By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
The Heart of Christ is worthy of our veneration because it is the Heart of one "Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God. We worship it on account of its hypostatic union with that divine Person whose nature is one with the Father, and not on account of that nature according to which the Father is greater than the Son. The excellency, majesty, dignity and perfection of the Person of the Logos are the sources from which this Heart receives its borrowed excellence, and they may be attributed to it after a fashion. Through these it becomes a transcendentalized Heart. Its function is that of a living organ of a God-man. Christ's human life in ordinary course of events depends upon it. The mere piercing of this Heart would have resulted in the death of the God-Man just as inevitably as His death was caused by the manifold excruciating agonies.
Man is so constituted that his relation to God and things supernatural is a direct postulate of symbolism. This statement is borne out by the historical data of both pagan and Jewish nations. Symbolism is so important a factor, especially in things appertaining to the spiritual domain, that even Christ Himself would not dispense with it. His followers adopted their Master's example by making free use of symbolism for spiritual and utilitarian motives, and occasionally, as in the time of persecution, through sheer necessity. We all know the unbounded enthusiasm which is displayed at the sight of things that are symbolical of patriotism. This same hidden power is brought into evidence when our eyes strike a symbol which we are accustomed to associate with a religious idea. Iconography and iconology testify to this truth, for they have always been considered as potent factors in secular and religious education. It is for this reason that St. Gregory lays so much emphasis on the principle which claims that man arrives at the understanding of imperceptible things through the contemplation of things visible. The Church canonizes and applies this fundamental principle when in the Preface of the Nativity she chants: “Because by the mystery of the Word made flesh, from Thy brightness a new light hath arisen to shine on the eyes of our soul, in order that, God becoming visible to us, we may be borne upward to the love of things invisible.”
The soul of man is spiritual. Its destiny and life are supernatural. By divine ordinance it is doomed to pass a temporary existence in the body. To promote its end it is forced to make use of a transitory dwelling. The senses of the body are the primary and the best adapted means for this purpose. A symbol not only appeals to them but helps man to form a clearer idea and a more lasting impression of things beyond his ken. It whets the appetite of the senses, so to speak. Christ, aware of this exigency of human nature, exhibits His heart to be used as a symbol of His love and thus succeeds in employing the faculties of the body as well as those of the soul which, when combined, are in a position to produce a human act pleasing and meritorious in His sight.