Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 4.

By  Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.

B. The devotion to the Passion of Christ assumed new phase when the faithful commenced to pay special homage to the five principal wounds of His sacred body. The words of St. Ambrose (d. 397), besides being expressive of deep sense of piety, attribute to these wounds power of impetration. "Christ refused to relinquish the wounds He received for us," he says, "and preferred to take them with Him in order to exhibit them to His Heavenly Father." St. Peter Chrysologus (d. 450), while commenting on the words with which the risen Savior wishes to change the unbelieving heart of His doubting Apostle, makes striking reference to these wounds. "May these wounds," he remarks, "which have already shed water for the cleansing and blood for the redemption of mankind, spread the light of faith in the whole universe."

Tender tribute is paid to these wounds by St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) in his Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles. "For as the dove," he says, "seeks nutrition in hollow places, so the pious soul, in order to regale herself, finds nourishment in the wounds of Christ." From the above three quotations, to which we could add many others, it is evident that devotion to the Five Wounds existed in the early ages though on account of the scarcity of historical documents we are not in position to determine the extent of its popularity. Suffice it to say that the indefatigable zeal of St. Bernard (d. 1153), and St. Francis (d. 1226), as well as the religious enthu siasm of the Crusaders returning from the Holy Land contributed considerably to its diffusion.* Perhaps the most ardent advocates of this devotion were St. Mechtilde (d. 1290) and St. Gertrude (d. 1302.) Their writings are full of references to the wounds of Christ. The motive which animated these devotees of this cult could not be stated more concisely than the Memorial of the Polish Bishops portrays it. "These parts of Our Lord's most sacred body are being held more deserving of special cult than the others, precisely because, being decorated with these wounds as with illustrious marks of love, they underwent keener sufferings for our salvation. It is for this reason that they cannot be contemplated without deep feeling of religion and piety." Animated by such sentiments as the above words portray, the faithful directed repeated petitions to the Holy See requesting special feast in honor of the sacred wounds of Christ. Finally, their efforts were crowned by Innocent VI in 1362.

In France this devotion receives its first official recognition in the Synod of Lavaur, held on May 17, 1368, under the Pontificate of Urban V, in the Cathedral of Lavaur, at the request of Pierre de la Jugie, Arch bishop of Norbonne. At this Synod an indulgence of thirty days was granted to those who recite five Our Fathers in honor of the Five Wounds of Christ. The wound of the Sacred Side was one of these Five Wounds. The tradition handed down by the popular mind as well as by the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church believes the wound of the Sacred Side and Heart to have been inflicted simultaneously. Hence, the two were considered as one, and included as such in the devotion to the Five Wounds. These organs of the sacred body were considered deserving of special homage not only because they were visibly effected by external anguish, but also because through them oozed the precious blood, the prize of our Redemption. Thus, we find trace of worship paid to the Sacred Heart, in an implicit cumulative sense, in the devotion to the Five Wounds.

C. While the above devotion continued to spread it was noticeable that of the Five Wounds one enjoyed more popularity than the rest. The Side of Christ suffered an indelible wound by the spear of soldier. It was to this Side Christ pointed, when, after His Resurrection, He was desirous of inspiring His apostles with peace, consolation and courage. Of all the wounds, this was the deepest of all this the most prominent. St. Gregory (d. 604) alludes to it in his Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles. "By the hollow places of the wall," he says, "we understand the Side of Christ which was opened by the lance."