How many of you reading this have some sort of image of the Sacred Heart up in your home? An icon, a statue, a painting, whatever it may be? I’d wager to guess that most Catholics do. However, how many of us understand what the Sacred Heart is and why we should be devoted to It? Why Pope Pius XI once wrote in Miserentissimus redemptor, speaking of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “For is not the sum of all religion and therefore the pattern of more perfect life, contained in that most auspicious sign and in the form of piety that follows from it inasmuch as it more readily leads the minds of men to an intimate knowledge of Christ Our Lord, and more efficaciously moves their hearts to love Him more vehemently and to imitate Him more closely?” The Sacred Heart is the “sum of all religion”?! And here I thought it was just a comforting image that most Catholics hung in their homes!
But why is the Sacred Heart of Jesus the sum of all religion? And how does it move us to knowledge and love of God moreso than any other devotion? Why is it, therefore, referred to by countless popes as the “devotion of all devotions”? To understand this, we have to recognize the three fundamental truths of Christology: (1) Jesus Christ is true God; (2) Jesus Christ is true man; and (3) Jesus Christ is the union of the Divine and a human nature in the Person of God the Son, 2nd Person of the Most Holy Trinity, a union referred to as the “hypostatic union”. And that is the point to the Sacred Heart, as well – the Sacred Heart is the storehouse of all the mysteries of Christ, no moreso than the storehouse of the love of Jesus Christ. Because within the Sacred Heart are contained these Christological mysteries – within the Sacred Heart is the Person of Jesus Christ, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and the humanity of Jesus Christ. As Pope Pius XII wrote in Haurietis Aquas, for example, “It is therefore essential, at this point, in a doctrine of such importance and requiring such prudence that each one constantly hold that the truth of the natural symbol by which the physical Heart of Jesus is related to the Person of the Word, entirely depends upon the fundamental truth of the hypostatic union. Should anyone declare this to be untrue he would be reviving false opinions, more than once condemned by the Church, for they are opposed to the oneness of the Person of Christ even though the two natures are each complete and distinct. Once this essential truth has been established we understand that the Heart of Jesus is the heart of a Divine Person, the Word Incarnate, and by it is represented and, as it were, placed before our gaze all the love with which He has embraced and even now embraces us. Consequently, the honor to be paid to the Sacred Heart is such as to raise it to the rank – so far as external practice is concerned – of the highest expression of Christian piety. For this is the religion of Jesus which is centered on the Mediator who is man and God, and in such a way that we cannot reach the Heart of God save through the Heart of Christ, as He Himself says: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one cometh to the Father save by Me.’”
When the Church speaks of the Sacred Heart, She speaks in terms of hypostatic union, Incarnation, Divine and human nature. In other words, you can’t understand the Sacred Heart of Jesus, you can’t be devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, without really grasping this Christology. Because if the Sacred Heart is the symbol of the love of Jesus Christ, then it’d probably be good, necessary, to know what the love of Jesus Christ is. And yet, this love of Jesus is unlike anything that has appeared on the face of this earth. Why…because Jesus Christ is a Divine Person, Who is true God and true man. Therefore His heart is a heart of love that is, by virtue of the hypostatic union, worthy of the worship of adoration, since it is the heart of a Divine Person become man. And so His is a love that is unique. It is also a love that is multifaceted, for it is a love that is both Divine and human. For Jesus Christ is one person, a Divine person, the 2nd Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Yet this one Divine Person is both God and man – God by virtue of His possessing the Divine nature, a man by virtue of His possessing a human nature. As such, Jesus’s love is not merely Divine, nor merely human, but Divine and human. Experienced in and through and by the one, same Person…but nonetheless experienced distinctly in both Divine and human modes of love. Simply put, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the love of God for Himself, the love of God for man, the love of God become man, and, even moreso, the love of God as a man for man. Which is why the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the “sum of all religion”, the “devotion of all devotions”.
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