The heart, already in antiquity, was considered a symbol of the very core of the human personality. Among the Greeks, for example, it circumscribed reason or the emotions, and among the Romans there was the association of the heart with love, as well as courage, since soldiers were decorated with bronze hearts for acts of bravery.
Distorting the metaphorical value of the heart, paganism also used it for ritual human sacrifices, common in all parts of the world except Israel. To illustrate this, it is enough to cite the case of the Aztecs, whose holocaust consisted in extracting the heart of the victims, while still alive, to offer it to the deities.
Genesis, in turn, mentions that the heart of the Lord was grieved by sin, repenting “that He had made man on the earth” (6:6). Then, faced with his faults, the psalmist pleads for “a clean heart” (Ps 50:10) and for divine “mercy” (Ps 85:3), whose etymology – looking back to the Latin misericordia – evokes a heart that is compassionate towards the wretched. The promise of salvation, however, always remained on the horizon for the chosen people, according to the prophecy of Ezekiel: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36:26).
Jesus Christ, “meek, and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29), invited His disciples to be “pure in heart” (Mt 5:8) and reproached those who had “hearts hardened” (Mk 8:17). From His divine side was born the Church, whose heartbeat has reached the whole world.
The first millennium of the Christian era did not know devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Its more definite origins go back to the devotion to the Holy Wounds among religious, such as St. Bernard and St. Francis.
Later, Protestants imagined devotion to the Heart of Jesus to be idolatrous and superstitious. In reaction, in 1566 Pope St. Pius V exhorted the bishops of his first consistory: “We will not be able to halt the progress of heresy except by an action upon the heart of God. It is up to us, light of the world, salt of the earth, to enlighten minds and encourage hearts by the example of our holiness and virtues.” The saintly Pontiff understood that the solution to the evils of the time was to be found in touching God’s heart through holiness, beginning with the highest level of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
In 1673, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received revelations from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom King Louis XIV was to consecrate France. Following upon the royal indifference, the nation later fell into the aberrations of the French Revolution and into a contumacious de-Christianization. Suffice it to recall that after the murder of the pro-Jacobin Marat in 1793, his heart was touted as a symbol of blasphemous devotion, with a “litany” created to the “sacred” heart of the revolution’s new “martyr”.
In 1917, Our Lady promised the triumph of her Immaculate Heart, which, according to the theology of St. John Eudes, is intrinsically united to that of Jesus. She also prophesied that Russia would spread its errors throughout the world. After Lenin’s death in 1924, the tyrant’s heart was infamously venerated in the mausoleum of Moscow’s Red Square.
In the face of so many revolutions and counter-revolutions concerning the heart, it is imperative that we yearn for a restoration of its highest meaning, by devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in union with the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is about to be accomplished. ◊
Taken from the Heralds of the Gospel magazine, #188.