Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 27.

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



There could be nothing more timely at this point of our investigation than the question: Why do we worship the love of Christ through the symbol of His Heart? To answer this question a clear concept must first be formed of the symbol, the thing symbolized, and the reason of symbolization. In theological terminology they are called the signum, res signata and ratio significatus. In this Devotion the signum or symbolum is the material Heart of Christ. The res signata is His infinite love. The ratio significatus is the relation which exists between the two.

The word symbolum is derived from a Greek verb which means to put or throw together. It implies an inference arrived at from the connection of two concepts. All theologians insist more or less on the relationship existing between the symbol and the thing symbolized. The purpose of the following pages is to present a tentative explanation of the relation existing between the material and the formal object of this Devotion, to justify it even in this respect. In order to reach the desired conclusion in this regard, it will be advisable to present a brief treatment of the leading roles which the heart is called upon to play, (A) In Sacred Scripture; (B) In common parlance; (C) In physiology and psychology.

(A) Sacred Scripture designates the heart 1. As the ideal seat of the affections, e. g., (a) Joy and sorrow: " Behold my servant shall praise for joyfulness of heart, and you shall cry for sorrow of heart" 1 (b) Envy: "Let not thy heart envy sinners." 2 (c) Charity: "Now the end of the commandment is charity, from a pure heart."

2. The Bible assigns to the heart intellectual operations; (a) Imagination: " Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love Him." 4 (b) Attention: "Set your hearts on all the words which I testify to you this day." 5 (c) Memory: "Lay up these my words in your hearts and minds." 

3. The heart is the source of desire and volition, e. g., " Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their hearts unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves." And, again, " From it {the heart) come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies." 

Blunt in his Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology sums up all that can be said on this point. " The heart" he says, " in the Holy Scripture is the scene and subject of every class of operation, emotional, intellectual, active, incident to the spiritual nature of man ... it is the whole man extensively and intensively. It is a source both of good and evil." 

B. It is exactly in this sense that all the nations of the world accepted the word heart. While its meaning may have been more extensive in the past than it is at present, nevertheless, even now it is not altogether divested of its former synecdochical, metonymical, and metaphorical connotations. The expressions " Give me your heart," " kind-hearted" "lion-hearted" "pigeon-hearted" "with all my heart" " to bring home to one's heart" and many others, have a much deeper signification in common parlance and general acceptation than they seem to imply at first sight. Philology reveals a greater wealth of meaning connoted by the word heart than by any other word.

It is not to the point to enter into a lengthy investigation in order to reveal the source from which the popular mind drew this concept of the heart. Suffice it to say that it was promoted, to no small degree, by the anatomical doctrines of Plato. He divided the human soul into three parts and assigned a particular function to each. He localized the rational soul in the head, the irascible soul in the heart (thorax), and the appetitive soul in the abdomen. The comparison of the soul to a pair of winged steeds and a charioteer will perhaps best explain the Platonic division of the soul into three elements, viz., Reason, Passion (or Spirit), and the Appetites. Reason is the Charioteer, while Passion and the Appetites are the horses.