By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
It was through this hallowed Side that the last drops of blood were shed, as final testimony of love
elicited by the God-Man, toward those whose cause He was so eloquently pleading before the throne of His Heavenly Father. Hence,
nothing is more natural than that it should attract very special
attention. The deep devotion St. Augustine (d. 430) entertained
toward the Sacred Side can be gauged by the following words. "The
Evangelist fittingly states that the soldier opened His Side, in order
that in It, so to speak, may be opened the gate of life, through
which issued the Sacraments of the Church, without which no one
can enter the path leading to eternal life. Thus, the second Adam
with bent head slept on the cross that Spouse may be created
for Him issuing from His Side. What is there purer than this
blood What more healing than this wound ?"
It is not to be presumed that the devotion to the Sacred Side was
exclusive of the Sacred Heart. Father Galliffet adduces some reasons of his own to prove that the lance of the centurion after it
pierced the Side of Christ penetrated into His Sacred Heart. He
also quotes from the writings of St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, and others, who
share his belief. Hence, we may reasonably suppose that the two
wounds, viz., that of the Side and the Heart of Christ, were never
disassociated, but honored always unitedly.
D. From the foregoing we can see how gradually and instinctively the popular mind was drawn nearer and nearer to the Sacred Heart, which was destined to be the object of favored cult. While
the Sacred Heart, for long time, was not proposed for worship as
separate object, nevertheless, the writings of the early Fathers contain many explicit allusions to It.
St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and St. John Chrysostom speak
repeatedly of the Sacred Side and the blood issuing from it, but
as far as we can ascertain they make no explicit mention of the
Heart of Christ. St. Paulinus of Nola (d. 431) is the first to mention it explicitly. He pictures St. John as resting his head on Jesus'
breast, and drawing deep mysteries "from His Heart, as from the
fountain of the creative Wisdom, being thereby inebriated by the
Holy Ghost." Perhaps the most striking words of any used by
an early writer come down to us from St. Anselm (d. 1109), Arch
bishop of Canterbury. "What sweetness," he says, "in this pierced
Side. That wound has revealed us the treasures of His goodness,
that is to say, the love of His Heart for us."