Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart!
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated on the Friday following the Feast of Corpus Christi.
The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus dates back to the 17th century, when the visionary and nun St. Margaret Mary Alacoque of France received a divine revelation. It is a relatively new feast in the 2000-year history of the Church, but after several stages of approval by the Vatican, it is now considered one of the most important feasts on the Church’s calendar.
Sacred Heart of Jesus: Flesh and Spirit
The Breviary is the book that contains the words (but not the chants) of the Divine Office, that is, a collection of Catholic prayers, psalms, and readings (from the Bible and other sources), arranged according to the Liturgical Year, and traditionally used daily by all priests and nuns in the Western Church. Of course, it is written in Latin. The traditional Latin Breviary has been translated into beautiful English and published by a certain liturgical foundation as the (unofficial) English version of the Breviary. That version contains a very clear and easy-to-understand commentary on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, based on Catholic theology. The following is a summary of that commentary:
When did devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus begin? – from the Breviary
There is no record of when devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began, but there can be no doubt that it is an old tradition. It is clear that this devotion already existed in the early Church (at least in embryonic form). The following is a summary of the Breviary’s comments on the Sacred Heart:
For example, regarding the love of God, our Lord explained to Nicodemus that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). The symbol of love is the heart.
Paul’s letters also mention God’s love and mercy.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Not only the love of Jesus, but also the wounds of his Passion began to be an object of meditation and devotion in the early Church. St. Paul writes:
“Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17), traditionally interpreted as a reference to the Stigmata.
St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom, both 4th century saints, compare the crucified Christ with Adam. They explain that just as Adam slept and Eve was taken from his side, so Christ crucified, “sleeping” in death, was pierced in the side by the spear, and blood and water flowed out, giving birth to the Church.
A Commentary on the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lord said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, …” (Matthew 11:29). Our Lord’s use of the word “heart” shows us that the concept of Jesus’ Sacred Heart already existed in his own lifetime.
In Biblical usage, the heart symbolizes not only the emotions but also the whole inner or spiritual life of a human being. So, the heart of Jesus symbolizes his love, his mercy, his wisdom, and so on. But the Sacred Heart of Jesus is more than just a symbol.
The essence of Christianity is that, at a certain time, a little before the beginning of the First Century A.D., God, the Eternal Word, became a human being with a physical human body. That human being is named “Jesus,” and he is simultaneously God and man. To worship the humanity of Jesus is to worship the divinity of Jesus, who is God, because they are inextricably linked. Therefore, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a day on which we praise and worship God by praising and worshipping the physical heart of Jesus, the muscle in his chest which pumped the blood through his body. Thus far the summarized Breviary.
An interesting aspect of Christianity is that in addition to worshipping God the Spirit, it also worships the physical body of Jesus Christ. As far as I know, Christianity is the only religion that makes an actual body, a physical heart, the object of worship, while at the same time insisting on monotheism. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a feast that is full of the mysteries of God, deeply related to the Trinity, which is incomprehensible to human beings.
As a side note, the word “heart” mentioned above refers to the physical heart, in both Greek and Hebrew. Furthermore, to better understand the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the physical heart, we need to know the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I cannot explain the Trinity, so I will not do so here. If you are interested, please ask your parish priest.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the 12 Promises
Jesus made twelve promises to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque regarding those who have faith in his Sacred Heart. It is said that St. Margaret Mary, who spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, instituted the Holy Hour. Also, on the first Friday of each month, she prostrated herself on the ground and prayed, sharing the sorrows of Christ. She also received communion every first Friday. Just as St. Margaret Mary received Communion every first Friday, the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus consists of attending Mass on the first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months. Here are the twelve promises mentioned above:
1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state in life.
2 I will give them peace in their families.
3 I will console them in all their troubles.
4. They shall find in my heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.
5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
9. I will bless the homes in which the image of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their name written in my Heart and it shall never be effaced.
12. The all-powerful love of my Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the first Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; my Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.
God’s Mercy on JFK for his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
American President John F. Kennedy is famous for his tragic death. However, few people know about the mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at his deathbed. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic President of the United States, but, as is clear from the details of his personal life, he was not a very devout Catholic. However, when he was still a young man, his mother made sure that he performed the devotion of the Nine First Fridays, the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (12 Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Peace in Home and Life – YouTube)
On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot. He was rushed to a nearby hospital. At the hospital to which Kennedy was taken, it just so happened that a priest was there, preparing to visit another patient. That priest was able to administer the last rites to the dying Kennedy.
When Kennedy was brought to the hospital, “the president was unresponsive, had slow agonal respirations (gasping) and no palpable pulse or blood pressure” (Could We Save JFK Today? | MedPage Today). No one can say precisely when the soul leaves the body. However, I believe that Kennedy’s soul was still in his body when, by a strange coincidence, he was able to receive the last sacrament, as promised by the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Whenever I learn of such a story, I am reminded of the words Mother T. wrote down, “What is coincidence in the eyes of man is inevitability in the eyes of God.”
St. Margaret Mary: Jesus Hidden in the Eucharistic Bread
“Jesus is found in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which love keeps him tied like a victim, always ready to be sacrificed for the glory of his Father, and for our salvation. His life is totally hidden from the eyes of the world, which succeed in seeing only the poor and humble appearances of bread and wine. […] Jesus is always alone in the Blessed Sacrament. Try to never miss any Communion, lest we give great joy to our enemy the devil!”
– St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (See: MIRACLES-Mystics panels (santuariodesanjose.com))
The Eucharistic Bread cannot be described without the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Eucharistic Bread is the Body of Jesus, and the heart is a central and essential part of that body. Without the heart, the body cannot live or function as a body. That is why symbolically, the heart can stand for the whole body.
There are many mystical feasts in June. Corpus Christi and the Feast of the Sacred Heart are among the most important of them. Whenever I celebrate these feasts, I feel very happy to be a Catholic.
Source: The Anglican Breviary, Containing the Divine Office According to the General Usages of the Western Church, Put into English in Accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. New York, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc. 1955.