Publié le : 2022-06-22 18:30:00
Catégories : Religious News
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be held this year on Friday 24 June, the third Friday after Pentecost. The cult of the Sacred Heart as we know it today originated from the visions of Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673. This devotion was expanded by further apparitions to Sister Mary of the Divine Heart in the 19th century and by Pope Pius IX who instituted the Feast of the Sacred Heart that we celebrate every year. Today, the representation of the Sacred Heart remains a prominent image in the Church.
What are the origins of the cult of the Sacred Heart? What message did Jesus deliver to Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century? What symbolism has been attributed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus throughout the evolution of the Church?
Since ancient times, the heart has been regarded as a special organ, even though we were far from understanding the exact role it plays in our bodies. In fact, the heart is a very present organ: it beats, its rhythm speeding up or slowing down according to our activity and our emotions.
For the Babylonians, the heart was considered the organ of intelligence and memory. Even the Egyptians, Greeks and Indians attributed a symbolic function to it.
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, stated that the heart is the seat of sensations, passions and intelligence.
Closer to us, Descartes stated that the heart was the undisputed seat of the emotions, since in it we perceive the body's passions through the heartbeat.
Knowing the importance of the heart for earlier civilisations, it is not surprising that the heart was thought of by the Christian religion as a symbol of love for others. In the Gospel of St. John, the latter puts his head on Jesus' heart during the Last Supper and, during the Passion, John sees the Heart of Jesus pierced.
The Fathers of the Church, such as St Francis de Sales, Catherine of Siena or St Augustine, often make a connection between the heart and prayer.
The crusades to the Holy Land to deliver the tomb of Christ and then in search of relics were the starting point of a fervour for the Passion of Jesus and in particular for the Sacred Wounds. This fervour strengthened the cult of the Heart of Jesus informally in the great religious congregations such as the Carthusians, Franciscans and Dominicans.
This common interest in the Heart of Jesus prepared the ground for the revelations of the visionary Margaret Mary Alacoque.
As a nun in the monastery of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial, Margaret Mary (named a saint in 1920) witnessed several apparitions: on 27 December 1673, Jesus appeared to her and revealed his Heart. Jesus' message is as follows:
"My divine Heart is so impassioned with love for humanity, and for you in particular, that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its ardent charity, but must spread them through you.
In 1675, during a new apparition, Jesus said to her: "This is the Heart that has so loved men that it has spared nothing to the point of exhaustion and consummation to show them its love; and for gratitude I receive from them nothing but ingratitude, for their irreverence and sacrilege, for their coldness and contempt. Jesus asks that his heart be represented and honoured so that he can pour out his holy graces. He therefore asks that a new feast be instituted to honour his heart.
The transmission of Margaret Mary's message gradually took place. Various religious took on the task of spreading the cult of the Sacred Heart. In France, after the French Revolution and during the Vendée War, members of the Catholic and Royal Vendée armies chose to display the Sacred Heart to show their opposition to the absence of Catholic references in the First Republic.
The recognition of Margaret Mary Alacoque's message by the Church took place in several stages.
- In 1765, the message delivered to Margaret Mary was recognised by Pope Clement XIII who instituted the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.
- This recognition was followed in 1856 by Pope Pius IX, who instituted the feast of the Sacred Heart. From then on, representations of the Sacred Heart travelled all over the world.
- Even today, the Sacred Heart remains a powerful symbol: in 2011, Benedict XVI consecrated young people from all over the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus during World Youth Day in Madrid.
As Jesus gave Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Sacred Heart is the very symbol of God's love and tenderness.
The representation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus takes up the symbols of the Passion: the crown of thorns, the cross, the wound opened by the lance. The flames surrounding the Heart of Jesus express the mercy and burning love of the Saviour. The Heart of Jesus is depicted in the midst of an intense light, a sign of his radiant love. Marguerite-Marie's depictions also include the word Caritas: Charity in the sense of the Catholic interpretation of the word 'love'. All these strong images and symbols are there to remind us of the Lord's love for mankind, the highest expression of which was the Passion on the cross.
The message to Margaret Mary Alacoque is accompanied by a series of particular promises addressed to the personal devotion of Christians who dedicate themselves to the Sacred Heart:
These include graces distributed by Jesus, peace for families, consolation, refuge.... The twelve Particular Promises were drawn up following the 135 letters written by Margaret Mary Alacoque to spread the message of Jesus.
Christ's message is also addressed to the king. Jesus wants his Heart to be re-established in the Kingdom of France, he wants a building dedicated to his divine Heart to be built and, finally, he asks the king that the Sacred Heart of Jesus be painted on his banners and engraved on his arms.
The result of this second request is still visible in the immense Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris. The magnificence of this world-famous building bears witness to this. The foundation stone of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre was laid in 1873. The most important work in this basilica is the depiction of Jesus in glory with his shining heart. This mosaic (the largest in France) is the most important work in the basilica. It covers an area of 474 m2.
Alongside the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the cult of the Immaculate Heart of Mary also developed, particularly after the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1858 and Fatima in 1917. A whole series of symbolism is also associated with it.
The joint representation of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary expresses the latter's filial love for her son. It is also a symbol of the association of the sufferings of Jesus and Mary during the Passion for the redemption of humanity.
Today, the cult of the Sacred Heart, in our world in search of meaning, reconsiders the gifts of tenderness, love and human relationships that are all too often cast aside.