“A Catholic way of having a personal relationship with
the Lord Jesus as our personal Lord & Savior”
By Fr. Rick Poblocki
What is devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus?
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is “a special form of devotion to the Word Incarnate that focuses our attention upon the physical Heart of Jesus Christ as the symbol of His three-fold redemptive love” (“Sacred Heart, Devotion to” in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 12, p. 818).
- The Word Incarnate is a Name or title given to “God the Son,” the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity in the Holy Scriptures. It refers specifically to God the Son made man.
- Devotion means a particular way of spiritually relating to God, the Blessed Virgin, the Angels or the Saints.
What is meant by the “three-fold redemptive love” of Christ our Lord?
In having devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, focus and emphasis is placed upon Jesus’ physical Heart of flesh as the true natural symbol of His three-fold love, which encompasses:
- His human love and affection for us;
- How He loves us as a Redeemer;
- His infinite love for us, because He is “God” – the Incarnate Word made flesh (John 1:14).
It is Christ’s three-fold expression of love that is called redemptive love.
How is adoration of Christ’s physical Heart an expression of a personal relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Savior?
By adoration of the Lord Jesus’ physical Heart we honor and respond to the human, redeeming, and infinitely divine love Jesus gives us. By our adoration of Jesus’ three-fold love, we are in fact adoring the Person of the Word – the Second Person of the Trinity – God the Son.
Is there any Scriptural basis to relating to the Lord Jesus under His title of the “Sacred Heart”?
It’s best to listen to what Pope Pius XII stated regarding this matter:
“…nowhere in the Sacred Scriptures is there clear mention of any veneration or love for the physical Heart of the Word Incarnate, considered precisely as the symbol of His ardent charity” (Encyclical Haurietis aquas).
However, there is clear evidence that there existed in the early Church and the Sacred Scriptures the basic elements of devotion that included:
- A warm devotion to Jesus’ sacred Humanity;
- A view of God’s action in human history as the story of God’s everlasting love for men and women, seen especially in the Covenant, described by the Prophets (especially Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah) – which is often described in terms of a father’s love for his children, or a husband’s love for his wife – which prefigures the Messiah’s (Christ’s) sacrificial love in the “new and eternal Covenant.”
Is there any Scriptural basis for a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
Yes, a biblical basis for devotion to the Heart of Christ may be seen in the biblical use of the word heart and similar words:
- In Hebrew, the words for heart are leb (pronounced “layb” or “leg“), lebab (pronounced “lay-bob“), and beten (pronounced “bay-ten”).
- In Greek, the words for heart include kardia (pronounced “kar-dee-ya“), Koilia (pronounced “Koy-eel-lee-ya“), and splagchena (pronounced “splag-kay-nah“).
- In Latin, the words for heart include: cor (pronounced “kor“), venter (pronounced “ven-ter“), and viscera (pronounced “vee-ser-ra“).
Each of these words carry the meaning of the “heart” as the seat of the whole inner life of the human person, both natural and supernatural: where a person thinks, experiences emotion, makes choices, makes moral decisions, and the place where a person’s religious life flows. The heart signifies the whole reality of the person!
How would this notion of the heart be related to devotion to the Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ?
There is a strong correlation between the biblical notion of the heart and devotion to the Heart of Christ. If the heart of a person is the center of a person’s thoughts, emotions, choices, moral actions, and religious activity, it would be true to say that the heart signifies the totality of a person. This is attested to even in the way we speak: we talk of someone being “soft-hearted,” “warm-hearted,” “cold-hearted,” or even having a “heart of gold.” It would therefore follow that the Heart of Jesus is the center of His thoughts, emotions, choices, goodness, and relationship to both His Father and humanity. The Heart of Jesus is a symbol of the totality of His Being as a true Man, as our Redeemer, and as our God. So, devotion to the Sacred Heart is all about a personal relationship of adoring, serving, and being dedicated to the Person of Jesus Christ, symbolized by Christ’s physical Heart. By application, the same may be said of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which symbolizes Our Lady’s goodness, holiness, sinlessness, and purity.
Are there any specific citations from Scripture to support this?
Yes. Jeremiah 30:21-24 speaks of the human heart of the messiah. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself on the Feast of Tabernacles – which commemorated the miracle of the Exodus when Moses had saved the people by making water flow from a Rock, promised a fountain of living waters that would flow from the heart of the believer (John 7:37-39). By teaching this, the Lord Jesus is referring to the messianic promise of living waters prophesied by Isaiah 12:3; Ezekiel 47:1-12; and Zechariah 13:1) – all of which state that the New Moses (Christ) would provide living waters from the “rock” of his body. In the Gospel of John, the Living Water proclaimed by Jesus is the Holy Spirit, Whom the risen Christ will pour upon His Church. Of course, Christ’s prophesy was fulfilled at Pentecost, when the “waters of salvation” – the Holy Spirit – flowed from the pierced side of Christ, as He hung upon the Cross (John 19:31-37; Joel 2:28; Isaiah 44:3; Acts 2:17). The Preface for the Mass of the Sacred Heart acknowledges this by stating: “He gave Himself up for us with a wonderful love and poured out Blood and Water from His pierced side, the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments” (Preface for the Sacred Heart, 3rd Edition of The Roman Missal).
Are there any concrete expressions of our love when we adore this redemptive love in the Person of Christ, the Word Incarnate?
Absolutely! What’s love or any other relationship without visible expressions of love, loyalty, and friendship? With regard to the adoration of Jesus’ redemptive love are added acts of interior and exterior devotion that spring from the aspect of loving Christ and relating to Him in terms of His love for us as a man, redeeming brother, and God. Some important ways of relating to Jesus as a Friend, Redeemer, and God include:
- Imitating the virtues of Jesus’ Heart (i.e., His gentleness, mercy, purity, etc.).
- Consecrating ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as an Act of Dedication to Christ, or making a gift of ourselves to Christ in response to His love.
- Making reparation to Christ for our sins and those of others as a way of sharing in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice of atonement.
Specific forms of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus include:
- Celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday following the second Sunday after Pentecost – especially by reciting the Act of Reparation prescribed by Pope Pius XI.
- Celebrating the month of June as “The Month of the Sacred Heart“ by publicly reciting the Litany and other forms of honoring the Sacred Heart throughout the month.
- Observing the monthly First Friday of the Month by making a Holy Hour (usually on the Thursday night before – sometime between 9:00 PM Thursday night up until 5:00 AM First Friday morning),taking part in Mass on the First Friday, and making a Communion of Reparation.
- Making an annual renewal of Pope Leo XIII’s Act of Consecration on the Feast of Christ the King.
- Reciting the Litany of the Sacred Heart at any time (one can receive either a partial or plenary indulgence, depending on the conditions set forth in the Church’s Official Manual of Indulgences).
- Reciting any prayers in honor of the Sacred Heart. This would include the Litany of the Sacred Heart, The Act of Reparation, and The Act of Dedication to Christ the King, also known as The Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These prayers are indulgenced, which means they enjoy the highest esteem of the Church!
- The consecration of families to the Sacred Heart.
- Nocturnal Adoration, which consists in visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during the night hours – especially on the night between the first Thursday and First Friday of the month.
- Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the home is a practice when a family “enthrones,” that is places a picture, icon of statue of the Sacred Heart in a prominent place of honor in their home. Various ceremonies can be obtained online or from regional Apostleship of Prayer Offices. The ceremony may be led by the Father or by another head of the household in the absence of the Father.
Fr. Rick Poblocki is the Pastor of St. Josaphat’s Parish in Cheektowaga, NY. This article also appears in St. Josaphat’s Weekly Bulletin, available for view in its entirety at www.st-josaphat.com. Don’t miss Fr. Rick on the Tuesday and Thursday Open Forum Editions of Calling All Catholics, weekdays at 5pm on The Station of the Cross Catholic Radio Network and the NEW iCatholicRadio App. Used with permission.