The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
A New ray of light shines today in the heaven of holy Church, and its light brings warmth. The divine Master given to us by our Redeemer, that is, the Paraclete Spirit, who has come down into this world, continues his teachings to us, in the sacred Liturgy. The earliest of these his divine teachings was the mystery of the Trinity; and we have worshipped the Blessed Three: we have been taught who God is, we know him in his own nature, we have been admitted, by faith, into the sanctuary of the infinite Essence. Then, this Spirit, the mighty wind of Pentecost, opened to our souls new aspects of the truth, which it is his mission to make the world remember; and his revelation left us prostrate before the sacred Host, the Memorial which God himself has left us of all his wonderful works. Today, it is the sacred Heart of the Word made flesh that this Holy Spirit puts before us, that we may know and love and adore it.
There is a mysterious connection between these three Feasts, of Trinity, Corpus Christi, and the Sacred Heart. The aim of the Holy Ghost, in all three, is this,—to initiate us more and more into that knowledge of God by faith, which is to fit us for the face-to-face Vision in heaven. We have already seen how God, being made known to us, by the first, in himself, manifests himself to us, by the second, in his outward works,—for the holy Eucharist is the memorial, here below, in which he has brought together, and with all possible perfection, all those his wondrous works. But by what law can we pass, so rapidly, so almost abruptly, from one Feast, which is all directly regarding God, to another, which celebrates his works, done by him to and for us? Then again: how came the divine thought, how came, that is, eternal Wisdom, from the infinite repose of the eternally blessed Trinity, to the external activity of a love for us poor creatures, which has produced what we call the Mysteries of our Redemption? The Heart of the Man-God is the solution of these difficulties; it answers all such questions, and explains to us the whole divine plan.
We knew that the sovereign happiness which is in God, we knew that the life eternal communicated from the Father to the Son, and from these two to the Holy Ghost, in light and love,—was to be given by the will of these Three Divine Persons, to created beings; not only to those which were purely spiritual, but, likewise, to that creature whose nature is the union of spirit and matter, that is, to Man. We are of this lower nature; and a pledge of this life eternal was given to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is by the Eucharist that Man, who has already been made a partaker of the divine nature by the grace of the sanctifying spirit, is united to the divine Word, and is made a true member of this Only Begotten Son of the Father. Yes: though it hath not yet appeared what we shall be, says St. John, still we are now the sons of God; we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like to him, for we are called to live, as the Word himself does, in the society of that eternal Father of his, for ever and ever.
But the infinite love of the sacred Trinity, which thus called us frail creatures to a participation in its own blessed life, would accomplish this merciful design by the help and means of another love, a love more like what we ourselves can feel; that is, the created love of a human soul, evinced by the beatings of a Heart of flesh like our own. The Angel of the great Counsel, who is sent to make known to the world the merciful designs of the Ancient of days, took to himself, in order to fulfill his divine mission, a created, a human form; and this would enable men to see with their eyes, yea, and even touch with their hands, the Word of life, that life eternal which was with the Father, but appeared even unto us. This human nature, which the Son of God took into personal union with himself, from the womb of the Virgin-Mother, was the docile instrument of infinite love, but it was not absorbed into, or lost in, the Godhead; it retained its own substance, its special faculties, its distinct will, which Will ruled, under the influence of the divine Word, the acts and movements of his most holy Soul and adorable Body. From the very first instant of its existence, the human Soul of Christ was inundated, more directly than was any other creature, with that true light of the Word, which enlighteneth every man who cometh into this world; it enjoyed the face-to-face vision of the divine essence; and, therefore, took in, at a single glance, the absolute beauty of the sovereign Being, and the wisdom of the divine decree, which called finite beings into a participation of infinite bliss. It understood its sublime mission, and conceived an immense love for man and for God. This love began simultaneously with life, and filled not only his soul, but impressed, in its own way, the Body too,—the Body which was formed from the substance of the Virgin-Mother, by the operation of the Holy Ghost. The effect of his love told, consequently, upon his Heart of true human flesh; it set in motion those beatings, which made the Blood of redemption circulate in his sacred veins.
For, it was not with him as with other men, the pulsations of whose hearts are, at first, the consequence of nothing but the vital power which is in the human frame; and, later on, when age has awakened reason into act, the ideas so produced will produce physical impressions on us, which will, now and then, quicken, or dull, the throbbings of these our hearts. With the Man-God it was not so: his Heart, from the very first moment of its life, responded, that is, throbbed, to the law of his soul’s love, whose power to act upon his human Heart was as incessant, and as intense, as is the power of organic vitality,—a love as burning at the first instant of the Incarnation as it is this very hour in heaven. For the human love which the Incarnate Word had, resulting as it did from his intellectual knowledge of God and his creatures, was as perfect as that knowledge, and, therefore, as incapable of all progress; though, being our Brother, and our model in all things, he, day by day, made more manifest to us the exquisite sensibility of his divine Heart.
At the period of Jesus’ coming upon this earth, man had forgotten how to love, for he had forgotten what true beauty was. His heart of flesh seemed to him as a sort of excuse for his false love of false goods: his heart was but an outlet, whereby his soul could stray from heavenly things to the husks of earth, there to waste his power and his substance. To this material world, which the soul of man was intended to make subserve its Maker’s glory,—to this world, which, by a sad perversion, kept man’s soul a slave to his senses and passions,—the Holy Ghost sent a marvellous power, which, like a resistless lever, would replace the world in its right position:—it was the sacred Heart of Jesus; a Heart of flesh, like that of other human beings, from whose created throbbings there would ascend to the eternal Father an expression of love, which would be an homage infinitely pleasing to the infinite Majesty, because there was in that love of that human Heart the dignity of its union with the Word. It is a harp of sweetest melody, that is ever vibrating under the touch of the Spirit of Love; it gathers up into its own music the music of all creation, whose imperfections it corrects, and supplies its deficiencies, and tunes all discordant voices into unity, and so offers to the glorious Trinity a hymn of perfect praise. The Trinity finds its delight in this Heart. It is the one only organum, as St. Gertrude calls it (Legatus divinæ pietatis; lib. ii. c. 23; lib. iii. c. 25.), the one only instrument which finds acceptance with the Most High. Through it must pass all the inflamed praises of the burning Seraphim, just as must do the humble homage paid to its God by inanimate creation. By it alone are to come upon this world the favors of heaven. It is the mystic ladder between man and God, the channel of all graces, the way whereby man ascends to God and God descends to man.
The Holy Ghost, whose masterpiece it is, has made it a living image of himself; for although, in the ineffable relations of the divine Persons, he is not the source of love, he is its substantial expression, or, in theological language, the term; it is he who inclines the holy Trinity to those works outside itself, which first produce creatures, and then, having given them being (and to some, life), he (the Holy Spirit) pours out upon them all the effusion of their Creator’s love for them. And so is it with the love which the Man-God has for God and Man,—its direct and, so to say, material expression is the throbbing it produces upon his sacred Heart; and again, it is by that Heart that, like the Water and Blood which came from his wounded Side, he pours out upon the world a stream of redemption and grace, which is to be followed by the still richer one of glory.
One of the soldiers, as the Gospel tells us, opened Jesus’ Side with a spear, and, immediately, there came out blood and water. We must keep before us this text and the fact it relates, for they give us the true meaning of the Feast we are celebrating. The importance of the event here related is strongly intimated, by the earnest and solemn way in which St. John follows up his narration. After the words just quoted, he adds: And he that saw it, hath given testimony of it, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe; for these things were done, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Here the Gospel refers us to the testimony of the Prophet Zacharias, who, after predicting the Spirit of grace being poured out upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, says: They shall look upon Him whom they pierced.
And, when they look upon his side thus pierced what will they see there, but that great truth which is the summary of all Scripture—of all history:—God so loved the world, as to give it his Only Begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have eternal life. This grant truth was, during the ages of expectation, veiled under types and figures; it could be deciphered by but few, and, even then, only obscurely; but it was made known with all possible clearness on that eventful day when, on Jordan’s banks, the whole sacred Trinity manifested who was the Elect, the Chosen One, of the Father,—the Son in whom he was so well pleased. Yes, it was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary: but there was another revelation, of deepest interest to us, which had still to be made: it was,—how, and in what way, would the eternal life brought by this Jesus into the world, pass from him into each one of us? This second revelation was made to us, when the soldier’s spear opened the divine source, and there flowed from it that Water and Blood, which, as the Scripture tells us, completed the testimony of the Blessed Three. There are three, says St. John, who give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these Three are One. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood: and these three are one, that is, they are one because they concur in giving the one same testimony. And this, continues St. John, is the testimony:—that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son. These words contain a very profound mystery; but we have their explanation in today’s Feast, which shows us how it is through the Heart of the Man-God that the divine work is achieved, and how, through that same Heart, the plan, which was conceived, from all eternity, by the Wisdom of the Father, has been realized.
To communicate his own happiness to creatures, by making them, through the Holy Ghost, partakers of his own divine nature, and members of his beloved Son,—this was the merciful design of the Father; and all the works of the Trinity, outside itself, tend to the accomplishment of that same. When the fullness of time had come, there appeared upon our earth He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ,—not by water only, but by water and blood. The Spirit, who, together with the Father and the Son has already, on the banks of Jordan, given his testimony, gives it here again, for St. John continues: And it is the Spirit which testifieth, that Christ is the truth; and that he spoke the truth when he said of himself that he is Life. Yes, the Spirit, as the Gospel teaches us, comes forth with the water from the fountains of the Savior, and makes us worthy of the precious Blood, which flows together with the water. Then does mankind, thus born again of water and the Holy Ghost, become entitled to enter into the kingdom of God; and the Church, thus made ready for her Spouse in those same waters of Baptism, is united to the Incarnate Word in the Blood of the sacred Mysteries. We, being members of that holy Church, have had the same union with Christ; we are bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh; we have received the power to be made adopted Sons of God, and sharers, for all eternity, of the divine life, which He, the Son by nature, has in the bosom of the Father.
On, then, thou Jew! though ignorant of the nuptials of the Lamb, give the signal of their being accomplished. Lead the Spouse to the nuptial bed of the Cross; he will lay himself down on that most precious Wood, which his mother, the Synagogue, has made to be his couch; she prepared it for him, on the eve of the day of his alliance, when, from his sacred Heart, there is to come forth his Bride, together with the Water, which cleanses her, and the Blood, which is to be her dower. It was for the sake of this Bride, that he left his Father, and the bright home of his heavenly Jerusalem; he ran, as a giant, in the way of his intense love; he thirsted, and the thirst of the desire gave him no rest. The scorching wind of suffering which dried up his bones, was less active than the fire which burned in his Heart, and made its beatings send forth, in the agony in the Garden, the Blood which, on the morrow, was to be spent for the redemption of his Bride. He has reached Calvary, it is the end of his journey; he dies; he sleeps, with his burning thirst upon him. But the Bride, who is formed for him during this mysterious sleep, will soon rouse him from it. That Heart, from which she was born, has broken, that she might come forth; broken, it ceased to beat, and the grand hymn which, through it, had been so long ascending from earth to heaven, was interrupted, and creation was dismayed at the interruption. Now that the world has been redeemed, man should sing more than ever the canticle of his gratitude; and the strings of the harp are broken! Who will restore them? Who will rewaken in the Heart of our Jesus the music of its divine throbbings?
The new-born Church, his Bride, is standing near that opened side of her Jesus; in the intensity of her first joy, she thus sings to God the Father: I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people, and I will sing unto thee among the nations. Then, to her Jesus: Arise, thou, my glory! my psaltery, my harp, arise! And he arose in the early morning of the great Sunday his sacred Heart resumed its melody, and, with it, sent up to heaven the music of holy Church, for the Heart of the Spouse belongs to his Bride, and they are now two in one flesh.
Christ being now in possession of her who has wounded his Heart, he gives her, in return, full power over that sacred Heart of his, from which she has issued. There lies the secret of all the Church’s power. In the relations existing between husband and wife, which were created by God, at the beginning of the world, and (as the Apostle assures us), in view of this great mystery of Christ and the Church,—man is the head, and the woman may not domineer in the government of the family. Has the woman, then, no power? She has power, and a great power,—she must address herself to her husband’s heart, and gain all by love. If Adam, our first father, sinned, it was because Eve used, and for evil, her influence over his heart, by misleading him, and us in him;—Jesus saves us, because the Church has won his Heart; and that human Heart could not be won, without the divinity also being moved to mercy. And here we have the doctrine of devotion to the sacred Heart of Jesus, as far as regards the principle upon which it rests. In this its primary and essential notion, the devotion is as old as the Church herself, for it rests on this truth, which has been recognized in every age,—that Christ is the Spouse, and the Church is his Bride.
The Fathers and holy Doctors of the early Ages had no other way, than the one we have been putting before our readers, when expounding the mystery of the Church’s having been formed from Jesus’ side; and the words they used,—though always marked by that reserve which was called for by so many of their hearers being as yet uninitiated,—were taken as the text for the sublime and fearless developments of later Ages. “The initiated,” says St. John Chrysostom, “know the mystery of the Savior’s fountains; from those, that is, from the Blood and the Water, the Church was formed; from those same, came our Mysteries; so that, when thou approachest the dread chalice, thou must come up to it, as though thou wert about to drink of that very Side of Christ.” “The Evangelist,” says St. Augustine, “made use of a word which has a special import, when he said,—the soldier opened Jesus’ Side with a spear: he did not say, struck the Side, or wounded the Side, or anything else like that; but he said, he opened Jesus’ Side. He opened it; for that side was like the door of life; and when it was opened, the Sacraments (the Mysteries) of the Church came through it … This was predicted by that door which Noe was commanded to make in the side of the Ark, through which were to go those living creatures which were not to be destroyed by the deluge; and all these things were a figure of the Church.”
Enter thou into the rock, and hide thee in the pit, says Isaias; and what means this, but “enter into the Side of thy Lord?” as the expression is interpreted, in the 13th Century, by Guerric, a disciple of St. Bernard, and Abbot of Igny (In Dom. Palm. Serm. iv.). St. Bernard himself thus comments the verses 13 and 14 of the second Chapter of the Canticle: “Come, my dove, in the clifts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall: O Beautiful clifts of the rock, wherein the dove takes safe shelter, and fearlessly looks at the hawk that hovers about! … And what may I see through that opening? The iron hath pierced his soul, and his Heart hath come near; so that, through the clift, the mystery of his Heart is made visible, that great mystery of love, those bowels of the mercy of our God … What else art thou, O Lord, but treasures of love, but riches of goodness? … I will make my way to those full store-cellars. I will take the Prophet’s advice, and will leave the cities; I will dwell in the Rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the mouth of the hole in the highest place. Sheltered there, like as Moses was in the hole of the Rock, I will see my Lord, as he passes by.” In the next century, we have the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, telling us in his own beautiful style, how the new Eve was born from the Side of Christ, when in his sleep; and how the spear of Saul was thrown at David, and struck the wall, as though it would make its way into Him, of whom David was but a type, that is, into Christ, who is the Rock, the mountain cave where are salubrious springs, the shelter (lignum vitæ) where doves build their nests.
Our readers will not expect us to do more than give them this general view of the great mystery, and tell them how the holy Doctors of the Church spoke of it. As far as St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure are concerned, the devotion to the mystery of Christ’s side opened on the Cross, is but a part of that which they would have us show to the other wounds of our Redeemer. The sacred Heart, as the expression of Jesus’ love, is not treated of, in their writings, with the explicitness wherewith the Church would afterwards put it before us. For this end, our Lord himself selected certain privileged souls, through whose instrumentality, he would bring the Christian world to a fuller appreciation of the consequences which are involved in the principles admitted by the whole Church.
It was on the 27th of January, in the year 1281, in the Benedictine Monastery of Helfta, near Eisleben, in Saxony, that our Divine Lord first revealed these ineffable secrets to one of the Community of that House, whose name was Gertrude. “She was then twenty years of age. The Spirit of God came upon her, and gave her her mission. She saw, she heard, she was permitted to touch, and what is more, she drank of, that chalice of the sacred Heart, which inebriates the elect. She drank of it, even whilst in this vale of bitterness; and what she herself so richly received, she imparted to others, who showed themselves desirous to listen. St. Gertrude’s mission was to make known the share and action of the sacred Heart in the economy of God’s glory and the sanctification of souls; and, in this respect, we cannot separate her from her companion, St. Mechtilde.
“On this special doctrine regarding the heart of the Man-God, St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde hold a very prominent position among all the Saints and mystical writers of the Church. In saying this, we do not except even the Saints of these later ages, by whom our Lord brought about the public, the official, worship, which is now given to his sacred Heart; these Saints have spread the devotion, now shown to it, throughout the whole Church;—but they have not spoken of the mysteries it contains within it, with that set purpose, that precision, that loveliness, which we find in the ‘Revelations’ of the two Saints, Gertrude and Mechtilde.
“It was the Beloved Disciple, who had rested his head upon Jesus’ breast, at the Supper, and perhaps heard the beatings of the sacred Heart,—the Disciple who, when standing at the foot of the Cross, had seen that Heart pierced with the soldier’s spear,—yes, it was he who announced to Gertrude its future glorification. She asked him how it was that he had not spoken, in his writings in the New Testament, of what he had experienced when he reclined upon Jesus’ sacred Heart: he thus replied: ‘My mission was to write, for the Church which was still young, a single word of the uncreated Word of God the Father,—that uncreated Word, concerning which the intellect of the whole human race might be ever receiving abundant truth, from now till the end of the world, and yet it would never be fully comprehended. As to the sweet eloquence of those throbbings of his Heart, it is reserved for the time when the world has grown old, and has become cold in God’s love,—that it may regain favor by the hearing such revelation.” (The Legate of Divine Love. Bk. iv. ch. 4.)
“Gertrude was chosen as the instrument of that revelation; and what she has told us, is exquisitely beautiful. At one time, the divine Heart is shown to her as a treasure, which holds all riches within it; at another, it is a harp played upon by the Holy Spirit, and the music which comes from it gladdens the Blessed Trinity, and all the heavenly court. It is a plenteous spring, whose stream bears refreshment to the souls in Purgatory, strength and every grace to them that are still struggling on this earth, and delights which inebriate the blessed in the heavenly Jerusalem. It is a golden thurible, whence there ascend as many different sorts of fragrant incense, as there are different races of men, for all of whom our Redeemer died upon the Cross. It is an altar, upon which the Faithful lay their offerings, the elect their homage, the Angels their worship, and the eternal High Priest offers himself as a Sacrifice. It is a lamp suspended between heaven and earth. It is a chalice out of which the Saints, but not the Angels, drink, though these latter receive from it delights of varied kinds. It was in this Heart, that was formed and composed the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater noster; that Prayer was the fruit of Jesus’ Heart. By that same sacred Heart, are supplied all the negligences and deficiencies which are found in the honor we pay to God, and his Blessed Mother and Saints. The Heart of Jesus makes itself as our servant, and our bond, in fulfilment of all the obligations incumbent on us; in it alone, do our actions derive that perfection, that worth, which makes them acceptable in the eyes of the divine Majesty; and every grace, which flows from heaven to earth, passes through that same Heart. When our life is at its close, that Heart is the peaceful abode, the holy sanctuary, ready to receive our souls as soon as they have departed from this world; and having received them, it keeps them in itself for all eternity, and beatifies them with every delight!” (From the Preface to the Revelations of St. Gertrude, translated into French from the new Latin Edition, published by the Benedictine Fathers of Solesmes.)
By thus revealing to Gertrude the admirable mysteries of divine love, included in the doctrine which attaches to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was, so to say, forestalling the workings of hell, which, two centuries later on, were to find their prime mover in that same spot. Luther was born at Eisleben, in the year 1483. He was the apostle, after being the inventor, of theories the very opposite of what the Sacred Heart reveals. Instead of the merciful God, as known and loved in the previous ages, Luther would have the world believe him to be the direct author of sin and damnation, who creates the sinner for crime and eternal torments, and for the mere purpose of showing that he could do anything, even injustice! Calvin followed; he took up the blasphemous doctrines of the German apostate, and rivetted the protestant principles by his own gloomy and merciless logic. By these two men, the tail of the dragon dragged the third part of the stars of heaven. In the 17th Century, the old enemy put on hypocrisy, in the shape of Jansenism; changing the names of things, but leaving the things unchanged, he tried to get into the very center of the Church, and there pass off his impious doctrines; and Jensenism, which, under the pretext of safeguarding the rights of God’s sovereign dominion, aimed at making men forget that he was a God of mercy,—Jensenism was a favorable system, wherewith the enemy might propagate his so-called Reformation. That God who so loved the world! beheld mankind discouraged or terrified, and behaving as though in heaven there was no such thing as mercy, still less, love. This earth of ours was to be made to see that its Creator had loved it with affectionate love; that he had taken a Heart of flesh in order to bring that infinite love within man’s reach and sight; that he made that human Heart, which he had assumed, do its work, that is, beat and throb from love, just as ours do, for he had become one of ourselves, and, as the Prophet words it, had taken the cords of Adam; that Heart felt the thrill of joy when duty-doing made us joyous; it felt a weight and pang when it saw our sorrows; it was gladsome when it found that, here and there, there would be souls to love him in return. How were men to be told all this? Who would be chosen to fulfil the prophecy made by Gertrude the Great? Who would come forth, like another Paul or John, and teach to the world, now grown old, the language of the divine throbbings of Jesus’ Heart?
There were then living many men noted for their learning and eloquence; but they would not suit the purpose of God. God, who loves to choose the weak (and often it is, that he may confound the strong), had selected for the manifesting of the mystery of the Sacred Heart, a servant of his, of whose existence the world knew not;—it was a Religious woman, who lived in a monastery which had nothing about it to attract notice. As, in the 13th Century, he had passed by the learned men, and even the great Saints, who were then living, and selected the Blessed Juliana of Liége as the instrument which was to bring about the institution of the Corpus Christi Feast,—so in this present case: he would have his own sacred Heart be glorified in his Church by a solemn Festival; and he imparts and intrusts his wish to the humble Visitandine of Paray-le-Monial, now known and venerated, throughout the world, under the name of Blessed Margaret-Mary. The mission thus divinely given to her, was to bring forward the treasure, which had been revealed to St. Gertrude, and which, all the long interval, had been known to only a few privileged souls. Sister Margaret-Mary was to publish the secret to the whole world, and make the privilege cease, by telling every one how to possess it. Through this apparently inadequate instrument, the Sacred Heart of Jesus was a heavenly reaction offered to the world against the chillness which had settled on its old age: it became a touching appeal to all the faithful souls that they would make reparation for all the contempt, and slight, and coldness, and sins, wherewith our age treats the love of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.
“I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament on one of the days during the Octave” (of Corpus Christi, June, 1675), says the Blessed Margaret [in her Autobiography], “and I received from my God exceeding great graces of his love. And, feeling a desire to make some return, and give him love for love, he said to me: ‘Thou canst not make me a greater, than by doing that which I have so often asked of thee.’ He then showed me his divine Heart, and said: ‘Behold this Heart, which has so loved men, as that it has spared nothing, even to the exhausting and wearing itself out, in order to show them its love; and, instead of acknowledgment, I receive, from the greater number, nothing but ingratitude, by their irreverences and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt wherewith they treat me, in this Sacrament of love. But what is still more deeply felt by me is, that they are hearts which are consecrated to me, which thus treat me. It is on this account, that I make this demand of thee,—that the first Friday after the Octave of the Blessed Sacrament be devoted to a special Feast in honor of my Heart; that thou wilt go to Communion on that day; and give it a reparation of honor by an act of amendment, to repair the insults it has received during the time of its being exposed on the Altar. I promise thee, also, that my Heart will dilate itself, that it may pour forth, with abundance, the influences of its divine love upon those who shall thus honor it, and shall do their best to have such honor paid to it.’”
By thus calling his servant to be the instrument of the glorification of his Sacred Heart, our Lord made her a sign of contradiction; just as he himself had been. It took more than ten years for Blessed Margaret to get the better, by dint of patience and humility, of the suspicions wherewith she was treated by the little world around her, and of the harsh conduct of the Sisters who lived with her in the same Monastery, and of trials of every sort. At last, on the 21st of June, in the year 1686, the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi, she had the consolation of seeing the whole Community of Paray-le-Monial kneeling before a picture, which represented the Heart of Jesus as pierced with a spear; it was the Heart by itself; it was encircled with flames, and a crown of thorns, with the Cross above it, and the three Nails. That same year, there was begun, in the Monastery, the building of a Chapel in honor of the Sacred Heart; and Blessed Margaret had the happiness of seeing it finished and blessed. She died shortly afterwards, in the year 1690. But all this was a very humble beginning: where was the institution of a Feast, properly so called? and where its solemn celebration throughout the Church?
So far back as the year 1674, our Lord had, in his own mysterious way, brought Margaret-Mary to form the acquaintance of one of the most saintly Religious of the Society of Jesus then living,—it was Father De la Colombière. He recognized the workings of the Holy Spirit in this his servant, and became the devoted apostle of the Sacred Heart, first of all at Paray-le-Monial, and, then, later on, in our own country of England, where he was imprisoned by the heretics of those times, and merited the glorious title of Confessor of the Faith. This fervent disciple of the Heart of Jesus died in the year 1682, worn out by his labors and sufferings; but the Society, in a body, inherited his zeal for the propagation of devotion to the Sacred Heart. At once, numerous confraternities began to be formed, and everywhere there began to be built Chapels, in honor of that same Heart. Hell was angry at this great preaching of God’s love. The Jansenists were furious at this sudden proclamation, at this apparition, as St. Paul would say, of the goodness and kindness of God our Savior; and the men who were proclaiming it, were aiming at restoring hope to souls, in which they, the Jansenists, had sowed despondency. The big world must interfere; and it began by talking of innovations, of scandals, of even idolatry; at all events, this new devotion was, to put it mildly, a revolting dissecting of the sacred Body of Christ! Erudite pamphlets were published, some theological, some physiological, to prove that the Church should forbid the subject! Indecent engravings were circulated, and witticisms, such as indignation can make, were made, in order to bring ridicule upon those for whom the world had coined the name of Cordicolæ, or Heart-Worshippers.[In the year 1720, the City of Marseilles was visited by a plague. It had been brought by a vessel that had come from Syria. As many as a thousand a day fell victims to the scourge. The Parliament, which was mainly composed of Jansenists, had, of course, fled; and there was nothing being done to stay the contagion from spreading. The then Bishop, Monsigneur de Belzunce, assembled such of his priests as had been spared; and, standing in the avenue, which is now called by his name, he solemnly consecrated his Diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At once, the plague abated, and gradually disappeared. Two years later, however, it again showed itself, and threatened to repeat its fierce onslaught; but it was arrested in consequence of the City Magistrates binding themselves and their successors for all future ages, by a vow, to the solemn acts of public worship, which, up to this present day, have proved a protection and glory to the City of St. Lazarus.
These events were noised throughout the world, and were the occasion of the Feast of the Sacred Heart being kept, not only, as hitherto, in the Monasteries of the Visitation Order, but in several Dioceses of France.
That noble, but tried, kingdom, is now erecting a national monument in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; it is the splendid Church which is now being built on Montmartre, near Paris. May that loving Heart of our Lord bless his devoted France, the eldest daughter of the Church! Like the Church, she is under terrible trials; and as they are companions in affliction, may they, through the mercy of the Heart of Jesus, be soon united in prosperity, and work together for the happiness of the world!]
But, human wisdom, or human prejudice, or even human ridicule, cannot withstand God’s purposes. He wished that human hearts should be led to love, and therefore worship, the Sacred Heart of their Redeemer; and he inspired his Church to receive the devotion, which would save so many souls, though the world might not take heaven’s view. The Apostolic See had witnessed all this; and, at last, gave its formal sanction. Rome had frequently granted Indulgences in favor of the devotions privately practiced towards the Sacred Heart; she had published innumerable Briefs for the establishment of local Confraternities, under that title; and, in the year 1765, in accordance with the request made by the Bishops of Poland and the Arch-Confraternity of the Sacred Heart at Rome, Pope Clement the Thirteenth issued the first pontifical decree in favor of the Feast of the Heart of Jesus, and approved of a Mass and Office, which had been drawn up for that Feast. The same favor was gradually accorded to other Churches, until, at length, on the 23rd of August, 1856, Pope Pius the Ninth, of glorious memory, at the instance of all the Bishops of France, issued the Decree for the inserting the Feast of the Sacred Heart on the Calendar, and making obligatory its celebration by the universal Church.
The glorification of the Heart of Jesus called for that of its humble handmaid. On the 18th of September, 1864, the Beatification of Margaret-Mary was solemnly proclaimed by the same Sovereign Pontiff, who had put the last finish to the work she had begun, and given it the definitive sanction of the Apostolic See.
From that time forward, the knowledge and love of the Sacred Heart have made greater progress, than they had done during the whole two previous centuries. In every quarter of the globe, we have heard of Communities, Religious Orders, and whole Dioceses, consecrating themselves to this source of every grace, this sole refuge of the Church in these sad times. There have been pilgrimages made of thousands, from every country, to the favored sanctuary of Paray-le-Monial, where it pleased the Divine Heart to first manifest itself, in its visible form, to us mortals.
We now put before our readers the Mass, which has been approved of for our Feast.
Mass.—In the liturgy of this Feast, there is scarcely any mention made of the Heart of Flesh assumed by our Savior. When, in the last century, there was question of approving a Mass and Office in honor of the Sacred Heart, the Jansenists, who had zealous partisans even in Rome, excited so much opposition, that the Apostolic See did not deem it prudent to speak openly, at that early period, on the points which some so angrily disputed. It, however, readily granted, both to Portugal and the Republic of Venice, an Office, in which the Heart of Jesus, victim of love, and pierced with a spear, was offered to the adorations of the Faithful. But, in the Mass and Office which Rome afterwards gave for the general use, she, out of a motive of prudence, kept to the glorification of our Redeemer’s love, of which it could not reasonably be denied that his Heart of Flesh was the true and direct symbol.
Thus, the Introit, which is taken from Jeremias, extols the infinite mercies of him, whose heart has not cast off the children of men.
|Miserebitur secundum multitudinem miserationum suarum; non enim humiliavit ex corde suo, et abjecit filios hominum: bonus est Dominus sperantibus in eum, animæ quærenti illum, alleluia, alleluia.||He will have mercy according to the multitude of his mercies: for he hath not willingly afflicted, nor cast off the children of men: the Lord is good to them that hope in him, to the soul that seeketh him, alleluia, alleluia.|
|Ps. Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo: in generationem et generationem.||Ps. The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever: to generation and generation.|
|℣. Gloria Patri. Miserabitur.||℣. Glory, etc. He will have mercy.|
The Church, deeply moved with gratitude for the immense blessings brought to her by the Sacred Heart, prays, in her Collect, that her children may have the grace to appreciate those divine benefits, and receive, with holy joy, the fruits they are intended to produce.
|Concede, quæsumus omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in sanctissimo dilecti Filii tui Corde gloriantes, præcipua in nos charitatis ejus beneficia recolimus, eorum pariter et actu delectemur et fructu. Per eumdem.||Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we, who glory in the most sacred Heart of thy beloved Son, and celebrate the singular benefits of his love towards us, may rejoice both in their accomplishment, and in the fruit they produce. Through, etc.|
|Lectio Isaïæ Prophetæ.||Lesson of the Prophet Isaias.|
|Cap. XII.||Ch. XII.|
|Confitebor tibi, Domine, quoniam iratus es mihi; conversus est furor tuus, et consolatus es me. Ecce Deus salvator meus; fiducialiter agam, et non timebo: quia fortitudo mea et laus mea Dominus, et factus est mihi in salutem. Haurietis aquas in gaudio de fontibus salvatoris. Et dicetis in die illa: Confitemini Domino et invocate nomen ejus; notas facite in populis adinventiones ejus; mementote quoniam excelsum est nomen ejus. Cantate Domino, quoniam magnifice fecit; annuntiate hoc in universa terra. Exsulta et lauda, habitatio Sion, quia magnus in medio tui Sanctus Israel.||I will give thanks to thee, O Lord, for thou wast angry with me: thy wrath is turned away, and thou hast comforted me. Behold, God is my saviour, I will deal confidently, and will not fear: O because the Lord is my strength, and my praise, and he is become my salvation. You shall draw waters with joy out of the saviour’s fountains: And you shall say in that day: Praise ye the Lord, and call upon his name: make his works known among the people: remember that his name is high. Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath done great things: shew this forth in all the earth. Rejoice, and praise, O thou habitation of Sion: for great is he that is in the midst of thee, the Holy One of Israel.|
My people have done two evils, said God, in the ancient Covenant: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. How wonderful is this complaint! is is made by infinite love, on seeing his proffered benefits refused. And what is still more wonderful, the God who is thus slighted by his ungrateful children, who pretend to find their happiness in something which is not Himself, overlooks the insult, to consult for the remedying of their misery. He is touched at seeing these poor mistaken children trying to get their burning thirst quenched by created things, whereas He alone can quench it. Material goods, and outward beauty, have misled them, and made them slaves to their sensual appetites: their soul, which was created for infinite good, has thought it might find its rest in those feeble and flittering reflections of the sovereign beauty,—reflections and images which were intended to lead them to the divine reality. How lead back to the living fountain the poor creature who has been made a dupe of the mirage of the desert, and is rushing on deeper and deeper into the scorching sands? O Israel! sing praise to thy Lord! And thou, Sion, bless thy God for his infinite mercy towards thee! Water has sprung forth from the Rock which thou hast met in the wilderness, where the madness of thy guilty fever kept thee a wanderer. On the very steep which was urging thee to flesh. thou hast met thy Jesus; he has made himself thy companion on the way of this earth’s life; he is God, but he has been made Flesh, that so, for thy soul’s good, he might draw thee as the Prophet foretold, with the cords of Adam, that is, by the love and loveliness of that Heart of his own sacred Flesh, lead thee to the object which was to satisfy thine own heart, and for which thou wast created. Thus made captive to the Infinite by the bands of this love which Jesus showed thee, thou hast found thyself within reach of the fountain of water, which springeth up into life everlasting; and thy joy at finding thy Saviour’s fountains has made thee loathe the muddy water of the broken cisterns of old. Thy thirst keeps on, but the water is ever there for thee to drink in as deeply as thou willest: thou hast the Sacred Heart, which was opened for thee by the soldier’s spear. Thirst, and drink, and both for ever!
The immense love which fills the Heart of the Man-God, and has led him to undergo unparalleled sufferings in order to save us; the meekness and humility of that divine Heart, which he himself would have us take as the chief characteristic of his whole life;—these are the mysteries proposed by the Gradual and Alleluia-Verse, that we may know them, and let them influence our conduct.
|O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte, si est dolor sicut dolor meus.||O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.|
|℣. Cum dilexisset suos, qui erant in mundo, in finem dilexit eos.||℣. Having loved his own, who were in the world, he loved them unto the end.|
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Discite a me, quia mitis sum et humilis corde: et invenientis requiem animabus vestris. Alleluia.||℣. Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls. Alleluia.|
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.|
|Cap. XIX.||Ch. XIX.|
|In illo tempore: Judæi (quoniam Parasceve erat) ut non remanerent in cruce corpora sabbato (erat enim magnus dies ille sabbati), rogaverunt Pilatum ut frangerentur eorum crura, et tollerentur. Venerunt ergo milites: et primi quidem fregerunt crura, et alterius, qui crucifixus est cum eo. Ad Jesum autem cum venissent, ut viderunt eum jam mortuum, non fregerunt ejus crura, sed unus militum lancea latus ejus aperuit, et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua. Et qui vidit, testimonium perhibuit: et verum est testimonium ejus.||At that time: The Jews, (because it was the parasceve,) that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that was a great sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true.|
We have already explained this passage of St. John’s Gospel; and, in doing so, we brought it into juxtaposition with certain texts from the first Epistle of the same Apostle, which throw such light on what the Gospel relates regarding the opening of Jesus’ Side. Let us imitate our Mother, the Church, who hears these mysterious words with such profound attention. This Gospel tells us of the beautiful path by which she first came. Yes, she was born from the Heart of the Man-God. It seems to us,—now that we know what we do,—that she could not have any other beginning than this; for she is the work, by excellence, of his love; and it is for this his Bride, that he has accomplished all his other works. Eve was taken from Adam’s side, and it was done as a figure of a future mystery; but, for that very reason of its being a type and prediction, no trace was to be left of the fact itself. But in the mysterious fulfilment of the figure, that is, in the Side of our Jesus being opened, that his Bride, the Church, might come forth, the trace was to remain forever. As often as she looks at this wound, she is reminded of her glorious origin; and that open Side is like a ceaseless telling her, that she has but to go to that Sacred Heart, and there she will find everything she needs for her children.
The Offertory is taken from the 102nd Psalm, that magnificent hymn of love and gratitude, which extols the numberless favors and infinite mercies of God.
|Benedic, anima mea, Domino: et noli oblivisci omnes retributiones ejus: qui replet in bonis desiderium tuum, alleluia.||Bless the Lord, O my soul: and never forget all he hath done for thee: who satisfieth thy desire with good things, alleluia.|
Let us, in the Secret, unite with the Church in imploring of our Lord to enkindle within our souls the flames of his holy love, that thus our hearts may be in unison with that of our great High Priest, who offers a Sacrifice, which is both his own and ours.
After the Secret, follows the Preface; it is that of the holy Cross. Our Jesus was still attached to the sacred Wood, when his Heart was pierced and opened. The choice of such a Preface was an act of reverential love paid, by our holy Mother, to the glorious instrument, which gave her life by working her redemption.
|Tuere nos, Domine, tua tibi holocausta, offerentes: ad quæ ut ferventius corda nostra præparentur, flammis adure tuæ divinæ charitatis. Qui vivis.||Defend us, O Lord, who offer to thee thy holocaust: and, that our hearts may be more fervently prepared for it, enkindle within them the flames of thy divine charity. Who livest, etc.|
|Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper, et ubique gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: qui salutem humani generis in ligno crucis constituisti: ut unde mors oriebatur, inde vita resurgeret: et qui in ligno vincebat, in ligno quoque vinceretur: per Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Cœli, cœlorumque virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, etc.||It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should, always and in all places, give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: who hast appointed, that the salvation of mankind should be wrought on the wood of the Cross: that, from whence death came, thence life might arise: and, that he, who overcame by the tree, might also, by the Tree, be overcome: through Christ our Lord. By whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it. The Heavens and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee, glorify it. Together with whom, we beseech thee, that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, etc.|
In order to excite in her children, sentiments of reparation to the Sacred Heart, which is so much in the spirit of this Feast, the Church, at the moment of Communion, reminds them how their Jesus was abandoned, when in the midst of the sufferings, which he endured out of love for us.
|Improperium exspectavit cor meum, et miseriam: et sustinui qui simul contristaretur, et non fuit: et qui consolaretur, et non inveni, alleluia.||My Heart hath expected reproach and misery: and I looked for one, that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none, alleluia.|
The Church who has just been so closely united with her Spouse in these sacred Mysteries, is able to understand, all the more fully, the lessons given to her by the Sacred Heart. She prays that her children may increase in true humility, may abhor the pride which is so rife in this fallen world, and prove themselves to be the disciples of Him, who was meek and humble of Heart.
|Pacificis pasti deliciis, et salutaribus Sacramentis, te supplices exoramus, Domine Deus noster: ut qui mitis es et humilis corde, nos a vitiorum labe purgatos, propensius facias a superbis sæculi vanitatibus abhorrere. Qui vivis.||Being fed with peaceful delights, and life-giving Sacraments, we suppliantly beseech thee, O Lord our God, that thou, who art meek and humble of Heart, wouldst make us to be clean from the stain of every vice, and more steadfastly to abhor the proud vanities of the world. Who livest, etc.|
We here give the three Hymns of this Feast; they are full of beauty and sublime teaching.
|Hymn for Vespers|
|Auctor beate sæculi,
Christe Redemptor omnium,
Lumen Patris de lumine
Deusque verus de Deo.
|O blessed Creator of this world, Christ, Redeemer of all men, Light of the Father’s Light, and true God of God!|
|Amor coegit te tuus
Mortale corpus sumere,
Ut novus Adam redderes,
Quod vetus ille abstulerat:
|It was thy love compelled thee to assume a mortal body, that thou, the New Adam, mightest restore, what the Old one had taken from us.|
|Ille amor almus artifex
Terræ, marisque et siderum,
Errata patrum miserans,
Et nostra rumpens vincula.
|That gracious love, which had created this earth, and sea, and stars, had pity on the sins of our first Parents, and broke our chains.|
|Non corde discedat tuo
Vis illa amoris inclyti:
Hoc fonte gentes hauriant
|Let not the vehemence of thine admirable love depart from thy Heart; and let all nations come to this Fount, and thence draw the grace of pardon.|
|Percussum ad hoc est lancea,
Passumque ad hoc est vulnera,
Ut nos lavaret sordibus
Unda fluente et sanguine.
|For this was it struck by the spear, for this it suffered the wounds, that it might cleanse us from our defilements, by the Water and Blood which flowed from it.|
|Decus parenti et Filio,
Sanctoque sit Spiritui,
Quibus potestas, gloria,
Regnumque in omne est sæculum.
|Be honor to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost! To whom are power, glory, and the Kingdom, for all ages!|
|Hymn for Matins|
|En ut superba criminum
Et sæva nostrorum cohors
Cor sauciavit innocens
Merentis haud tale Dei.
|O see! how the haughty and savage host of our sins has wounded the innocent Heart of our God, who deserved far other treatment!|
|Vibrantis hastam militis
Peccata nostra dirigunt,
Ferrumque diræ cuspidis
Mortale crimen acuit.
|It is our sins that direct the spear of the soldier who brandishes it; and deadly sin it is, that sharpens the steel of the cruel lance.|
|Ex corde scisso Ecclesia
Christo jugata nascitur:
Hoc ostium arcæ in latere est
Genti ad salutem positum.
|From this wounded Heart, is born the Church, the Bride of Christ: this opened Side is the door put, for the salvation of his people, in the side of the Ark.|
|Ex hoc perennis gratia,
Ceu septiformis fluvius;
Stolas ut illic sordidas
Lavemus Agni in sanguine.
|From this there flows a perennial grace, like a seven-fold stream; that there, in the Blood of the Lamb, we may wash our sullied robes.|
|Turpe est redire ad crimina,
Quæ cor beatum lacerent;
Sed æmulemur cordibus
Flammas amoris indices.
|It is a crying shame if we repeat our sins, which wound that Blessed heart; no; let us strive to put within our hearts the flames which burn round His, and are the symbols of its love.|
|Hoc, Christe, nobis, hoc, Pater,
Hoc, sancte, dona, Spiritus,
Quibus potestas, gloria,
Regnumque in omne est sæculum.
|Give us this grace, O Jesus! give it us, thou, O Father! and thou, O Holy Spirit! To whom are power, glory, and the Kingdom, for all ages!|
|Hymn for Lauds|
|Cor arca legem continens,
Non servitutis veteris,
Sed gratiæ, sed veniæ,
Sed et misericordiæ.
|O Heart! thou ark holding within thee the Law, not of the old bondage, but of grace, and of pardon, and of mercy.|
|Cor sanctuarium novi
Templum vetusto sanctius,
Velumque scissum utilius.
|O Heart! Thou spotless Sanctuary of the New Covenant! Thou Temple, holier than the one of old! Thou Veil, that wast torn, but by a tearing of such greater boon to us!|
|Te vulneratum charitas
Ictu patenti voluit,
Ut veneremur vulnera.
|It was thy love that would have thy Heart wounded with this open Wound, that we might see (through it) the wounds of thine unseen love, and venerate them.|
|Hoc sub amoris symbolo
Passus cruenta et mystica,
Christus sacerdos obtulit.
|Under this symbol of love, Christ, our High Priest, having suffered both cruelly and mystically, offered the twofold Sacrifice.|
|Quis non amantem redamet?
Quis non redemptus diligat,
Et corde in isto seligat
|Who would not love the Savior who loves him? Who would not love Him, by whom he has been redeemed? Who would not wish to take up his abode for ever in this his Jesus’ Heart.|
|Decus Parenti et Filio,
Sanctoque sit Spiritui,
Quibus potestas, gloria,
Regnumque in omne est sæculum.
|Be honor to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost! To whom are power, glory, and the Kingdom, for all ages!|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)