Friday, June 15, 2007

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today is the Feast of the Dearest Sacred Heart of Jesus :) Here's a link to a post on: The Heart of Jesus in His Farewell Discourse. And here's more from the book, Alone with God.

Alone with God
By Father J. Heyrman, S.J.

The Wounded Side (John 19: 32-38)

1. “God is Charity”, is the sublime definition of God, given by St. John (1 John 4:16). [Deus Caritas Est] And the Heart of Jesus crucified, pierced by the lance, is the most eloquent expression of that charity.

2. Petition: The grace of a more intimate understanding of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, which recalls to us the love, both human and divine, with which our Lord loves us.

I. The Accidental Deed of the Soldier

It was the custom, before removing the bodies from the cross, to break the legs of those that had been crucified. We shiver at the mere thought that Jesus should have suffered that barbarous treatment. The Father, without whose consent not one sparrow falls to the ground (Mt. 10:29), had determined otherwise. “You shall not break a bone of him” (Ex. 12:46): the precept concerned the paschal lamb sacrificed by Israel on the eve of their flight from Egypt, and also the true Paschal Lamb slain on Calvary.

The soldier’s act was not a mere accidental happening: in the Preface of the Mass of this day, the priest says, “We give thanks to Thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, who didst will that Thine only-begotten Son hanging on the cross should be pierced by the soldier’s lance …”

The Father so willed it. What was the soldier’s intention? With a loud voice Jesus had said, “It is consummated. And bowing His head He gave up the ghost.” Pilate had sent soldiers to make certain that the condemned persons were dead, and to bury the bodies. “The soldiers therefore came: and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side: and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it hath given testimony … And after these things Joseph of Arimathea besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave” (John 19:32-38).

The relatives of one that had suffered the death penalty were entitled to ask for the dead body and to give it burial. But before surrendering the bodies, that there might not be the slightest doubt about the death of Jesus, the centurion ordered that the side and the heart of the Lord be pierced with a spear, truly a “coup de grace” in the sublimest sense of the word. Did the Roman act thus out of reverence for the Man to whom he had just borne witness, saying “Indeed, this was a just man”? (Luke 23: 47). Or did he wish to spare the friends and relatives of Jesus a cruel sight? No accident but a marvelous intervention of Divine Providence! St. John reads in it the fulfillment of a prophecy, “They shall look on him whom they pierced.” Truly, all generations of men shall look with love and hope on the pierced Heart of the Saviour.

II. The “Open” Side

The earliest Fathers of the Church speak of the act of the soldier, not as inflicting a wound, but as making an opening in the Lord’s side, through which hidden treasures of grace could pour forth. They saw here the two chief fountains of grace, Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, symbolized by water and blood. “Latus aperuit,” says St. John, “he opened the side.” On those words St. Augustine bases the following considerations, “The word is carefully chosen: ‘he opened’, he did not pierce nor cut through; he ‘opened’ the gates of life, whence immediately flowed forth those Sacraments of the Church without which no one can receive the true life of the soul – water that purifies, blood which redeems and nourishes.” Just as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, so the Church, the Mother of all the living, came from the side of the New Adam. The liturgy uses this ancient symbolism in the Preface of the Mass: “God,” it says, “willed this blow of the spear that the Heart thus opened, the sanctuary of divine bounty, should pour out on us an abundance of grace.”

Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness, have mercy on us!

III. The Wound, Our Refuge

During the Middle Ages the mystics spoke of the wound as “the cleft in the rock” (Ct.2: 14), where the loving soul could seek refuge. In the Psalms the soul in danger finds shelter with the Most High, “He will overshadow thee with his shoulders, and under his wings thou shalt trust” (Ps. 90:4).

And now, when the Most High has become man, and as it were has opened His Heart to us, there is no place where the soul can feel so secure, and where it can be fashioned so perfectly unto His likeness. Thus thought Bernard, and Bonaventure, and Lutgard, and Gertrude, and Mechtilde; thus we pray in the Anima Christi, “In Thy Wound hide me”, and in the Preface, “that the Heart, which never ceases to burn with love may be for the devout a haven of rest, and for the penitent an ever open refuge of salvation.”

Sacred Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.

IV. The Wounded Heart

St. Bonaventure had remarked incidentally that “the Heart of Jesus had been wounded in order that, beyond the visible wound, we might discover the invisible wound of love in the Lord’s Heart.” This thought was uppermost in the mind of St. Margaret Mary. She beheld the Heart of Jesus, showing a deep wound, surrounded by a crown of thorns, and above the flames that arouse from it, a cross. And from the Lord’s lips she heard these words, “Behold this Heart, which has loved men so much … And from most of them I receive in return only ingratitude … But what grieves me most deeply is this, that those who behave thus are precisely those that are dedicated to My service.”

Henceforth the devotion to the Sacred Heart assumed a more human and a more soul-stirring aspect; having a personal and social appeal. In this form it received ecclesiastical approbation, and as Pope Pius XII wrote in his last Encyclical about the devotion to the Sacred Heart, “it took the world by storm”.

Who among us dare say that he has loved Jesus in return, as he ought? “Jesus has but few friends,” said St. Teresa of Avila, “and those that claim to be such must vow Him a friendship that is loyal, delicate, ready for every sacrifice.” Nothing will be more pleasing to Him, who died for all, than that we should pray and do penance for our fellow men.

Prayer: O God, who in the Heart of Thy Son, wounded for our sins, dost mercifully vouchsafe to bestow on us the riches of Thy love: Grant, we beseech Thee, that offering It the devout homage of our piety we may likewise offer It becoming reparation. Through our Lord … (Collect of today’s Mass).

Jesus, Mary, I love Thee; Save Souls!

Jesu mitis et humilis corde, Fac cor nostrum secundum Cor tuum. (ter)

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