Sacred Heart of Jesus: June 2007 Archives

The Eucharistic Heart of Jesus

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On 9 November 1921, Pope Benedict XV instituted the feast of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus to be celebrated on the Thursday within the Octave of the Sacred Heart with a Proper Mass and Office. The feast continues to be celebrated in some places and by some communities, notably by the Redemptorists who maintain it in their Proper Calendar. In instituting the feast, Pope Benedict XV wrote:

The chief reason of this feast is to commemorate the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the mystery of the Eucharist. By this means the Church wishes more and more to excite the faithful to approach this sacred mystery with confidence, and to inflame their hearts with that divine charity which consumed the Sacred Heart of Jesus when in His infinite love He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, wherein the Divine Heart guards and loves them by living with them, as they live and abide in Him. For in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist He offers and gives Himself to us as victim, companion, nourishment, viaticum, and pledge of our future glory.

The adorable mystery of the Eucharist sums up, contains, and communicates to us the entire mystery of Christ: His incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. If you seek the open Side of the glorious ascended Christ, you will find it in the Eucharist. If you seek the pierced Heart of Christ, beating with love for the Father and with mercy for sinners, you will find it in the Eucharist. The Communion Antiphon of the Mass of the feast is meant to be repeated and treasured. It is, at once, a promise and an invitation: "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Mt 28:20).

Here is my own translation of the Proper of the Mass of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, together with invocations for the Act of Penitence and General Intercessions. The lessons, Gradual, and Alleluia can be found in most older missals in the section entitled "Local Feasts."

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Come With Confidence

The Church of Sant'Alfonso on the Via Merulana is one of my favourite neighbourhood pilgrimages. It enshrines the original precious and wonderworking icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Even on ordinary days the church is visited by pilgrims from all over the world. During the annual novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, multitudes converge on the church to kneel in prayer before the miraculous image and present their petitions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Seeing this demonstration of faith, I am reminded of Adeamus, the Introit of the Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: "Let us come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and may find grace for a timely help" (Heb 4:16).

Christ the Redeemer

The original icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is enthroned on the "high altar." Immediately above it, in the apse of the church, is a mosaic of Christ the Redeemer in the company of the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph. The mosaic depicts the risen and ascended Christ. He is seated in majesty and clothed in the crimson mantle that represents the outpouring of His Precious Blood. "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra? This Beautiful One in His robe?" (Is 63:1).

When I first began visiting the Church of Sant'Alfonso, I was so taken by the icon of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help, that I didn't notice the mosaic of Christ the Redeemer. Had I looked, and seen, I would have asked with the prophet, "Why then is Thine apparel red, and Thy garments like them that tread in the wine-press?" (Is 63:2). Had I looked, and seen, I would have been drawn immediately to the open wound in the Redeemer's Sacred Side.

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An Opening Onto the Kingdom of God

It was only after several visits to the sanctuary of Our Mother of Perpetual Help that I looked, and saw, and understood the significance of the mosaic in the apse. The apse of a church generally symbolizes an opening onto the Kingdom of God. An apse is, in some way, more window than wall, even when it is solid. This explains the meaning of the images traditionally found in the apse of our churches: Christ in glory; Christ in majesty; Christ seated on a rainbow and on the clouds of heaven. Looking closely at the image in the Church of Sant'Alfonso, I see that, at the heart of the apse that symbolizes the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, there is another opening: the wound in the Sacred Side of Christ.

Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christ

The iconography of the Church of Sant'Alfonso suggests that every pilgrimage to the image Our Mother of Perpetual Help becomes, by her maternal mediation, a pilgrimage to the wounded Side of Christ and — through the wound in His Side — into the Holy of Holies that is His Sacred Heart. I think that my Redemptorist friend, Father Scott, would agree.

The Open Side of Christ

The Child held fast in His Mother's embrace is the "Beautiful One" (Is 63:1) "clothed in a robe sprinkled with blood, and His Name is called the Word of God" (Ap 19:13). Just as His Mother's Heart was open to receive Him in His littleness and weakness, so is His wounded Side open to receive us in our littleness, in our weakness, and even in our sin. So is His Blood poured out to cleanse, to refresh, and to heal. The way to the Heart of Jesus passes through the Heart of His Mother.

Special thanks to Redemptorist Father Luis Roballo for the photo of Christ the Redeemer in the apse of the Church of Sant'Alfonso.

Diversities of Graces

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The Open Side of Jesus Crucified

Look at this remarkable painting of Jesus Crucified. The focus of the composition is the wound in His Sacred Side. An angel holding a chalice is hovering just beneath it to receive the outpouring of His Blood. There are also angels stationed beneath His wounded hands. A fourth angel stricken with astonishment and grief looks on.

Saint Francis of Assisi

At the foot of the Cross, close to the wounded feet of Jesus, kneels Saint Francis of Assisi, embracing the saving wood. Saint Francis is closest to the feet of Jesus because he was called to walk in lowliness, poverty, and humility, in imitation of the Son of Man who "had no where to lay His head" (Mt 8:20).

Saint Benedict

On the left is Saint Benedict with his hands crossed over his breast. This is the ritual gesture of the monk when, on the day of his profession, he sings the second part of the Suscipe me, Domine: "Let me not be confounded in my expectation" (Ps 118:116). Saint Benedict is gazing at the Face of the Crucified with an extraordinary intensity of compassion and love. One could draw a direct line from the Face of Jesus to the face of Saint Benedict. This is what he means when he says in his Rule that one desiring to become a monk must "truly seek God" (RB 58:7).

Saint Romuald

On the right one sees Saint Romuald, whose feast we celebrate today. He is seated — rather like Mary of Bethany in Luke 10:39 — with his hands hidden in the sleeves of his cowl. These are subtle allusions to the hidden life in which Saint Romuald sought the Heart of Jesus, not by much doing (the hidden hands) but, rather, in much listening (the "Marian" posture). You will notice that Saint Romuald is not looking at the Face of the Crucified; he is focused on the wound in Jesus' Sacred Side. Therein he seeks to hide himself like the dove in the cleft of the rock.

June 17th is the dies natalis of Marie–Adèle Garnier, Mother Mary of St. Peter, Foundress of the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Tyburn, O.S.B. In 1913 Blessed Columba Marmion wrote to one of her spiritual daughters, saying, "The special characteristic of your Mother is heroic confidence in the midst of impossibilities."

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Monastic Roots

Marie–Adèle Garnier was born in France on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 1838. She was baptized on the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, September 12. Marie–Adèle’s native Burgundy is the land of Cluny, of Cîteaux, and of Paray–le–Monial. Her life was marked, from the very beginning, by an environment shaped by the Rule of Saint Benedict, by the ardour of Saint Bernard, and by the mystery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Heart of Jesus and the Eucharist

As a young woman, Marie–Adèle grew in awareness of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Priest and Victim: the Sacred Heart truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar where ceaselessly He glorifies the Father and intercedes for all men. Marie–Adèle was impelled by the Holy Spirit to seek a life wholly illuminated by the Sacrifice of the Mass, and marked by perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Happy, So Happy

In 1872, Marie–Adèle, after having read an article on the proposed basilica of Montmartre, heard an inner voice saying to her: “It is there that I need thee.” “At the same moment,” she writes, “I saw an altar raised on high and sparkling with lights, dominated by the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance. I felt so overcome by this that I had to lean against the door to save myself from falling. And then I felt so happy, so happy, that I could make nothing of it.”

Like many of her contemporaries drawn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Marie–Adèle heard the interior summons to a life of reparation and doxology. “I felt Jesus speaking to my heart, illuminated by a light of surpassing brightness; He told me that it was His Will that His Heart present in the Holy Eucharist should be the object of the worship of Montmartre, and that the Blessed Sacrament should be exposed there night and day.”

Salutary Failure

Marie–Adèle first attempted to respond to her vocation by living in solitude on Montmartre, close by the site of what would become the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. God allowed her to experience a salutary failure without, however, withdrawing the attraction to a life of reparation and adoration at Montmartre. Her first sojourn at Montmartre ended on the feast of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 15, 1876.

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Beginnings

In 1898, having returned to Montmartre with a companion, Marie–Adèle began a hidden life of adoration, reparation, and intercession for the Church under the special protection of Saint Peter the Prince of the Apostles, and Saint Michael the Archangel. From the beginning the Rule of Saint Benedict inspired and guided the new monastic family. On June 9, 1899, Marie–Adèle, now known as Mother Mary of St. Peter, and her first daughters, made their profession in the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the altar of Saint Peter. Two days later, June 11, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Tyburn

The anti–clerical laws of 1901 obliged the fledgling community to leave Montmartre for England. Mother Mary of St. Peter and her daughters established themselves at Tyburn in the heart of London on the site of the cruel torments and death of England’s glorious Catholic Martyrs. Her companion, Mother Agnes, wrote, “And we ourselves, little as we were, but supporting our littleness on the Heart of Jesus, we, too, were coming to labour, within the limits of our vocation, in the great work of the conversion of England.”

Blessed Columba Marmion

From 1908 onward, Mother Mary of St. Peter was under the direction of the Benedictine Abbot Blessed Columba Marmion. It was to Abbot Marmion that she wrote on December 23, 1909: “In spite of this humiliating burden of misery and worries, my soul dwells in her God, because He supports her, holds her up, carries her, sustains her in a life of faith, of love, of confidence, not sensibly consoling, but supremely happy!”

Happy With God and With My Children

Abbot Marmion died in 1923, leaving Mother Mary of St. Peter and her daughters to mourn his passing and, at the same, to live in gratitude and joy from his spiritual patrimony. The following year on June 17, after much suffering, Mother Mary of St. Peter died. Her last intelligible words were: “I am so happy with God! And with my children.” Today Mother Mary of St. Peter's Benedictine Congregation of the Adorers of the Sacred Heart has monasteries in England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Peru, New Zealand, Ecuador, Colombia, and Rome, Italy.


Draw Me to Thy Piercèd Side

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The Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This year it happens to coinicide with the June 16th memorial of a great Cistercian, one of the first mystics of the Sacred Heart: Lutgarde of Aywières. Some years ago I was given a piece of her wooden choirstall: one of my most treasured relics!

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Wounded by Love

Saint Lutgarde was the contemporary of Saints Francis and Clare. She was born in 1182, just one year after the little Poor Man of Assisi. Both were destined to share in the Passion of Christ; both would bear the impression of Christ’s wounds. Saint Lutgarde is often depicted — as are both Saint Bernard and Saint Francis — held in the embrace of Jesus Crucified, and invited to drink from the wound in His Sacred Side.

Mother of Preachers

The prolific multiplication of Cistercian-Benedictine monasteries of women in the Low Countries obliged the White Nuns to turn to the newly founded friars, disciples of Francis and Dominic, rather than to their brother monks, for spiritual and sacramental assistance. Lutgarde was a friend and mother to the early Dominicans and Franciscans, supporting their preaching by her prayer and fasting, offering them hospitality, ever eager for news of their missions and spiritual conquests. Her first biographer relates that the friars named her mater praedicatorum, the mother of preachers.

Cor Jesu, Templum Dei Sanctum

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Heart of Jesus, Holy Temple of God, have mercy on us.

The temple built by Solomon is a figure of the mystery of the Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart is at once the temple from which our prayer rises to the Father, and the Holy of Holies from which it pleases the Father to hear and answer us. The Heart of Jesus is the temple of God's encounter with man, and of man's encounter with God. The Second Book of Chronicles gives us a vivid image of prayer made in and from the Heart of Jesus, the Holy Temple of God:

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands. Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had it set in the court; and he stood upon it.

Then he knelt upon his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven; and said, 'O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like Thee in heaven nor on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to Thy servants who walk before Thee with all their heart. . . . (2 Chr 6:12-14).

Ultimately, Solomon's prayer is fulfilled in the Heart of Jesus:

But will God dwell indeed with man on earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee; how much less this house which I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplication, O Lord my God, hearkening to the cry and to the prayer which Thy servant prays before Thee; so that Thy eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where Thou hast promised to set Thy Name, that Thou mayest hearken to the prayer which Thy servant offers toward this place; yea, hear Thou from heaven Thy dwelling place; and when Thou hearest, forgive (2 Chr 618-21).

The Temple Open to All

Now, "in these last days" (Heb 1:2), God dwells with man on earth: the Heart of Jesus, concealed and revealed in the Most Holy Eucharist, is the temple open to all. "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:16). The eyes of the Father are open day and night toward the Heart of the Son; therein the Father has set His Name: the pledge of His unfailing presence and readiness to hear all who approach Him as sons. "If you abide in me," says Jesus, "and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you" (Jn 15:7).

The Temple of Adoration in Spirit and in Truth

One abides in Jesus by entering the temple of His Sacred Heart, through the portal of His open Side. For this was the Side of Jesus pierced by the soldier's lance on Calvary: that we might abide in the temple of His Heart. One who abides in the temple of the Sacred Heart finds therein the Altar, the Priest, and the Victim of "adoration in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:19).

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Spotless Victim and Eternal Priest,
after the consummation of Thy sacrifice on the Cross,
Thy Side was opened by the soldier's lance,
that with confidence in the outpouring of Thy Blood
we might enter Thy Sacred Heart,
the sanctuary of adoration in spirit and in truth.

How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longeth and fainteth for the wound in Thy Side,
for better above thousands elsewhere
is one day on the threshold of Thy Heart.

Thou hast opened for us a new and living way
through the veil, that is, through Thy flesh.
Unite us now to Thyself in that mystic temple
and in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
that we may praise Thee forever
and from Thy Sacred Heart
offer ceaseless adoration to the Father in the Holy Spirit
now and unto the ages of ages.
Amen.

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Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty, have mercy on us

I cannot pray this invocation without recalling the Prophet Daniel's vision of the Son of Man in His majesty:

And I lifted up my eyes, and I saw: and behold a man clothed in linen, and his loins were girded with the finest gold; and his body was like the chrysolite, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as a burning lamp: and his arms and all downward even to the feet, like in appearance to glittering brass: and the voice of his word like the voice of a multitude" (Dn 10:5-6).

The Heart Revealed

There is no mention of the heart in Daniel's description; the heart remains hidden. And yet, the heart is revealed in the face having "the appearance of lightning" and in "the eyes as a burning lamp."

The Sacred Heart Speaks

The words of the Son of Man to Daniel announce the messages of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to souls of desire down through the centuries:

He that looked like a man touched me again, and strengthened me. And he said, "Fear not, O man of desires, peace be to thee: take courage and be strong." And when he spoke to me, I grew strong, and I said: "Speak, O my Lord, for thou hast strengthened me" (Dn 10:18–19).

Prayer

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty,
Thou art the dispensation of the mystery
which hath been hidden from eternity in God,
who created all things;
Thou art the mystery hidden from the sons of men
in other generations,
but now revealed to Thy holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Thou art the mystery hidden for ages and generations
but now made manifest to Thy saints.
Prostrate before Thee, I offer my own heart
in adoration of Thy splendour,
in submission to Thy wisdom,
and in surrender to Thy designs.
Speak Thou to me
as once Thou spokest to Daniel Thy Prophet,
that the desires of my heart
may be lifted up even to the majesty of Thine,
and that Thy words
may establish my faltering soul
in the strength of Thy grace
and the peace of Thy strength.
Amen.

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Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God, have mercy on us

From all eternity, God desired to love man divinely with a human heart, and so, "when the time had fully come" (Gal 4:4), "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). In the breast of the Word Made Flesh there beats a human Heart that is nothing less than the Heart of God. The Divine Person of the Word expresses His filial love for the Father and His redeeming love for man through this Sacred Heart.

Behold this Heart

The Heart of the Word, formed by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin's womb, pierced by the soldier's lance on Calvary, touched by the Apostle Thomas after the resurrection, and concealed in the adorable mystery of the Eucharist, is the abiding symbol of the infinite love with which the Son loves the Father and loves every man. Thus did Jesus say to Saint Margaret Mary in the "Great Revelation" that occurred during the Octave of Corpus Christi in June 1675: "Behold this Heart which has so loved men." "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins"(1 Jn 4:10).

Love, Mercy, and Meekness

To behold is to look upon, to contemplate, and to consider. The desire of Our Lord is that we should look upon His Heart, fulfilling in every generation the words of the prophet Zechariah repeated by Saint John: "They shall look on him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37; Zech 12:1). One who looks upon the Heart of Christ discovers the redeeming love of the Heart of God. One who contemplates the Heart of Christ is drawn into the infinite mercy of the Heart of God. One who considers the Heart of Christ learns the meekness and humility of the Heart of God.

To Know and Believe in the Love God Has For Us

The value of images of the Sacred Heart derives from this: that the pierced Heart of Jesus sets before our eyes the whole mystery of the merciful love of God, softens our resistances to that love, and invites us to grown in confident surrender to it. One understands just why Our Lord said to Saint Margaret Mary: "I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated."

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Ap 3:20). The enthronement of an image of the Sacred Heart in one's home is a way of opening family life to the merciful love of Christ. Those who introduce an image of the Sacred Heart into their homes express their desire to say with the Apostle John, "So do we know and believe the love God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16). God who inspires that desire will also fulfill it.

Prayer

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
I adore Thee beating in the breast of the Word Made Flesh.
I adore Thee, moved with Divine Compassion
at the sight of the multitude like sheep without a shepherd.
I adore Thee burning to set the world ablaze
with the fire of Thy Godhead.
I adore Thee desiring with a great desire
to feed us with Thyself.
I adore Thee broken with sorrow
and lifted to the Father in Gethsemani.
I adore Thee opened for me by the thrust of the soldier's lance.
I adore Thee in the stillness of the tomb.
I adore Thee in the glory of Thy resurrection.
I adore Thee with the Apostle Thomas, saying,
"O Heart of my Lord and Heart of my God!"
I adore Thee in the majesty of Thy ascension.
I adore Thee present in the tabernacles of the world.
I adore Thee revealed in glory at the end of time
for the glory of Thy Father
and for the joy of all Thy Saints.
Amen.

Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
have mercy on us.

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Et Homo Factus Est

The second invocation of the Litany of the Sacred Heart is the only one to mention the Holy Spirit, and the only one to name the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this, the Litany echoes the Nicene Creed: Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven. And was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary; and was made man. When these words occur in the liturgy, the Church instructs us to bow profoundly (or to kneel) in adoration of the mystery of the Incarnation. So often as we perform this liturgical action, it unites us, in some way, to the first act of adoration offered by the Virgin Mary to the Sacred Heart.

The Sound of Redeeming Love

After twenty–four days, the Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, began to have regular beats or pulsations. The human Heart of God began to beat beneath the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was the sound of redeeming love. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father' " (Gal 4:6-7).

Keeper of the Mystic Portal

It is through the Blessed Virgin Mary that the Sacred Heart of Jesus enters the world. It is through her that the world will be brought to the Sacred Heart. I have never known anyone to have loved Mary without loving the Heart of Jesus, and I have never known anyone to have loved the Heart of Jesus without loving Mary. Mary is the Keeper of the Mystic Portal; she stands at the foot of the Cross drawing souls to the pierced Side of her Son, and guiding them over the threshold of His Pierced Side into the secret abode of His Sacred Heart.

Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil–Martiny writes: "In this life of union with the Heart of Jesus, of imitation of the Heart of Jesus, their excellent model is the Heart of Mary, for the Mother cannot be separated from the Son. It is through Mary that every soul goes to Jesus. Having once given His only Son through Mary, it is still through her that ceaselessly God gives Him to us."

Prayer

I pray thee, O Most Holy Virgin Mary,
that I might hear the Heartbeat of redeeming Love,
and that with Thee
I might adore the Heart of Jesus
formed in Thy womb by the Holy Spirit.

Through the Holy Spirit,
by whose power and overshadowing Thou didst become
the living tabernacle of the Heart of God,
may my soul rejoice in Thy every visitation
and leap in recognition of Him
who through Thee deigns to come to me.

Through the Holy Spirit
by whom Thou wert illumined by faith,
quickened by hope,
and inflamed with charity,
grant that I may believe all that the Sacred Heart of Jesus has revealed,
never despair of His boundless Mercy,
and burn with the fire He came to cast upon the earth.

In the Holy Spirit,
Thou adorest the Heart of Thy Son as the Heart of Thy God;
in that same Holy Spirit,
grant that I may adore the Heart of my God
as the Heart that, hidden in Thy womb, once beat beneath Thy own:
the same Sacred Heart that, pierced upon the Cross,
fills the heavens with glory
and the earth with mercy.
Amen.

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Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father

My project for the month of June is to offer something of a commentary on the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is perhaps presumptuous of me to try to do this. Others have done it before me, and among them were great saints and mystics such as Pope John Paul II. This is, nonetheless, something I want to do, something that I feel I must do this month. If it brings souls closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so much the better!

Over the years I have come to savour the Litany of the Sacred Heart more and more. Instinctively and not in any systematic way, I have approached each invocation following the "ladder of monks," the classic pattern of lectio divina:
lectio, each invocation heard;
meditatio, each invocation repeated;
oratio, each invocation prayed;
contemplatio, each invocation held in the heart.

The Little Bag of Saint Thérèse Couderc

I often think of Saint Thérèse Couderc who copied out the thirty–three invocations of the Litany of the Sacred on little slips of paper and kept them in a small cloth bag in her apron pocket. As she went about her work, she would pick an invocation out of the bag at random. She would repeat it and meditate it, allowing it to nourish her interior prayer. She would repeat this as often as necessary throughout the day.

Thou Art My Son

The first invocation of the litany draws us into the ageless mystery of the Son's relationship with the Eternal Father. I hear the sublime Introit of the Mass of Christmas During the Night, Dominus dixit ad me. The Word Himself, the Son, repeats to us what the Father says to Him from all eternity: "The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee" (Ps 2:7). The divine affirmation of our sonship by adoption is something that we all need to hear. In an age when so many suffer from the absence of the father or from a father's silence, there is healing in receiving the testimony of the Heart of the Eternal Son: "The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee" (Ps 2:7).

In Principio

The sonship of the Word is at the wellspring of life: the Father gazing with delight upon His perfect and coequal Image; the Son returning the gaze of the Father in a ceaseless rapture of filial love; the Holy Spirit sealing the communion of the Father with the Son, and of the Son with the Father. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God — that is, turned toward Him — and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1).

The Heart of the Son

It was, from the beginning, the will of the Most Holy Trinity that a human heart, a perfect heart, a heart pulsating with filial love, should be introduced into their most intimate and ineffable exchange of love. The Father desired that His Son should love Him with Adam's heart, that is, with a heart of flesh and blood. The Son desired that His love for the Father should be enfleshed, that the heartbeat of His love for the Father might become the very rhythm of the cosmos. The Holy Spirit desired to produce a perfect human heart capable of an exquisitely divine sensitivity to the love and to the glory of the Father, and to the sin and misery of man. And so, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).

Sons in the Son

The work of our conversion and sanctification is this: that our hearts should be conformed to the Heart of the Firstborn Son. "You did not receive the the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, the heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (Rom 8:15–17).

The fundamental fruit of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is growth in the grace of adoptive sonship. The more closely one's heart is united to the Heart of Jesus, the more perfectly does one become "a son within the Son." One who knows the Heart of Jesus knows the Heart of the Father also (cf. Jn 8:20). Souls privileged by the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are called to filial boldness in prayer, to a limitless confidence in the merciful goodness of the Father, and to serene abandonment to His will. "I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said this to you, that in me — in my Heart — you may have peace (Jn 16:32).

Praying With the Sacred Heart

Sooner or later, true devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus becomes a participation in His filial prayer to the Father: "Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee" (Jn 17:1); and again, from the Cross, "Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit" (Lk 23:46).

Prayer

Come, Thou Holy Spirit,
draw me to the Sacred Heart of the Son,
that by entering that wounded Heart
and by passing through its flames,
I may approach the Eternal Father
and be held safe in His embrace.

Let me hearken to the voice of the Son
and incline my ear to His promise:
“All that the Father giveth me will come to my Heart;
and him who cometh to my Heart I will not cast out.
He who loveth me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and manifest my Heart to him.”

Come, Thou Divine Consoler sent by the Father.
Whisper to me the secrets of the Heart of the Son
and bring to my remembrance all that He hath said.

Help Thou me in my weakness
for my prayer is timid and faltering
— that of a slave and not yet that of a son —
and I know not how to pray as I ought.

Let me not fall back into fear
but, rather, go forward in boldness.
Bear Thou witness within my heart
that while I am yet at a distance,
the Father seeth me through the pierced Heart of Jesus,
and hath compassion,
and runneth,
and kisseth me with the Kiss of His Mouth
bestowed on none save sons in the Son.
Amen.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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