Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
by Fr.. William G. Most
1. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is part of the mainline of our faith: The reason is
that it is basically honor paid to the love of God as seen in and symbolized in the Heart
of Jesus. Without that Divine Love we would not exist at all, nor would we have been
redeemed. For to love is to will good to another for the other's sake.It is because (1) He
willed us the good of existence that we exist at all and continue to exist; (2) Our
existence would be miserable without the redemption, which was needed not just for
original sin--which if one had nothing else would not result in eternal punishment--but
also and principally for the reparation of our personal sins, without which most persons
would be eternally doomed.
So Pius XI, in his Encyclical, Miserentissimus Redemptor, wrote (as cited by
Pius XII, in Haurietis aquas): "Does not this one devotion contain a summary
of all our religion, and a guide to a more perfect life? Indeed, it more easily leads our
minds to know Christ the Lord intimately, and it more effectively turns our hearts to love
Him more ardently and to imitate Him more perfectly."
So it is not a peripheral devotion, like that to St. Anthony, for example, or to other
Saints. To honor the love of God is the very heart of our faith.
2. Hypostatic union: The term means union of two natures in one Person, the divine
Person. It is because of this that we can direct our devotion immediately to the physical
Heart of the Redeemer. Pius XII wrote ("Haurietis aquas" par. 21): "We
recognize that His Heart, the noblest part of human nature, is hypostatically united to
the Person of the divine Word. Consequently, there must be paid to it that worship of
adoration with which the Church honors the Person of the Incarnate Son of God
3. Triple Love: Haurietis aquas pars. 55-57: "It is a symbol of that
divine love which He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, but which He, the Word
made flesh, alone manifests through a weak and perishable body, since 'in Him dwells the
fullness of the divinity in a bodily way' [Col 2:9]. It is, besides, the symbol of that
burning love which, infused into His soul, enriches the human will of Christ and
enlightens and governs its acts by the most perfect knowledge derived both from the
beatific vision and that which is directly infused. And finally--and this in a more
natural and direct way--it is the symbol also of sensible love, since the body of Jesus
Christ, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, possesses full powers of
feelings and perception, in fact, more so than another other human body."
To fill in on the triple love:
1) 1 John 4:8 says "God is love." In speaking of humans, we can see that he
or she has love. But that is a duality. The perfectly undivided character of God means we
must not say He has love,but that He is love. He is love within Himself since--in view of
the fact that to love is to will good to another for the other's sake - the Father
eternally wills the Supreme Good of the Divine Nature to the Son. That will is effective,
and thereby the Son is begotten from the Father. Father and Son together will that same
Supreme Good to the Holy Spirit: thus the Holy Spirit originates, is effected from and by
both.--In His divinity He, the Divine Second Person of the Holy Trinity loves us, that is
He wills to us the divine good of a share in the Divine Nature (cf. 2 Pet 2:4) making
possible the superhuman happiness of the Beatific Vision in eternity.
2) The human will of Jesus, the Incarnate God, also wills us that same eternal
happiness. We can as it were get a measure on this love. For if to love is to will good to
another for the other's sake, then, if someone sets out to bring good to the other, but is
stopped by a small obstacle, then that is a small love. If it takes a great obstacle to
stop it, it is a great love. But if even an immense obstacle does not stop it - that love
is immense, beyond measure.
So St.Paul says in Romans 5:8: that God "proved His love for us, since at the
right time, Christ died for us." And what a death! Hideously painful. And He knew
from the first instant of His conception what it was, for, as we shall explain later, His
human soul from the first instant saw the vision of God, in which all knowledge is
available. He let us as it were look inside Himself twice. In Luke 12:50: "I have a
baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." That
is: I know what dreadful suffering awaits me. I am in a tight spot, cannot be comfortable
until I get it over with. About a week before His death, He was speaking to a crowd in
Jerusalem. He decided again to let us see within Him - for surely He could have held back
the anguished cry (John 12:27): "Now my heart is troubled! What shall I say? Father,
save me from this hour." If we have a long running pain or stress, it wears the skin
thin, as it were, and it becomes all the more unbearable. We, however, can take comfort in
the thought: May be it won't come--maybe it won't be so bad. But the vision of God was
merciless; it showed Him infallibly everything to the last horrid detail. Since as Pius
XII told us, He had the most perfect of all human bodies, being formed by the Holy Spirit
in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin, it would feel pain more than others. The vision
showed Him too the coldness and ingratitude of so many who rejected Him. So He is said to
have told St.Margaret Mary that that pain of rejection was worse than the physical
We can get a gauge on the severity of rejection too. The pain is in proportion to the
form the rejection takes, and the love the rejected one has for the one who is rejecting.
The form it took on Him? - the worst possible death. As to His love, it was shown by what
lengths He would go to to bring us eternal happiness - so that love was beyond measure. So
the pain of rejection was similarly beyond measure.
3) The third kind of love is a love of feeling. In human affairs, love itself is in the
spiritual will; but normally along with that goes a parallel on the bodily side, which
psychologists call somatic resonance. That is a love of feeling. Since, recalling again
what Pius XII told us, that His human body was most perfect, it would be most perfectly
resonant to the love in His spiritual will. Centuries before, God had told the people
through Isaiah (55:9): "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my
ways above your ways." On hearing this one might say in dismay: How can we hope to
please Him? But now we know in Christ He has a human heart, with human feelings, that
responds as our hearts do, minus our imperfections.
4. Covenant and love: We saw one measure of His love, the obstacles it could overcome.
There is another way to gauge its force: the new covenant.
A covenant is a sort of contract. In Ex. 19:5 God said to the people through Moses:
"If you really hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my special
people." That means: "If you do this, I will do that." Now in a contractual
type of arrangement, each party gives the other something of at least closely equivalent
value. What was that which Christ gave to the Father? His own obedience unto death. How
much was that worth? Of course, it was infinite. Therefore, what the Father pledged to
give in turn would be similarly infinite. In other words, He bound Himself to make
available, on behalf of our race as a whole, an infinite, inexhaustible measure of
forgiveness and grace.
We said He did this for our race as a whole. That is true, but there is more: In Gal
2:20, St.Paul tells us that "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." Was that
true only for St.Paul, a most special person? Not at all. Vatican II, in Gaudium et
spes par. 22 taught: "Each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God
loved me, and gave Himself for me." To translate that into contractual language: Our
Redeemer generated an infinite objective title to forgiveness and grace not just for our
race as a whole, but He created an infinite title in favor of each one of us individually.
In passing: How can anyone be lost with an infinite title to forgiveness and grace?
Could he not go on sinning greatly for years,and then pull up short just before the end?
We reply: God would not be unwilling to grant grace even to such a one, if he would really
repent But there are two problems: First, if someone planned in advance to sin a long time
and then quit in time--would there be really a change of heart? Hardly; it was all
preplanned. Secondly, it is one thing for Him to give, another for us to take in what He
gives. By sinning long and gravely a person makes Himself incapable of receiving. Much sin
over time will result in hardness or blindness. So God might give, but the sinner could
not see at all what God was trying to tell him. For the first thing an actual grace needs
to do is to give the person the good thought of what God wants him to do. But the pull of
habit coming from many sins can cancel out, overwhelm the pull of grace, which is gentle,
in that it respects our freedom; while the pulls of creatures, if one lets himself be
deeply enmeshed, do not respect his freedom: they take it away.
5. His knowledge and love: Pius XII, in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body, wrote:
"The most loving knowledge of this kind, with which the divine Redeemer pursued us
from the first moment of the Incarnation, surpasses the diligent grasp of any human mind;
for by that blessed vision which He enjoyed when just received in the womb of the Mother
of God, He has all the members of the Mystical Body continuously and perpetually present
to Himself, and embraces them with saving love.... In the manger, on the Cross, in the
eternal glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church before Him and
joined to Him far more clearly and far more lovingly than a mother has a son on her lap,
or than each one knows and loves himself."
6. Consecration and reparation: The essential devotion does not consist in singing
hymns or lighting vigil lights, though these are good. Nor is it identified with the Nine
First Fridays, though the Church highly favors these. Rather, Pius XII, in Miserentissimus
Redemptor, explained: "Certainly, among the other things which properly belong
to the worship of the Sacred Heart, that consecration stands out and is notable, by which
we, recognizing that we have received all that we are and have from the eternal love of
God, dedicate ourselves and all that we have to the Divine Heart of Jesus." But Pius
XI added: "...if the first and chief thing in consecration is the repayment of the
love of the creature to the love of the Creator, the second thing at once follows from it,
that, if that Uncreated Love has been neglected by forgetfulness or violated by offenses,
compensation should be made in some way for the injustice that has been inflicted: in
common language we call this debt one of reparation...."
There are, then, two essentials: consecration and reparation.
When Pope Leo XIII consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart in 1899, he explained it
this way: "For we, in dedicating ourselves, not only recognize and accept His rule
explicitly and freely, but we actually testify that if that which we give were ours, we
would most willingly give it, and we ask Him to graciously accept from us that very thing,
even though it is already His."
In other words, in consecration we as it were say that we acknowledge He already has
most full rights over us, as Creator and Redeemer, and we owe Him everything, and He would
not need to repay us at all. But we say that we beg Him to kindly accept the very same
service on a title of love, and propose to serve Him better.
As to reparation: All sin is a debt. The Holiness of God wants it paid. A rabbi, Simeon
ben Eleazar (Tosefta, Kiddushin 1.14) wrote: "He [anyone] has committed a
transgression. Woe to him. He has tipped the scale to the side of debt for himself and for
the world." The sinner takes from one pan what he has no right to have. The scale is
out of balance. He could begin to rebalance in case of theft, by giving the property back;
in case of a stolen pleasure, he begins to rebalance by giving up some other pleasure he
could have had. But this only begins: for even one mortal sin has an infinity: Infinite
Person offended. Therefore if the Father willed full rebalance - did not have to, but did
will it - the only way was to send a Divine Person to become Man. He could generate an
infinite value to fully rebalance. This does not mean we can do nothing. St.Paul makes
clear that we are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are members of Christ,
and like Him - so we must be like Him in this work of reparation: rebalance is a most
essential part. Pius XII, in Miserentissimus Redemptor: "If the soul of
Christ was made sorrowful even to death on account of our sins, which were yet to come,
but were foreseen, there is no doubt He received some consolation from our reparation,
Text of the file "Devotion to the Sacred Heart" by Rev. William G. Most.