The Sacred Heart of Jesus
As a young kid my Mom purchased the above picture for the bedroom I shared with my brother. I grew up with it, never understanding what it meant. I thought it was some kitschy Catholic representation of a Jesus I was slowly drifting from as I approached adolescence. Forty years later I understand that picture represented the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Inflamed with love for me and pierced for my transgressions.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Arising sometime in the 11th or 12th century, the devotion to the Sacred Heat of Jesus was practiced by the Benedictine and perhaps Cistercian monastic orders. From an outsider's point of view, a devotion like this is unusual and perhaps difficult to understand. Here is what I have come to understand about the Sacred Heart of Jesus: The heart through the ages has always represented the center and source of all love. The heart of Christ is a symbolic emblem of His love for man and the wound in His sacred heart represents the unmatchable sacrifice He offered to the Father on our behalf. So when we speak about a devotion centered on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are focusing on the tremendous love and sacrifice of our Lord, and not an anatomical, physiologically functioning organ, we know as the human heart. Is Jesus' heart (meaning precious love and sacrifice for us) sacred? I say yes, absolutely, and can imagine no one would consider his sacrificial love for us anything but sacred!
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a mystic of the 17th century, had a vision from the Lord that encouraged devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This, like all apparitions, was not immediately approved by the Church, but the Church studied the theology behind this devotion and with time it has been approved and promoted. Lives have been changed from this devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Not magic or superstition, but pure love and adoration directed to that One whose heart was pierced for love of each one of us. That's what the devotion to the Sacred Heart is all about.
....Only the Heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way ----From the Catechism. P:1439
The prayer of the Church venerates and honors the Heart of Jesus just as it invokes his most holy name. It adores the incarnate Word and his Heart which, out of love for men, he allowed to be pierced by our sins. Christian prayer loves to follow the way of the cross in the Savior's steps.-- From the Catechism. P: 2669
"From the depth of my nothingness, I prostrate myself before Thee, O Most Sacred, Divine and Adorable Heart of Jesus, to pay Thee all the homage of love, praise and adoration in my power." St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Click here for a more in depth look at the Devotion to the Sacred Heart by Fr. Hardon