There has always been some form of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, beginning with the apostles. In the early Church, this manifested itself in the form of devotion to the love of God, because as scripture states, “God Is Love” (1 John 4:8) and as such is God’s nature. Since the heart is considered the central point of one’s being, and since the heart of God is love, as this is His nature, then the worship and honor of the heart of God is nothing less that the worship of God Himself in possibly the purest form known to man.
In sacred scripture, this worship of the Sacred Heart begins with St. Longinus. For those who are unfamiliar, St. Longinus was the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with the lance after His death, upon which blood and water flowed out:
Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” –John 19:31-37
The first devotions to the love of God were found in the Early Church among devotion to the Holy Wounds of Christ, for if by his stripes we were healed, then that which those who tortured Christ and sought after His death desired to use as their means to dishonor and denigrate Him have become an object of veneration. It is the same reason why the cross is venerated, for if cursed is a man who hangs on a tree, and Christ became a curse and bore the curse that followed all men due to original sin, then the very object used to establish that curse has become a blessing for all. Following this line of thinking, this piercing of Christ’s side was understood by the early Church and is articulated through the Church Fathers as being the entrance for the Faithful into Christ’s mystical body and access to His Heart, which is the Heart of God:
A watchful word the Evangelist has used, when he says not “Pierced His side,” or “Wounded,” or anything else, but “Opened”: that there a gate of life might be opened, whence the sacraments of the Church have flowed forth, without which there is no entrance to the life that is truly life. (St. Augustine, Commentary on John)
The Ark is without doubt a figure of the city of God wandering in this world, that is to say, the Church which is saved by means of the wood, on which hung the mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus. . . And the door it received in its side is surely the wound made in the side of the Crucified when pierced by the lance, by which those enter who come to Him; for from it flowed the sacraments in which believers are initiated. (St. Augustine, City of God)
One of the soldiers, snatching a spear, opened His side. Thus he did not break, nor pierce, nor throttle to death, but (he says) opened; that we might recognize in the gate of life made by this powerful thrust, not the mark of a wound, but the entrance to salvation. For that Ark also, in whose safe protection Noe alone, when all others were perishing, rode the swelling floods of the world and the unchecked triumph of death, is described as being fitted with a door in its side, by which entrance is made to salvation and exit to the light of day. . . Let us consider, therefore, first what proceeded thence, and next how the Christian enters in. (St. Avitus of Vienne, Sermon on the Passion)
The door in the midst of the side was in the right part of the house; for when the Lord died on the cross, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance. And appropriately in the right part of the house; since it was His right side that the soldier opened, according to the belief of Holy Church. Here also the Evangelist makes use of an apt word, when he says not “Struck,” or “Wounded,” but “Opened,” that is, the door in the midst of His side, through which the way to heaven might be opened to us. (St. Bede, On Solomon’s Temple)
Just as Christ’s earthly body was encased in flesh and as such His insides were inaccessible, so was the innermost sanctuary of God, the great sacred temple closed to the common man, just as in the same way Heaven itself was closed to all men before the crucifixion. As such it was that after the crucifixion that Heaven was opened and both the veil in the temple was ripped as was Christ’s side opened, so those who received Him and believed in His name might pass through this new entrance, this new partition of a once impassable sea as alluded to in the passage of God’s people from Egypt to the Promised Land of Israel through the parting of the Red Sea with Moses in the Old Testament, into a new life. But this is not merely an earthly life of abundance and peace, but a heavenly life in which man may realize his ultimate purpose and end, which as the Baltimore Catechism so eloquently states is:
God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is particularly special because it involves devotion to both the physical and spiritual parts of His heart.
During the Catholic Mass at the consecration, the priest speaks these words:
Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.
These are the words of the prayer in which the bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ during the Holy Mass. They still retain their physical character as bread and wine, but it is through this prayer that these substances are changed in substance into the flesh and blood of God who became man so that, following directly after this prayer you may hear (as there are several different prayers that can be used):
By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity
God became man so that man might become like God. It is also a direct refutation of the many different heresies of the past which denied the dual nature of Christ- his human and divine natures- that are so prevalent today albeit masked under different names. But make no mistake, Christ is not a mere superman among men (as the Arians taught), a superman who became God (the Nestorians), nor is he a pure spirit whose humanity is effaced by His divinity (as the Monophysites said), but is both God and man; God who stepped into time so that we might step into eternity.
Through the reception of the Eucharist we physically take Christ into our bodies, fulfilling the divine command in John 6, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you, for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink, whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in Him.
This also assumes a spiritual reception of Christ as well into our souls, for indeed, even people who are unable to receive the physical Eucharist are asked at the very least to make an act of spiritual communion. That flesh of Christ which we receive, both physically and spiritually, is indeed the love of God made physically and spiritually manifest among men, which is the heart of Christ- His sacred heart.
Proof of this is not only found in the theological writings of the Fathers, but can be seen in the many instances around the world where the Eucharist becomes- in literal fashion- the physically manifest flesh and blood of Christ as a testimony to those around that indeed, not only is the Eucharist the true flesh of Christ, but that the particular kind of flesh is of the heart muscle and the blood type is the same kind found on the shroud of Turin.
The heart of Christ is the heart of God, which is love and mercy itself
This heart of Christ is made manifest in His flesh, which is consumed in the Eucharist
To partake in the Eucharist is to receive physical and spiritually the very heart of God into yourself.To enter into Heaven, one must partake in the flesh of Christ, which is that of His heart.
To access the heart of Christ, on must pass through His wounds which opened the way to His heart that occurred on the way to the Cross.
To enter into the wounds of Christ is to enter into His passion and death
To enter into the passion and death of Christ is to die to walk the via dolorosa, the way of sorrows, with Christ, and so to find the narrow path which leads to eternal life.
Sacred scripture gives a warning:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
There are many people who claim they are “doing the Lord’s work.” But are they really?
Earlier, I referenced John 6, where Jesus calls His flesh true food and His blood true drink. After He makes these statements, the scripture continues with these words:
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
He who would desire to follow Christ, to pursue the divine Love must enter by the road which God has established for entrance, as there is no other way. This is the way to have a true, “personal relationship” with Christ as He has established.
Surely there are many people who can have supernatural experiences, feelings, or even have miracles happen, and these are all well and good. However, there is a difference between feeling and facts, and what a man feels does not mean that it is a fact.
The way to the Sacred Heart of God as Christ has instructed us to worship and consume is quite simple- it is just down the road at your local Catholic Church.
The only question that remains is ”Do you also wish to go away?”
Think before you answer.
Pange Linuga, by St. Thomas Aquinas:
PANGE, lingua, gloriosi
quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.
SING, my tongue, the Savior’s glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world’s redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.
Nobis datus, nobis natus
ex intacta Virgine,
et in mundo conversatus,
sparso verbi semine,
sui moras incolatus
miro clausit ordine.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.
In supremae nocte cenae
recumbens cum fratribus
observata lege plene
cibis in legalibus,
cibum turbae duodenae
se dat suis manibus.
On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law’s command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.
Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum,
et si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit.
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;-
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o’er ancient forms departing,
newer rites of grace prevail;
faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble sense fail.
laus et iubilatio,
salus, honor, virtus quoque
sit et benedictio:
procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio.
To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty.