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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

In one of her letters to Philippine in July 1810, Mother Barat told Philippine : "Enter his Heart, and from its depths draw the virtues you lack." This is the core of Mother Barat's spirituality: Spouses of the Heart of Jesus must enter his Heart and draw from it all that is needed to live in union and conformity with his Heart which is the grace of our vocation.

I think it is good to give a bit of background about the devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Seen in the broadest way, devotion to the Sacred Heart is as old as the Church. In a sense, it began even before the Incarnation, but more properly it is devotion to the love of God for us manifested in the humanity of Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, devotion to the Word Incarnate with the focus on the physical heart of Christ. As such, it was implicit from the beginning but developed gradually in the life, worship, and teaching of the Church.

The roots of the devotion are found in the Old Testament. God, as a loving God, entered into a relationship with humanity. The New Testament reveals the extent of His love even to giving us His only Son. With the Incarnation, God entered our history in a human form. The "Word was made flesh": in Jesus Christ, God's love was made visible.

The word, "heart" in the biblical sense stands for the whole person. It is used to indicate the deepest core of a person; it is the place of thoughts, feelings, desires and motives. Sophie would have the novices study the Heart of Jesus as an open book in which they study what regards each particular virtue. It is from the "esteem which the Heart of Jesus had for these virtues, and the manner in which He practiced them," that they should hold them and the manner in which they should put them into practice. Afterwards, "when they are called upon to perform acts of these different virtues, they need but cast one look upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to conform and unite themselves to His interior dispositions."

I have just read the Letter for the Feast of the Sacred Heart from our present Superior General, Kathy Conan, that arrived yesterday. I am sure she will not mind if I quote the following:
"Throughout her own journey Sophie would return to the heart of Jesus, longing to sink her roots more deeply in its soil, to absorb water and nourishment from his love. A more common image in Sophie's writings describing this dynamic of longing and nourishment is that of drawing water from the well of the heart of Jesus. From her earliest letters through to her last, she encourages her sisters to go often to this well, to drink continually of the refreshing waters of Jesus' heart."

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