On Devotion To The Sacred Heart Of Jesus
by Pope Pius XII
May 15, 1956
But now, Venerable Brothers, in order that we may gather rich and salutary fruits from these pious considerations, let us briefly meditate on and contemplate the mainfold affections, human and divine of our Savior, Jesus Christ, which His Heart mainfested through the course of His mortal Life, manifests now, and will continue to manifest forever. Especially from the pages of the Gospel does light shine forth to us. Illumined and strengthened by this Light, we can enter into the Tabernacle of His Divine Heart. Together with the Apostle of the Gentiles we can wonder at "the riches of grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:7.)
The adorable Heart of Jesus Christ beats with human and divine Love since the Virgin Mary pronounced that great-souled "Fiat" and the Word of God, as the Apostle observes, "coming into the world, says, sacrifice and oblation you would not, but a body you have fitted to Me: in holocausts and sin-offerings you have had no pleasure. Then said I, 'Behold, I come'.... It is in this 'Will' that we have been sanctified through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Heb. 10:5-7, 10.)
THE HOME AND SHOP AT NAZARETH
In the same way was He moved by Love in perfect accord with the affections of His human Will and divine Love when in the home at Nazareth He engaged in heavenly discourse with His most sweet Mother and His foster father, Joseph, with whom He toiled obediently in the carpenter's trade. With the threefold Love of which we have spoken, He was driven on during the lengthy Apostolic journeys which He undertook, in the innumerable Miracles which He wrought and by which He recalled the dead from the tomb or bestowed health on those ill with every sort of disease. He was moved by this threefold Love during the labors He endured and in the sweat, hunger and thirst He suffered and in the nocturnal vigils in which He most lovingly prayed to His heavenly Father.
And finally He was moved by this threefold Love in the discourses He delivered and in the Parables which He spoke and explained, in those for instance, which treat of His Mercy, such as the Parables of the lost drachma, the lost sheep, the prodigal son. In these Parables, both by their subject matter and by words, the very Heart of God is expressly laid bare to us, as Gregory the Great observed: "Learn of the Heart of God in the Words of God, so that you may more ardently long for eternal things." (Registr. Epist. lib. IV ep. 31 ad Theodorum Medicum: P.L. LXXVII, 706.)
HIS WORDS OF LOVE
But the Heart of Christ was moved by an even greater Charity when Words full of Love fell from His Lips. Let us cite some examples. When He saw the crowds tired and hungry, He exclained, "I have compassion on the crowd." (Mk. 8:2.) And when He gazed upon Jerusalem, His most beloved city, blinded by her sins and therefore destined for complete destruction, He said: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the Prophets, and stone those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you would not!" (Mt. 23:37.)
But, because of Love for His Father and holy indignation, His Heart beat violently when He beheld the sacrilegious buying and selling in the Temple, and He rebuked the profaners of the Temple, with these Words: "It is written, 'My house shall be called a House of Prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.' " (Mt. 21:13.)
IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
But His Heart was moved by a special Love and fear when He saw that the hour of His most cruel sufferings was now at hand. He felt a natural repugnance for death and those sorrows which were rushing upon Him, and cried out: "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me." (Mt. 26:39.)
But when He received a kiss from the traitor, it was with unconquered Love and the deepest grief that He addressed him in these words which seem to be the last invitation of His most merciful Heart to a friend who, with an impious, faithless and most hardened Heart, was about to betray Him to His executioners: "Friend, for what purpose have you come? Do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Mt. 26:50; Lk.22:48.)
THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM
But He spoke with exceedingly great Love and pity when He said to the pious women weeping for Him as He was about to suffer the undeserved Death of the Cross: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.... For if in the case of green wood they do these things, what is to happen in the case of the dry?" (Lk. 23:28, 31.)
ON THE CROSS
And finally, our divine Redeemer, hanging on the Cross, felt His Heart on fire with varied and vehement affections of the most ardent Love, of dismay, of Mercy, of most intense longing, of serene calm, affections which are indeed most strikingly expressed by the following Words: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Lk. 23:24.) "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Mt. 27:46.) "Amen I say to you, this day you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Lk. 23:43.) "I thirst." (Jn. 19:28.) "Father, into Your Hands I commend My Spirit." (Lk. 23:46.)
HIS GREATEST GIFTS
Who in truth could worthily describe those beatings of the divine Heart, the indications of His Infinite Love, which He elicited at those moments when He bestowed His greatest Gifts on man, that is, Himself in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, His most holy Mother, and the Priestly Office which is shared with us?
THE HOLY EUCHARIST
Even before He ate the Last Supper with His Disciples, when He knew that He was going to institute the Sacrament of His Body and Blood by the shedding of which the New Covenant was to be Consecrated, He felt His Heart stirred by strong emotions, which He made known to the Apostles in these words: "I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Lk. 22:15.) These same emotions were even stronger, without doubt, when "having taken bread, He gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them, saying: 'This is My Body which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In like manner, He took also the Cup after the Supper, saying: 'This Cup is the New Covenant in My Blood, which shall be shed for you.' " (Lk. 22:19-20.)
Rightly, therefore, one may affirm that the divine Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a Sacrifice--the one He bestowed on men, the other He Himself continually offers "from the rising of the Sun even to the going down," (Mal. 1:11.) --and the Priesthood are really Gifts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
MOTHER OF GOD
Indeed another most precious gift of His Sacred Heart is, as we have said, Mary, the sweet Mother of God and the most loving Mother of us all. For she was the Mother of our Redeemer according to the flesh and His associate in recalling the children of Eve to the life of divine Grace. And so she is rightly hailed as the Spiritual Mother of mankind. Wherefore St. Augustine in writing or her says:
"Indeed she is the Mother of the members of the Savior, which we are, because she cooperated by Love so that the faithful who are the members of that Head might be born in the Church." (De Sancta Virginitate, VI: P.L. XL, 399.)
THE BLOODY SACRIFICE
And to the unbloody Gift of Himself, under the appearance of Bread and Wine, our Savior, Jesus Christ, wished, as a special proof of His intimate and Infinite Love, to add the Bloody Sacrifice of the Cross. Indeed, in this way of acting, He gave an example of that sublime Charity which He set before His Disciples as the highest measure of Love: "Greater Love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his frined." (Jn. 15:13.)
Wherefore, the Love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by the Sacrifice of Golgotha, clearly and richly proves the Love of God Himself: "In this we have come to know His Love, that He laid down His Life for us; and we likewise ought to lay down our life for the brethren." (1 Jn. 3:16.)
And in fact our divine Redeemer was nailed to the Cross more by His Love than by the force of the executioners. His voluntary holocaust is the supreme Gift which He bestowed on each man according to the concise words of the Apostle: "Who Loved me, and gave Himself up for me." (Gal. 2:20.)
MYSTICAL MARRIAGE OF SAVIOR AND CHURCH
Therefore, there can be no doubt that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, since it shares most intimately in the Life of the Incarnate Word, and was therefore assumed as an instrument of the Godhead no less than were the other members of His human nature in accomplishing the works of divine Grace and Omnipotence, (Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 19, a.1: ed. Leon. tom. XI, 1903, p. 329.) is the true Symbol of the boundless Love by which our Savior, through the shedding of His Blood, contracted a Mystical Marriage with the Church. "Through Charity He suffered for the Church who was to be united to Him as His spouse." (Summa. Theol. Suppl. q. 42, a. 1 ad 3m: ed. Leon. tom. XII, 1906, pl 65.)
THE CHURCH BORN OF CHRIST'S LOVE
Therefore, from the wounded Heart of our Redeemer, the Church, the dispenser of the Blood of the Redeemer, was born. From this same Heart the Grace of the Sacraments, from which the children of the Church draw supernatural life, flowed most profusely, as we read in the Sacred Liturgy: "From the pierced Heart, the Church, joined to Christ, is born.... who pours forth Grace from Your Heart." (Hymn ad Vesp. Festi Ssmi. Cordis Jesu.) On the meaning of this Symbol, which was not unknown even to the ancient Fathers of the Church and Ecclesiastical writers, the Angelic Doctor, as if re-echoing their very sentiments, writes: "Water flowed from Christ's side to wash us; Blood, to redeem us. Wherefore blood belongs to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, while water belongs to the Sacrament of Baptism. Yet this latter Sacrament derives its cleaning virtue from the Power of Christ's Blood." (Summa. Theol. III, q. 66, a. 3 ad 3m: ed. Leon. tom. XII, 1906, p. 65.)
THE WOUNDED SIDE
What is written here concerning the side of Christ, wounded and opened by a soldier, must likewise be said of His Heart, which the lance certainly touched in its thrust, inasmuch as the soldier pierced it in order to be certain that Jesus Christ had died upon the Cross.
Wherefore the Wound of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which had now completed this mortal life, has been through the ages a living image of that Love freely bestowed by which God gave His only-begotten Son for the Redemption of man, and with which Christ Loved us all so intensely that He offered Himself for us as a Bloody Victim on Calvary. "Christ also Loved us and delivered Himself up for us as an offering and a Sacrifice to God to ascend in fragrant odor." (Eph. 5:2.)
CHRIST'S LOVE FOR THE CHURCH
After our Savior ascended into Heaven--His Body adorned with the splendor of eternal Glory--and sat at the right Hand of the Father, He did not cease to bestow upon His Spouse, the Church, that ardent Love with which His Heart beats. Indeed in His Hands and Feet and Side He bears the glowing marks of the Wounds which represent the triple victory gained by Him over the devil, sin and death.
He likewise has in His Heart, placed, as it were, in a most Precious Shrine, those treasures of merit, the Fruits of His triple triumph. These He bestows generously on redeemed mankind. This is a truth full of consolation, which the Apostle of the Gentiles stated in these words: "Ascending on high, He led away captives; He gave Gifts to men. He who descended, He it is who ascended also above all the Heavens, that He might fill all things." (Eph. 4:8, 10.)
The Gift of the Holy Ghost, sent to the Disciples, is the first clear Sign of His munificent Charity after His triumphal ascent to the right Hand of the Father. Indeed after ten days the Spirit, the Paraclete, given by the heavenly Father, descended upon them gathered in the Cenacle, as He had promised them at the Last Supper: "I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever." (Jn. 14:16.)
This Spirit, the Paraclete, since He is the personified mutual Love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father, is sent indeed by both. Assuming the appearance of tongues of fire, He poured the abundance of divine Love and other heavenly Gifts into their souls. The infusion of this divine Love also sprang from the Heart of our Savior, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge." (Col. 2:3.)
THE GIFT OF CHARITY
Indeed, this Love is the Gift of the Heart of Jesus and His Spirit, who is indeed the Spirit of the Father and the Son, and from whom both the rise of the Church and its remarkable spread are unfolded for all the pagan nations, which the worship of idols, hatred of brothers, corruption of morals, and violence had befouled.
APOSTLES, MARTYRS AND DOCTORS
This divine Love is the most precious Gift of the Heart of Christ and of His Spirit. It gave the Apostles and Martyrs that fortitude with which they were strengthened to fight even to the point of death, which they met with heroic spirit, to preach the truth of the Gospel and to bear witness by the shedding of their blood. It gave the Doctors of the Church a most ardent desire to teach and defend the Catholic Faith.
CONFESSORS, VIRGINS, ALL THE FAITHFUL
It was this love which nourished the virtues of the Confessors and urged them to accomplish eminently useful and marvelous deeds, profitable for their own eternal and temporal welfare and that of others. This was the love which persuaded Virgins to abstain, willingly and joyfully, from the pleasures of the senses, and to Consecrate themselves entirely to the love of their heavenly Spouse.
THE HYMN OF ST. PAUL
In praise of this divine Love which flows from the Heart of the Incarante Word and is infused by the operation of the Holy Ghost in the souls of all the faithful, the Apostle of the Gentiles wrote the famous hymn of victory which proclaims the Triumph of Jesus Christ and the members of the Mystical Body, of which He is the Head, over all obstacles to restoring the Reign of divine Love among men: "Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ? Shall tribulation,or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakesness,or danger,or the sword? But in all these things we overcome because of Him who has Loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor Principalities, nor things present,nor things to come, nor Powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:35, 37-39.)
THE LIVING HEART
There is nothing, then, which forbids us to adore the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, since it participates in and is the natural and most expressive Symbol of that inexhaustible Love with which our divine Redeemer still Loves mankind. That Heart indeed, although it is no longer liable to the disturbances of this mortal life, still lives and beats. It is now inseparably joined with the Person of the divine Word, and in it and through it with His divine Will.
Wherefore, since the Heart of Christ overflows with divine and human Love, and since it is abundantly rich with treasures of all the Graces which our Redeemer acquired by His Life, His Sufferings, and Death, it is truly the unfailing Fountain of that Love which His Spirit pours forth into all the members of His Mystical Body.
IMAGE OF THE DIVINE PERSON
Therefore the Heart of our Savior in a way expresses the Image of the divine Person of the Word and His twofold nature, human and divine. In it we can contemplate not only the Symbol, but also, as it were, the sum of the whole Mystery of our Redemption.
When we adore the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, we adore in It and through It both the uncreated Love of the divine Word and His human Love and other affections and virtues, because both Loves moved our Redeemer to sacrifice Himself for us and for the whole Church, His Spouse. As the Apostle says: "Christ also Loved the Church and delivered Himself up for Her, that He might sanctify Her, cleansing Her in the bath of water by means of the Word, in order that He might present to Himself the Church in all Her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that She might be Holy and without Blemish." (Eph. 5:25-27.)
As Christ Loved the Church, so He still Loves Her most deeply with that threefold Love of which we have spoken. This Love moves Him as our advocate (Cf. 1 Jn. 2:1.) to win Grace and Mercy for us from the Father, "since He lives always to make Reparation for us." (Heb. 7:25.) The prayers which come forth from His inexhaustible Love and which are directed to the Father are never interrupted. As "in the days of His earthly Life," (Heb. 5:7.) so now, triumphant in Heaven, He beseeches the Father with no less efficacy.
He shows His living Heart to Him who "so Loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that those who believe in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting." (Jn. 3:16.) His Heart is, as it were, wounded and burning with even greater Love than when it was pierced after death by the lance of Roman soldier. "Wherefore [Your Heart] was wounded so that through the visible Wound we might see the invisible Wound of Love." (St. Bonaventure, Opusc. X. Vitis Mystica, c. III, n. 5; Opera Omnia, Ad Claras Aquas (Quararachi) 1898, tom. Viii, p. 164; cf. St. Thomas, Sum Theol. III, q. 54, a. 4: ed. Leon. tom. XI, 1903, p. 513.)
It is then absolutely certain that the heavenly Father "who has not spared even His own Son, but has delivered Him for us all," (Rom. 8:32.) when He has been asked by so powerful an Advocate and with such ardent Love, will always send down a rich flow of divine Graces to all men.
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