Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 32.

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


In order to supplement our knowledge of the object of this Devotion it would be well, at this point of our investigation, to answer the much-disputed question of the moralists, which of the two objects merits, and actually enjoys, first place. To eliminate all misunderstanding it must be borne in mind, from the very outset, that though the formal and material objects are two distinct features of the Devotion, they are not separate in the sense that one would be at liberty to show worship to either without the other. Such a worship is, indeed, theologically warrantable, but it would be out of harmony with this particular Devotion as approved by the Church and propagated among the faithful. The spirit of the Devotion requires that the two objects be always considered as one (ad modum unius), for they are indivisible and inseparable constituents of the same Devotion. For the sake of theological speculation, however, they may be viewed apart, not from the divinity of the Logos, but from each other.

An object may be primary either by reason of excellence or in the order of time. Applying this principle to the point under investigation the proposed inquiry would resolve itself ultimately into the question whether the fleshy Heart of Christ, as united to the divine Person, is of greater excellence than His love, or vice versa? The answer to this question will determine which is the primary, and which the secondary object of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart by reason of excellence.

But, in our popular devotions the mind of the worshipper is not always directed to the highest motive or object which a particular cult presents for veneration. While our intention is, or always ought to be, to worship the nobler object, still we may begin by giving honor to the less noble first, because it appeals to our senses immediately, and then, by means of this, we may rise to the higher. Thus, in the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, the first object towards which our worship may be directed could be either the symbol, viz., the Heart, which — by a transition of thought — our mind would connect later with the thing symbolized, i. e., love, or vice versa. In the first instance the heart would be the primary and love the secondary object, in the order of time. This order would be inverted in case our worship began with the thing symbolized and united later to the symbol.

Theologians, debating the question of primariness and secondariness of the two objects of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, advance many reasons to prove their individual convictions. After the perusal of this chapter one should have no difficulty in locating the cause of the lack of uniformity in this matter.

To begin our investigation, it must be borne in mind that in all the devotions practised in honor of Christ we distinguish a visible and an invisible object. To simplify the proposed task it will be well to advance the following proposition: In all the devotions with which we worship Christ, that object is to be considered the primary one, to which the cult owes the reason of its existence and in which it terminates. The expression in which it terminates does not here convey the idea of terminus ultimas or final end. In this sense all the devotions practised in honor of Christ terminate in the Person of Christ. It means here the second-last terminus, which, when brought into correlation with the visible object, not only bears a close relationship with the terminus ultimus (viz.,. the Logos), but also points out the motive which actuates our adoration of Him under a certain aspect. We shall attempt to illustrate this principle by a few examples.