Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father. Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed in the womb of the Virgin Mother by the Holy Ghost. Have mercy on us.
While there can be no doubt that the person of Jesus, who is none other than the Son of the Eternal Father, the very Word of God who was in the beginning with God, did not begin to exist but rather has always been; nevertheless, we may well question whether the Sacred Heart of Jesus came into being at any time.
Even though the Eternal Word has been from before everlasting ages, can we say that the Sacred Heart has always been? Or, rather, shall we hold that the Heart of our Savior only came into existence at the moment of the Incarnation? Or, even further, ought we to think that the Sacred Heart only began to exist sometime after the conception of our Lord, but before his birth, at the time that the human heart organ was formed in the womb of Mary?
This question will allow us to enter into a rather speculative point of theological inquiry: Is devotion to the Sacred Heart a devotion to the humanity of Jesus only, or also to his divinity?
The Sacred Heart of Jesus includes the human organ
When we worship and adore the Sacred Heart of Jesus, are we worshiping the beating corporeal muscle? The Encyclical Haurietis Aquas, with which Ven. Pius XII promulgated the universal feast of the Sacred Heart, explicitly refers to the physical and corporeal Heart of Jesus many times.
The Venerable Pontiff states, “It is likewise beyond doubt that He [i.e. Christ, our Savior] was endowed with a physical heart like ours”, and he directs the Church to “the contemplation of the physical Heart of Jesus”. Still, it is clear that the devotion reaches primarily to the love which is shown humanity in this burning furnace of charity, the Heart of our Savior.
Hence, we affirm that the immediate (or proximate) object of the cult of the Heart of Jesus is the physical and corporeal heart muscle, considered as an essential part of the sacred Humanity of Christ which is hypostatically united to the Logos. The devotion to the Sacred Heart is not merely the worship of Jesus’ heart in the metaphorical sense. Still, we must affirm that the whole object of our devotion is the person of Jesus Christ, whose redemptive love is most perfectly symbolized by the corporeal heart.
The love of the Sacred Heart
While we admit that the devotion to the Sacred Heart is indeed a devotion to the heart organ itself, we must emphasis that this organ is also a symbol and sign for the love of Christ. Hence, this devotion is principally directed toward the love which Christ has for God and for men – and it seems more to the love which he has for men: It is a devotion to “the Heart that has so loved men.” (As St. Margaret Mary states)
However, we may well ask ourselves: Is the love of the Sacred Heart the divine or the human love of our Savior? That is, is this devotion directed to the love which Jesus has for us as God; or to that love which he has for us as man.
First, we must assert that there are two loves in Christ – just has he has two wills (and two natures), he must necessarily have two loves. It is obvious enough: Love is the act of the will, and the love of a human will must needs be human love.
Second, it seems that we must conclude that the devotion to the Sacred Heart is almost exclusively a devotion to the human love of our Savior. Indeed, the love which Jesus has as God is the very same love which the Father and the Holy Spirit have – for there is only one will in the Most Holy Trinity, just as there is only one nature. [Notice, parenthetically, that the ONE person of Jesus has TWO natures and therefore TWO loves; but the THREE persons of the Trinity have only ONE divine nature and therefore only ONE divine love.]
Now, if the love to which we are devoted in the Sacred Heart were the divine love of Jesus, then the Sacred Heart would not really be the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but the Sacred Heart of the Most Holy Trinity – since the Three have only this one same love. But, the devotion is not to the Heart of the Trinity, but is a specific devotion to our Savior. And, as in any specific devotion to our Savior, it must needs be a devotion to this humanity.
Therefore, we must conclude that the Sacred Heart of Jesus (in addition to including the physical heart organ of our Lord’s sacred human body) is principally understood to be the human love which the human heart symbolizes. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a devotion to our Savior’s humanity, and to his love for us as man (specifically, as head of the Church).
When did the Sacred Heart begin to exist?
While it is quite certain that the physical heart organ of our Savior was only formed some time after his Incarnation, it seems that we must hold that the Sacred Heart existed from the first moment of our Lord’s conception.
Earlier, we had maintained that devotion to the Sacred Heart includes devotion to the physical heart organ; however, we must realize that it is properly a devotion to the human love of Jesus which this heart symbolizes.
Therefore, the Sacred Heart may be said to have existed since this human love came to be. And this human love began at the very moment that the human will came to be. And the human will was created together with the soul of our Savior at the moment of the conception of his flesh in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.
From the first moment of his conception, our Savior knew and loved each and every one of us. From the moment he came into existence, even as an embryo in the womb of his Virgin Mother, the Lord had a perfect knowledge of all things and he held every man who had or did or would ever exist in the loving embrace of his Sacred Heart.
Hence, the Sacred Heart must surely have existed from the very first moment of our Savior’s conception, but not a moment before (because, until this time, our Lord’s Sacred Humanity was not; therefore, neither was his Sacred Heart).
This teaching is affirmed by Venerable Pius XII:
“The knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the beatific vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love.” (Mystici Corporis 75)