The heart is often represented as the core or center of human emotions, and especially of love. The images of Valentine’s Day bear testimony to this. We know that the heart – along with the brain – performs one of the most important works of the body. In the great first command of the Old Testament – and the New Testament – we are “to love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength” (Dt 6: 4-5; Mt 22:37; Mk 12:29; Lk 10:27).
The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is likewise a powerful sign or symbol of Christ’s love ‘in the flesh.’ When God took human flesh in the mystery of the Incarnation, there was formed in Him also a heart. After His death Jesus rose in the body. He ascended into Heaven in His body. And so His loving and Sacred Heart continues to live and beat.
Pope Pius XII gave us an encyclical on the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Hauerietis Aquas, (May 15, 1956) “You shall draw waters with joy out of the Savior’s fountain.” (Is 12:3) Towards the beginning of the encyclical, the Pope quotes Jesus’ own words from John’s Gospel, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and let him drink that believeth in Me. As the Scripture saith: 'Out of his heart there shall flow rivers of living waters.' Now this He said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in Him." (Jn 7:37-39) (HA, no 1, 3)
Christ’s heart is the fountainhead of living waters, which is also expressive of the Gift of God the Holy Spirit.
Because the Incarnation is so central and an essential part of the Gospel, we can similarly say that this awareness and love due to Jesus’ heart – from which we are to draw water and life - is not merely a peripheral element of our Faith. It is not optional (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 478). Jesus reveals this even as He reveals His body, as He showed His wounded feet, hands and side. He saves us through the mystery of His Body and His Blood shed for us, poured out and given to us in the Holy Eucharist.
We love Jesus as a Person, and not just “in parts.” But, in fact, His wounds and His heart are meaningful focal points for our meditation and devotion. Accepting this profound and inseparable reality of the sacred and adorable heart of Jesus can only help us to understand more fully the mystery of His love.
Venerable Pope Pius XII gives us some examples of this:
“[T]he Heart of the Incarnate Word is …. a symbol of that divine love which He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”
“It is, besides, the symbol of that burning love which … enriches the human will of Christ and enlightens and governs its acts ….”
“And finally … 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 any other human body." (excerpted HA, nos. 54-57)
In his wonderful book, Heart of the Redeemer, (Ignatius Press, 1989, pp. 270ff), Timothy O’Donnell, reminds us how meditation on the heart of Jesus leads us only deeper into the life of Christ and the vocation we have as members of Christ’s Mystical Body.
Reflection on image of the heart reminds us of the Christocentric focus (ibid., p. 271) of our spiritual life. The heart is given to us as a focal point that helps us to see, to some degree, in Christ, the unfathomable mystery of God’s love.
The heart of Christ, from which flowed blood and water, helps us to understand what Pope St Paul VI, calls the Sacrament of love par excellence, the Holy Eucharist. (Ibid., p. 274)
This burning and beating heart is not passive, but sends us into the field of the world, to share this love of Christ. We are called to apostolic discipleship and love for all people, a universal brotherhood. (Ibid., p. 275-277).
Reflecting on the power and love of the hidden heart of Jesus, we “are led into the depths” of our own interior life. (Ibid., p. 276)
Christ’s Heart is a symbol and pledge of the reparation we owe Christ whose heart was pierced for our sins. (Ibid. p. 277)
In echo of Christ’s own invitation, the Church bids us to come to the heart of Jesus; to make this image an inspiration for our prayer; to place the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the center of our homes and families.
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Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
composed by St Margaret Mary Alacoque, (1647-1690)
I (N.), give and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person, my life, my actions, my pains and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being save to honor, love, and glorify the Sacred Heart. It is my unchanging intention to be all His and to do all for love of Him. I renounce at the same time with all my heart whatever can displease Him.
I, therefore, take You, O Sacred Heart, for the only object of my love, the protector of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for the faults of my life, and the secure refuge at the hour of my death.
Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God the Father, and turn away from me the punishment of His just anger. O Heart of love, I put my confidence in You, because I fear everything from my own sinfulness and weakness. I hope for all things from Your mercy and generosity.
Destroy in me all that can displease or resist Your holy Will. Let Your pure love impress You so deeply upon my heart that I may never forget You or be separated from You. May my name, by your loving kindness, be written In You, because in You I desire to place all my happiness and all my glory in living and dying in very bondage to you. Amen.