Friday, June 28, 2019

Three Things about the Sacred Heart of Jesus

First, this prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Blessed John Henry Newman, from his Meditations and Devotions, which he was preparing for the students at the Oratory School in Birmingham:

O SACRED Heart of Jesus, I adore Thee in the oneness of the Personality of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Whatever belongs to the Person of Jesus, belongs therefore to God, and is to be worshipped with that one and the same worship which we pay to Jesus. He did not take on Him His human nature, as something distinct and separate from Himself, but as simply, absolutely, eternally His, so as to be included by us in the very thought of Him. I worship Thee, O Heart of Jesus, as being Jesus Himself, as being that Eternal Word in human nature which He took wholly and lives in wholly, and therefore in Thee. Thou art the Heart of the Most High made man. In worshipping Thee, I worship my Incarnate God, Emmanuel. I worship Thee, as bearing a part in that Passion which is my life, for Thou didst burst and break, through agony, in the garden of Gethsemani, and Thy precious contents trickled out, through the veins and pores of the skin, upon the earth. And again, Thou hadst been drained all but dry upon the Cross; and then, after death, Thou wast pierced by the lance, and gavest out the small remains of that inestimable treasure, which is our redemption.

My God, my Saviour, I adore Thy Sacred Heart, for that heart is the seat and source of all Thy tenderest human affections for us sinners. It is the instrument and organ of Thy love. It did beat for us. It yearned over us. It ached for us, and for our salvation. It was on fire through zeal, that the glory of God might be manifested in and by us. It is the channel through which has come to us all Thy overflowing human affection, all Thy Divine Charity towards us. All Thy incomprehensible compassion for us, as God and Man, as our Creator and our Redeemer and Judge, has come to us, and comes, in one inseparably mingled stream, through that Sacred Heart. O most Sacred symbol and Sacrament of Love, divine and human, in its fulness, Thou didst save me by Thy divine strength, and Thy human affection, and then at length by that wonder-working blood, wherewith Thou didst overflow.

O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still. Now as then Thou savest, Desiderio desideravi—"With desire I have desired." I worship Thee then with all my best love and awe, with my fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will. O my God, when Thou dost condescend to suffer me to receive Thee, to eat and drink Thee, and Thou for a while takest up Thy abode within me, O make my heart beat with Thy Heart. Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness. So fill it with Thee, that neither the events of the day nor the circumstances of the time may have power to ruffle it, but that in Thy love and Thy fear it may have peace.

Second, another Oratorian and convert to Catholicism, Father Edward Caswall, translated these two hymns for the feast of the Sacred Heart:

"To Christ, the Prince of Peace" a translation of "Summi Parentis Filio" (an anonymous work):

To Christ, the Prince of peace,
And Son of God most high,
The Father of the world to come,
We lift our joyful cry.

Deep in His heart for us
The wound of love He bore,
That love which He enkindles still
In hearts that Him adore.

O Jesu, Victim blest,
What else but love divine
Could Thee constrain to open thus
That sacred heart of Thine?

O wondrous Fount of love,
O Well of waters free,
O heavenly Flame, refining Fire,
O burning Charity!

Hide us in Thy dear heart,
Jesu, our Savior blest,
So shall we find Thy plenteous grace
And Heav’n’s eternal rest.

And the other, "All You Who Seek a Comfort Sure" a translation of another anonymous lyric, from the 18th century, "Quincumque certum quaeritis":

All ye who seek for sure relief
In trouble and distress,
Whatever sorrow vex the mind,
Or guilt the soul oppress:

Jesus, Who gave Himself for you,
Upon the Cross to die,
Opens to you His sacred heart:
O to that heart draw nigh.

Ye hear how kindly He invites;
Ye hear His words so blest:
"All ye that labour come to me,
And I will give you rest.'

O Jesus, joy of saints on high,
Thou hope of sinners here,
Attracted by those loving words,
To Thee I lift my prayer.

Wash Thou my wounds in that dear blood
Which forth from Thee doth flow;
New grace, new hope inspire; a new
And better heart bestow.

I may sing these hymns tonight as I attend Mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi here in Wichita, Kansas.

Third, there a connection between the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the English Reformation. In 15th century England, the Friday following the Octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi was dedicated to the Five Wounds of Christ. Devotion to the Five Wounds of Chris is kind of a medieval precursor of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Five Wounds are the piercing wounds to the hands, the feet, and side of Jesus on the cross. 

As Eamon Duffy demonstrated in The Stripping of the Altars, this was a very popular devotion to the Passion of Christ in England before the Reformation. Through prayers and meditations, the penitent recalled the suffering of Jesus on the cross and pleaded for the forgiveness of sins. 

During the English Reformation, it developed a powerful symbolism beyond the devotion: Pilgrims opposed to the dissolution of the monasteries carried banners depicting the Five Wounds; Blessed Margaret Pole was attainted of treason because an emblem of the Five Wounds was found in her belongings so that Henry's officials argued that she favored the Pilgrimage of Grace. During the Northern Rebellion, the banners flew again, an obvious reference to that earlier rebellion--and a statement to Elizabethan regime that, the Act of Uniformity notwithstanding, some in England still wanted the old time religion of Catholicism.

The connection between the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Five Wounds of Jesus is surely most clearly seen in the piercing of His Heart by the Roman soldier: "But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out." (John: 19:34). The blood and water were interpreted (as in this example from St. John Chrysostom) from early on in the Church's history as symbolic of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, and as the life and spirit of the Church, itself a Sacrament of God's Grace. You might notice that the banner of the Five Wounds makes that connection very clearly, with the Heart and the Chalice at the center instead of a pierced heart.

The Anglican Ordinariate continues the tradition of Votive Masses to the Five Wounds of Jesus in it Divine Worship Missal.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

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