I love the Heart of Jesus.
It properly began when my grandmother gave me an old, falling-apart book that had belonged to her grandfather, the Treasury of the Sacred Heart. It was full of prayers, devotions, litanies, novenas and meditations on the love of God in Christ, focusing on the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
More than anything else, this small book was my introduction to Catholic spirituality and at its core was the Heart of Jesus. (As an aside, our word core comes from the Latin meaning heart. Isn’t that fun!)
The Sacred Heart, a devotion to the Heart of Jesus, is a way of representing, invoking and adoring the Love with which Christ loves His Father and loves us all. Although its origins go back to the Middle Ages and even before, it really began in the Seventeenth Century when Jesus appeared to the French sister Marguerite Marie Alacoque in a series of apparitions. He said to her, “Behold the Heart that has so loved men,” and showed her His Heart, pierced on the side, enthroned by flames, surrounded by the crown of thorns and surmounted by the cross.
The devotion was approved by the Papacy in 1765 and in 1899, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole world to the Sacred Heart.
“Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of its very nature, is a worship of the love with which God, through Jesus, loved us…”
– Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, 107
At first it seemed strange and almost blasphemous to focus on the Heart of Jesus, like it was loped off from the rest of His Body. It seemed too emotional, too sentimental and too showily pious. All those hearts and all that fainting and agony and blood and sighing and mystical. Besides, it was just so bloody Catholic.
But I kept the book by my beside and kept flicking through it.
I was surprised, and then delighted, by the ardency of the prayers. These prayers seemed to express all the longings of my own heart but pushed them further, speaking more urgently, more fervently and more truly than I ever did. The Sacred Heart spoke to me, even then, of both strength and gentleness of the love of Jesus. It was the fierceness of that Divine Love which burns and burns and burns and the vulnerability of that Human Flesh which, being pierced, bleeds and bleeds and bleeds.
And slowly, little by little, I fell in love with the Sacred Heart.
I realised that in adoring Jesus’ Heart, I was adoring the love of God which flows in and through the Trinity. I was adoring its incarnation as the Word of God became man and His tiny Heart began to beat in Mary’s womb. In His life and His ministry, Jesus’ heart was always loving us, desiring us, yearning for us, grieving over us and rejoicing in us.
Was there any measure of love that Jesus’ Heart lacked? Was there any heartbreak He didn’t know? Even after He had died, his dead Heart, filled with blood and water, was pierced by a spear.
But we all know that’s not how the story ended. Jesus was raised to life, the triumph of love over death:
But after His glorified body had been re-united to the soul of the divine Redeemer, conqueror of death, His most Sacred Heart never ceased, and never will cease, to beat with calm and imperturbable pulsations.
– Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, 61
Jesus had a Heart. Jesus has a Heart.
Both metaphorically and literally, both spiritually and physically; that is the miracle of the Incarnation. So was it wrong to adore and meditate on this Heart?
I didn’t think so. I couldn’t think so.
His Heart, more than all the other members of His body, is the natural sign and symbol of His boundless love for the human race. “There is in the Sacred Heart,” as Our predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII, pointed out, “the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return.”
– Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, 22
As an Evangelical, I knew how important it was to have “a personal relationship with Jesus” (however abused that particular phrase was) but I have never known such loving intimacy with Jesus til I began to love and meditate on and adore His Most Sacred Heart.
Maybe it’s because I’m so emotional, maybe it’s because I so often fancy myself “heart broken”, but His Heart has become my solace. It reminds me that however scared or alone or weary I feel, things can never be that bad because I am loved.
Because the Heart of Jesus loves my heart.
O holy Heart of Jesus, dwell hidden in my heart, so that I may live only in you and only for you, so that, in the end, I may live with you eternally in heaven. Amen.
– St Claude la Colombiere
And so I pray,
O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.