Skip to comments.Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus-The Early Church, Middle Ages up to St. Margaret Mary
Posted on 11/05/2003 3:21:46 PM PST by Canticle_of_Deborah
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has an ancient history. At the beginning of devotion to the Sacred Heart we find references of the Fathers of the Church to the Sacred Wound of the Side of Jesus. In time devotion to this Sacred Wound led to devotion to the Sacred Heart. From this Sacred Wound, with the Blood and Water, the Church and the Sacraments were born. The Blood symbolized the Holy Eucharist and the Water symbolized Baptism. As St. Ambrose (d.397) stated: "The Water cleanses us, the Blood redeems us." This was also the teaching of St. John Chrysostom (d.407).
Another theme that the Fathers of the Church contemplated was that, at the Last Supper, St. John leaned upon the breast of Our Lord and thereby received Divine Wisdom. St. Augustine (d.430) explains that St. John drank in "sublime secrets from the innermost depths of Our Lord's Heart." St. Paulinus of Nola (d.431) taught that this was how St. John received the wisdom to write His Gospel and the Apocalypse.
In a later age another theme that was considered by William of St. Thierry (d.1148) was that we should spiritually "enter wholly into the Heart of Jesus, into the Holy of Holies." St. William's friend, the great St. Bernard (d.1153) explained that the piercing of Our Blessed Lord's side reveals His goodness and the charity of His Heart for us. Another writer of the Middle Ages, Richard of St. Victor (d.1173) taught that no sweetness or tenderness could be found that could be compared to that of the Heart of Jesus.
The earliest known hymn to the Sacred Heart, "Summi Regis Cor Aveto" is believed to have been written by the Norbertine, Blessed Herman Joseph (d.1241) of Cologne, Germany. This hymn begins beautifully with, "I hail Thee kingly Heart most high."
St. Lutgarde (d.1246) the Cistercian mystic of Aywieres, Belgium had visions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When once asked by Our Lord what gift she wanted, she replied: "I want Your Heart." To which Jesus responded: "I want your heart." Then Our Blessed Lord granted the Saint a very special grace. He mystically exchanged hearts with her. St. Lutgarde is the first known mystic to receive this grace.
Of St. Clare (d.1253) we read that she greeted many times a day the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. St. Bonaventure (d.1274), the Franciscan and a great theologian, wrote: "Since we have reached the most sweet Heart of Jesus, and it is good for us to abide in It, let us not readily turn away from It. How good, how sweet it is to dwell in Thy Heart, O good Jesus! Who is there who would not desire this pearl? I would rather give all else, all my thoughts and all the affections of my soul in exchange for It, casting my whole mind into the Heart of my good Jesus." St. Bonaventure also wrote: "Who is there who would not love this wounded Heart? Who would not love, in return, Him Who loves so much?"
St. Gertrude the Great (d.1301 or 1302) is a very important saint in the history of devotion to the Sacred Heart. She was born on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1256. She joined the Benedictine Nuns as a boarding student at Helfta, Germany at a very early age and later became a nun there. She was blessed to have as her friend in the community, St. Mechtilde of Hackeborn (d.1298). The community at Helfta was Benedictinehowever they followed customs of the Cistercianshence sometimes St. Gertrude is said, incorrectly, to have been a Cistercian.
St. Gertrude was a Saint blessed with many mystical experiences and her devotion to the Sacred Heart was so great that she truly is the St. Margaret Mary of the Middle Ages. St. Mechtilde of Hackeborn also had a very special devotion for the Sacred Heart.
So great was St. Gertrude's love for the Sacred Heart that once, when St. John the Apostle appeared to her, she asked him why he did not write of the Sacred Heart. He replied, "Because I was charged with instructing the newly-formed Church concerning the mysteries of the Uncreated Word." St. John then told St. Gertrude that the grace of learning of the Sacred Heart was reserved to her century, to rouse it from its lethargy so that it would be inflamed with the great worth of Divine Love.
St. Gertrude prayed: "Through Thy Wounded Heart, dearest Lord, pierce my heart so deeply with the dart of Thy love that it may no longer be able to contain earthly things but may be governed by the action of Thy Divinity alone."
Once, when St. Gertrude's friend, St. Mechtilde, was praying for a woman who was suffering, Our Blessed Lord said to St. Mechtilde that the woman should, with childlike simplicity, bring each of her troubles to Him and that she should seek consolation in His Compassionate Heart. St. Mechtilde taught that Jesus has given us the gift of His Sacred Heart so that, when suffering, we can seek our refuge and our consolation there.
Let us now consider three hymns from the Middle Ages. One, by the Franciscan Jacopone da Todi (d.1306), refers to Christ writing the names of devout souls upon His Heart. Another hymn, written by the English hermit, Richard Rolle (d.1349?), speaks of how it was for us that Our Lord's Heart was pierced. And in a hymn of one of Richard Rolle's followers we read of "Jesus, Sweetheart," and then the hymn explains that the Lord "carest for naught but love of me."
Two of the mystics from the group known as the "Rhineland Mystics" in Germany referred to Our Lord's Heart. The Dominican Johannes Tauler (d.1361) encourages one to take refuge in this sweet Heart which is open to those who give their hearts to Jesus. Blessed Henry Suso (d.1366), also a Dominican, once had a vision of an Angel taking his heart from him and uniting it in rapturous love to the Heart of Jesus.
The Carthusian monks were among the earliest religious orders to be devoted to the Sacred Heart. The Carthusian, Ludolph of Saxony (d.1378), wrote: "Our Lord's Heart was wounded with the wound of love for our sake, so that, loving Him in return, we might enter through that open wound into His Heart and there live inflamed with His love, just as iron cast into the fire becomes incandescent."
The great Dominican mystic, St. Catherine of Siena (d.1380), one day said to Our Lord: "Sweet, Spotless Lamb, You were dead when Your Side was opened. Why, then, did You allow that Your Heart should be thus wounded and opened by force?" Our Lord answered: "For several reasons, of which I will tell you the principal. My desires regarding the human race were infinite and the actual time of suffering and torture was at an end. Since my love is infinite, I could not therefore by this suffering manifest to you how much I loved you. That is why I willed to reveal to you the secret of my Heart by letting you see It open, that you might well understand that It loved you far more than I could prove to you by a suffering that was over."
Julian of Norwich (d.1416), the English anchoress and mystic, tells us of the following vision she had: "Then Our Lord looked into His Side and rejoiced. By this sweet look He had me gaze within this Wound. He showed me a fair, delectable place, and large enough for all mankind that shall be saved to rest in peace and in love. And therewith He had me recall His dear-worthy Blood and precious Water which He let pour out for love and He showed His blissful Heart."
A Carthusian, Dominic of Treves (d.1461), wrote: "In this most sweet Heart of Jesus, is found all virtue, the source of life, perfect consolation, the true light that enlightens every man."
The Italian Poor Clare Nun Blessed Baptista Varani (d.1527) honored and also shared in the sufferings of the sorrow-filled Heart of Jesus. When she asked Jesus how great was the sorrow of His Heart His answer was: "as great as the love which I bear toward my creatures." Our Blessed Lord told Blessed Baptista that the sorrows of His Heart were so great because so many people are in mortal sin.
The Carthusian, called Lansperguis (d.1539), recommended that people have a picture of the Sacred Heart to foster their devotion. He encouraged that the picture be placed where it would be easily seen so that by seeing it holy love would be kindled in the soul. He also encouraged that this picture be kissed with affection. This is perhaps the first reference to encouraging people to have a picture of the Sacred Heart.
St. Teresa of Avila (d.1582), the great Spanish Carmelite mystic and "Doctor of Prayer," explained that we should make the Sacred Wound our place of refuge as also did the Spanish Dominican, Venerable Louis of Grenada (d.1588).
Another reference from the 1500's to an image of the Sacred Heart is by the daughter of the English martyr, Sir Thomas Percy, who founded an abbey for English Benedictine Nuns at Brussels in 1596. Lady Mary Percy had the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus placed over the door of the abbey. Years later, this abbey was to have the first altar in Belgium dedicated to the Sacred Heart.
St. Francis de Sales (d.1622), who with St. Jane de Chantel (d.1641) founded the Visitation Nuns, explained that this congregation was truly "the work of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary." And St. Jane, herself, stated: "May God give us the grace to live and die in the Sacred Heart."
In 1629, Mathias Hejnal published a book about the Sacred Heart and Gospor Drusbichi, in 1662, published another one. In 1642, the Puritan Protestant, Thomas Goodwin, published a book about the Sacred Heart which was later, in 1819, reprinted by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists.
St. John Eudes (d.1680) was a great apostle of devotion to both the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the religious community that he founded, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, he brought aboutfor the first time everthe celebration of a feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and one for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. St. John Eudes taught that the Sacred Heart is a Furnace of Divine Love. Those who desire to be united to this most loving Heart are purified, inflamed and transformed by this Divine Fire.
(All quotations in the above section are taken with permission from "The Sacred Heart in the Life of the Church" by Mother Margaret Williams, R.S.C.J. published by Sheed & Ward, New York and "Devotion to the Sacred Heart of JesusThe Doctrine and Its History" by Father J. V. Bainvel, S.J. published by Burns & Oates Ltd., London.)
We the Christians are the true Israel which springs from Christ, for we are carved out of His heart as from a rock." -- St. Justin Martyr (d. 165)
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." -- Matthew 11:29
"There is in the Sacred Heart the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return." -- Pope Leo XIII
The heart has always been seen as the "center" or essence a person ("the heart of the matter," "you are my heart," "take it to heart," etc.) and the wellspring of our emotional lives and love ("you break my heart," "my heart sings," etc.) Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is devotion to Jesus Christ Himself, but in the particular ways of meditating on his interior life and on His threefold love -- His divine love, His burning love that fed His human will, and His sensible love that affects His interior life. Pope Pius XII of blessed memory writes on this topic in his 1956 encyclical, Haurietis Aquas (On Devotion To The Sacred Heart).Below are a few excerpts which help explain the devotion:
54. ...the Heart of the Incarnate Word is deservedly and rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that threefold love with which the divine Redeemer unceasingly loves His eternal Father and all mankind.
55. 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 Godhead bodily."
56. 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.
57. 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 any other human body.
58. Since, therefore, Sacred Scripture and the official teaching of the Catholic faith instruct us that all things find their complete harmony and order in the most holy soul of Jesus Christ, and that He has manifestly directed His threefold love for the securing of our redemption, it unquestionably follows that we can contemplate and honor the Heart of the divine Redeemer as a symbolic image of His love and a witness of our redemption and, at the same time, as a sort of mystical ladder by which we mount to the embrace of "God our Savior."
59. Hence His words, actions, commands, miracles, and especially those works which manifest more clearly His love for us -- such as the divine institution of the Eucharist, His most bitter sufferings and death, the loving gift of His holy Mother to us, the founding of the Church for us, and finally, the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and upon us -- all these, We say, ought to be looked upon as proofs of His threefold love.
60. Likewise we ought to meditate most lovingly on the beating of His Sacred Heart by which He seemed, as it were, to measure the time of His sojourn on earth until that final moment when, as the Evangelists testify, "crying out with a loud voice 'It is finished.', and bowing His Head, He yielded up the ghost."Then it was that His heart ceased to beat and His sensible love was interrupted until the time when, triumphing over death, He rose from the tomb.
61. But after His glorified body had been re-united to the soul of the divine Redeemer, conqueror of death, His most Sacred Heart never ceased, and never will cease, to beat with calm and imperturbable pulsations. Likewise, it will never cease to symbolize the threefold love with which He is bound to His heavenly Father and the entire human race, of which He has every claim to be the mystical Head.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart has two elements: consecration and reparation. We consecrate ourselves to the Sacred Heart by acknowledging Him as Creator and Redeemer and as having full rights over us as King of Kings, by repenting, and by resolving to serve Him. We make reparations for the indifference and ingratitude with which He is treated and for leaving Him abandoned by humanity. To carry out these general goals of consecration and reparation, there are quite specific devotions authorized by the Church.
Wonderful posts!!! Thank you so much!!! I am especially fond of Saint Gertrude the Great and Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn and their fascinating visions of and prayers to Christ's Most Sacred Heart!!!
From the earliest days of the Church, "Christ's open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wound Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love." (Catholic Encyclopedia)
This general devotion arose first in Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries of that time, but specific devotions became popularized when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a Visitation nun, had a personal revelation involving a series of visions of Christ as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote, "He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart." Christ emphasized to her His love -- and His woundedness caused by Man's indifference to this love.
He promised that, in response to those who consecrate themselves and make reparations to His Sacred Heart, that:
He will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
He will establish peace in their homes.
He will comfort them in all their afflictions.
He will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
He will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
Sinners will find in His Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
He will bless every place in which an image of His Heart is exposed and honored.
He will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in His Heart.
In the excessive mercy of His Heart that His all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in His disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. His divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
The devotions attached to these promises are:
Receiving Communion frequently
First Fridays: going to Confession and receiving the Eucharist on the first Friday of each month for nine consecutive months. Many parishes will offer public First Friday devotions; if they do, you must perform First Fridays publicly. If it isn't so offered in your parish, you can do this privately, going to Confession, receiving the Eucharist, and offering your prayers for the intention of the Holy Father.
Holy Hour: Eucharistic Adoration for one hour on Thursdays ("Could you not watch one hour with me?"). Holy Hour can be made alone or as part of a group with formal prayers. Celebrating of the Feast of the Sacred Heart (see below)
Feast of the Sacred Heart
The Friday that follows the Second Sunday in Time After Pentecost is the Feast of the Sacred Heart which brings to mind all the attributes of His Divine Heart mentioned above. Many Catholics prepare for this Feast by beginning a Novena to the Sacred Heart on the Feast of Corpus Christi, which is the Thursday of the week before. On the Feast of the Sacred Heart itself, we can gain a plenary indulgence by making an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart.
Devotion To The Sacred Heart Of Jesus - Croiset by the confessor of St. Margaret Mary
The Letters of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque intimate letters from an astounding saint
I had first heard about The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Home in a book called "The Way of Divine Love" by Sister Josefa Menendez. When I asked a priest about this enthronement ceremony he replied that the Church doesn't do that anymore, that it is an outdated superstition. This priest is now acting ( he's semi-retired, Deo Gratias )as the principal of the elementary school attached to this very parish. I am always glad to see a traditional devotion practiced in spite of the disbelief that is so pervasive.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart bump! About a year and a half ago a visiting Priest at our Parish preached a homily about this devotion. I took his message to heart and on All Saints Day in 2002 I started this devotion and stayed the course through last July. I urge everyone consider this devotion. Its wonderful
Sacred Heart bump on 06-04-04!
Thanks. I forgot about this thread.
BTTT on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 3, 2005.