas a metaphor is only a verbal sign; a symbol is a thing that signifies another thing, but a metaphor is a word used to indicate something different from its proper meaning. Finally, in current language, we are constantly passing from the part to the whole, and, by a perfectly natural figure of speech, we use the word heart to designate a person. These ideas will aid us in determining the object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

(b) The question lies between the material, the metaphorical, and the symbolic sense of the word heart; whether the object of the devotion is the Heart of flesh, as such, or the love of Jesus Christ metaphorically signified by the word heart; or the Heart of flesh, but as symbol of the emotional and moral life of Jesus, and especially His love for us. We reply that worship is rightly paid to the Heart of flesh, inasmuch as the latter symbolizes and recalls the love of Jesus, and His emotional and moral life. Thus, although directed to the material Heart, it does not stop there: it also includes love, that love which is its principal object, but which it reaches only in and through the Heart of flesh, the sign and symbol of this love. Devotion to the Heart of Jesus alone, as to a noble part of His Divine Body, would not be devotion to the Sacred Heart as understood and approved by the Church, and the same must also be said of devotion to the love of Jesus as detached from His Heart of flesh, or else connected therewith by no other tie than that of a word taken in the metaphorical sense. Hence, in the devotion, there are two elements: a sensible element, the Heart of flesh, and a spiritual element, that which this Heart of flesh recalls spiritual element, that which this Heart of flesh recalls and represents. But these two elements do not form two distinct objects, merely co-ordinated they constitute but one, just as do the body and soul, and the sign and the thing signified. Hence it is also understood that these two elements are as essential to the devotion as body and soul are essential to man. Of the two elements constituting the whole, the principal one is love, which is as much the cause of the devotion and its reason for existence as the soul is the principal element in man. Consequently, devotion to the Sacred Heart may be defined as devotion to the adorable Heart of Jesus Christ in so far as this Heart represents and recalls His love ; or, what amounts to the same thing, devotion to the love of Jesus Christ in so far as this love is recalled and symbolically represented to us by His Heart of flesh.

(c) Hence the devotion is based entirely upon the symbolism of the heart. It is this symbolism that imparts to its meaning and its unity, and this symbolism is admirably completed by the representation of the Heart as wounded. Since the Heart of Jesus appears to us as the sensible sign of His love, the visible wound in the Heart will naturally recall the invisible wound of this love. This symbolism also explains that the devotion, although giving the Heart an essential place, is but little concerned with the anatomy of the heart or with physiology. Since, in images of the Sacred Heart, the symbolic expression must dominate all else, anatomical accuracy is not looked for; it would injure the devotion by rendering the symbolism less evident. It is eminently proper that the heart as an emblem be distinguished from the anatomical heart: the suitableness of the image is favourable to the expression of the idea. A visible heart is necessary for an image of the Sacred Heart, but this visible heart must be a symbolic heart. Similar observations are in order for physiology, in which the devotion cannot be totally disinterested, because the Heart of Flesh toward which the worship is directed in order to read therein the love of Jesus, is the Heart of Jesus, the real, living Heart that, in all truth, may be said to have loved and suffered; the Heart that, as we feel ourselves, had such a share in His emotional and moral life; the Heart that, as we know from a knowledge, however rudimentary, of the operations of our human life, had such a part in the operations of the Master's life. But the relation of the Heart to the love of Christ is not that of a purely conventional sign, as in the relation of the word to the thing, or of the flag to the idea of one's country; this Heart has been and is still inseparably connected with that life of benefactions and love. However, it is sufficient for our devotion that we know and feel this intimate connection. We have nothing to do with the physiology of the Sacred Heart nor with determining the exact functions of the heart in daily life. We know that the symbolism of the heart is a symbolism founded upon reality and that it constitutes the special object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, which devotion is in no danger of falling into error.

(d) The heart is, above all, the emblem of love, and by this characteristic, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is naturally defined. However, being directed to the loving Heart of Jesus, it naturally encounters whatever in Jesus is connected with this love. Now, was not this love the motive of all that Christ did and suffered? Was not all His inner, even more than His outward, life dominated by this love ? On the other hand, the devotion to the Sacred Heart, being directed to the living Heart of Jesus, thus becomes familiar with the whole inner life of the Master, with all His virtues and sentiments, finally, with Jesus infinitely loving and lovable. Hence, a first extension of the devotion is from the loving Heart to the intimate knowledge of Jesus, to His sentiments and virtues, to His whole emotional and moral life; from the loving Heart to all the manifestations of Its love. There is still another extension which, although having the same meaning, is made in another way, that is by passing from the Heart to the Person, a transition which, as we have seen, is very naturally made. When speaking of a large heart our allusion is to the person, just as when we mention the Sacred Heart we mean Jesus. This is not, however, because the two are synonymous but when the word heart is used to designate the person, it is because such a person is considered in whatsoever related to his emotional and moral life. Thus, when we designate Jesus as the Sacred Heart, we mean Jesus manifesting His Heart, we mean Jesus manifesting His Heart, Jesus all loving and amiable. Jesus entire is thus recapitulated in the Sacred Heart as all is recapitulated in Jesus.

(e) In thus devoting oneself to Jesus all loving and lovable, one cannot fail to observe that His love is rejected. God is constantly lamenting that in Holy Writ , and the saints have always heard within their hearts the plaint of unrequited love. Indeed one of the essential phases of the devotion is that it considers the love of Jesus for us as a despised, ignored love. He Himself revealed this when He complained so bitterly to St. Margaret Mary.

(f) This love is everywhere manifest in Jesus and in His life, and it alone can explain Him together with His words and His acts. Nevertheless, it shines ............................................................

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