By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
CHAPTER V. THE MATERIAL OBJECT OF THE DEVOTION
We read in the life of Blessed Margaret Mary that, two years after she made her profession, while absorbed one day in prayer and contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament, Our Divine Lord appeared to her, and said: "Behold the Heart which has loved men so much." Here we have a picture in which the material as well as the formal object of this devotion is clearly set in relief. Christ exhibited Himself whole and entire, hence He is to be worshipped as such. This apparition corresponds to the primary material object of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart. He designated the secondary material object when He pointed to His Heart saying: "Behold the Heart" He indicated the formal object with the words that follow: " Which has loved men so much," words expressive of the love of Christ. the former he designates the primary material object of this devotion, viz., Christ in His inseparable unity. Under the latter he combines Christ's Sacred Heart and His Love. Bishop Languet states that this devotion consists in loving Jesus Christ whom we have continually with us in the Blessed Sacrament, and toward whom we are to exhibit the same love by various practices. St. Alphonsus is of the same opinion. Bernard Jungman agrees in substance with the two foregoing authors by saying that the primary object of this devotion is the immense love of Our Lord, which He showed principally in His passion and in the institution of the Blessed Sacrament.
Without multiplying examples to prove the same proposition, we shall draw the inference that all acts of worship redound primarily to the honour and glory of Christ as God, or as God-man, and all else is only a secondary consideration, irrespective of the object to which the worship is directed or in which it terminates.
It may appear very singular, says Father Noldin, that not even at this present age are theologians and ascetic writers fully agreed as to the object of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart. While we do not wish to gainsay his statement, we may likewise say, without fear of contradiction, that no ascetic writer or theologian of any importance would call in question the doctrine which holds that the proximate secondary object of this Devotion is the Heart of Christ. This Heart is to be viewed in a two-fold sense, viz., as a corporal organ and as a symbol. In the former sense it is the Heart of flesh, not lifeless but living, not separated but hypostatically united to the Person of the Logos. In the latter sense it is taken figuratively as representing the love of Our Lord. We must here apply the principle of St. Gregory, i. e., to form a concept of something imperceptible through the medium of a visible object. The Preface for the Feast of the Nativity enunciates the same truth.
From the foregoing remarks it is manifest that the body of the devotion, or the object which is within the ken of the senses, is the Heart of Christ as the material, sensible element. The soul of the devotion, viz., its formal object or motive, is the element symbolized by the Heart, i. e., the super sensual element or the charity of Christ. St. Augustine tells us that love is the foundation of all the affections conceived by man's desiderative faculties. Thus, we may uphold the statement made by Cardinal Pie: " The devotion to the Sacred Heart is the very quintessence of Christianity, the epitome and substantial summary of the whole of religion."
In order to give expression to the whole doctrine in incisive and perspicuous terms we re-state that in the Devotion of which we are treating we worship the Heart of Christ as symbolizing His love. We honour his love under the symbol of His Heart. These two objects having an intimate relationship with each other, it follows that they are not to be separated in the mind of the worshipper. The Heart is to be considered as the supplement of the love, and vice versa. The corporal and sensible Heart and its super sensual love are to be viewed as one. They claim our worship as one object, being inseparably united to the Person and soul of Christ.