By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
CHAPTER VI THE FORMAL OBJECT OF THE DEVOTION
Because innumerable sources contributed to the super eminent elevation of the Heart of Christ as well as to its many consequent excellences, one must not infer that these are all of equal significance in this Devotion as approved by the Church and diffused and practised over all the world. The main characteristic of the Heart which ought chiefly to claim our adoration, and towards which our attention should be directed principally, is its infinite charity for men. In demanding this attitude of mind we do not mean to ignore the other qualities with which it is embellished and which individually are entitled to the same degree of worship. We mean simply to intimate our preference in favor of its charity on account of the close connection the latter enjoys with the physical heart, which is generally accepted as a symbol of love.
In a following chapter, when treating on the interrelation of heart and man's appetitive faculties, it will be pointed out to what extent the acceptance of this symbolism can be justified. For the time being the attention of the reader is called to the created love alone. The consideration of the somewhat speculative question of the whole formal object, which ought to include the uncreated love also, must be left to another chapter.
St. Augustine is of the opinion that love precedes all our other emotions, and is their cause. St. Thomas subscribes to this principle unconditionally, and proves its tenableness. Bossuet enumerates the different passions of our appetitive faculties, and concludes with the words: " Eliminate love, and all the passions disappear; posit love, and they are all generated. If this be true, then all the other affections emanate from and concentrate in love. Thus the sentiment of love enjoys the greatest imaginable prominence among the affections of our human nature. Farges in his philosophico-psychological inquiry arrives at the same conclusion.
Christ's human nature, even if viewed apart from His divinity, far surpassed ours in excellence and integrity. It possessed that original righteousness which we lost on account of the first sin of disobedience. Therefore, its sentiment of love was of a quality far superior to ours, for it was intensified by the sinlessness which characterized the first Adam. This same human nature was elevated to a still higher plane through that union with the divine Person of the Word whereby it became impeccable. Christ's appetitive faculties and acts externalized the most noble sentiments capable of being reduced to visibility by a God. The love that found expression through them was theandric; hence, the most altruistic imaginable. It was intrinsically opposed to all misanthropy. Christ, therefore, may justly be called the most benevolent philanthropist conceivable. We must eliminate from Him all desires incompatible with His divine Sonship. His appetitive faculties craved nothing but what was intrinsically good. All His pro-passions were so many divine virtues inspired by a god-like love. Hence He is the very personification of love.
The moral life of man is no more conceivable without love than His physical life without a heart. Love is the mainspring of all the actions of man. Such is the concept we are to form of the love of Christ as symbolized by His Heart. To prove this proposition, we will pursue the same course as we did in treating of the material object of this devotion.