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Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Sacred Heart and the purifying of our emotions

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is founded on orthodox Christology hammered out in the first centuries of the Church. Our Lord's human nature and His divine nature are united in one person - this is called in theology the hypostatic union. Following on from this doctrine, anything we predicate of Christ, either according to his human nature or his divine nature, is predicated of the one person Jesus Christ the Word made flesh. (What theologians call the "communication of idioms") So we can say that God the second person of the Blessed Trinity, was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, and was sometimes hungry; we can also say that the man Jesus was omnipotent, all-knowing, and infinitely loving.

In the devotion to the Sacred Heart, we think especially of the human love of God made man. We can also speak of His emotions of joy and of sorrow that flow from that love. Our Lord was joyful when people responded to Him in faith, and He was sorrowful when people sinned.

Since He is truly God made man, the human nature of Christ is perfect. One of the most damaging errors of the "New Catechetics" which spread like wildfire in the late 60s and early 70s, and still influences teachers today at all levels of education, is that of making Our Lord "just like us" in the sense of attributing to Him all the moral weaknesses that flow from the concupiscence of our fallen human nature, and from our past personal sins and habits of sin. So Jesus is presented as wavering between the choice of good and evil or tempted to give up, as though He were unsure whether or not to follow His conscience.

When we are convinced of the faith of the Church concerning Our Lord's human nature, it is actually much more helpful than making Him "just like us" in an effort to soothe our guilt. Today, the emotions of joy and sorrow are much damaged, especially in matters of the heart. Because of original sin, we are tempted to find joy in disordered and sinful sexual pleasure, and tempted to sorrow because our own wilful inclinations have been frustrated. Each of us could think of other examples in our examination of conscience: our emotions are often unruly, contrary to what is good and true, and a drag against supernatural virtue.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart, among many other blessings, teaches us to tame our emotions, to recover from them when they lead us astray, to repent of our indulgence of them, and to work to align them to the perfect example of Christ who was never angry except when entirely justified, never joyful except in the good, never sorrowful except when faced with evil.

One prayer that should not be forgotten is this rhyme I learnt as a child:
O Sacred Heart of Jesus I implore
O make me love Thee daily more and more.
Or if you like French, here is a delightful couplet from St Margaret Mary Alacoque:
Je possède en tout temps et je porte en tout lieu,
et le Dieu de mon cœur, et le cœur de mon Dieu.
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