By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
The advocates of this limited interpretation bring forth proofs which are very plausible but far from convincing. Christ, they say, meant to establish a special cult of His love. He wished also that we pay a very special tribute to His Heart which played so important a part in the Redemption of mankind by the shedding of its blood. The latter, having so intimate a rapport with love, facilitated His design, and thus the two became united. St Thomas says that in every movement of the soul there is an increase or decrease in the natural movement of the heart, according as the heart is moved more or less intensely by the systole and diastole. Even the Sacred Scripture seems to refer to such an internal agitation. Therefore, He who was meek and humble of Heart, 8 intended to introduce the worship of that love only in which this physical Heart co-operated to some extent, and of which it may justly be considered as a symbol.
Though hardly any theologian would hesitate to subscribe to this reasoning, it may still be questioned whether there is sufficient evidence to justify the exclusion of the uncreated love. It is undeniable that the carnal Heart of Christ cannot symbolize the uncreated love in the same way in which it is the true symbol of the created love, not only because there is a physiological basis for the latter, but also because a general conventionality adopts such a usage. Besides, the Sacred Scripture permits us to view the heart as the seat in which the created love of Christ resided. To predicate the same relationship between the created Heart and the uncreated love would be a physiological as well as a theological error. The pre-incarnate love, as considered by itself, separated from the humanity of Christ, did not need to make use of the Heart, while the created love was always bound to enter into some relation with it. Just as it is improper to say that Jesus, according to His divine nature, thought by means of His brain, it is likewise incorrect to assert that according to the same nature He loved us by means of His Heart. Father LeDore speaks of the continued reciprocal influence which he imagines to have existed between the two loves. He also insists on the repercussions of the created love on the uncreated love. Father Vermeersch remarks that we should not indulge too much in this anthropomorphic aspect. The uncreated love, he contends, does not produce a sensible emotion in the Heart except by a miracle, hence, how could it be symbolized, at least immediately, by a Heart which is always in motion, and whose movement is varied.
Here again it must be emphasized that no one should consider the Heart as a direct or immediate symbol of Christ's pre-incarnate love. We are all aware of the fact that the uncreated love existed before the Heart, it acted without this Heart, and it was the cause of this Heart's existence. Therefore, the pre-incarnate love, being in time prior to the Heart, cannot be represented by this physical organ to the same extent that may be claimed for the created love which began to exist simultaneously with the Heart.
As regards the created love, the Heart in this connection is not to be taken metaphorically, but symbolically. It must be borne in mind that the decrees of the Sacred Congregation speak of the Heart only as a symbol of love, but they do not represent it as the seat or organ of love. Father Vermeersch in his work lays great stress on this point, for it is an important factor of the Devotion. We must not lose sight of the ratio significatus. Therefore, directly and immediately the Heart as a symbol can convey only the idea of a created love. There are some theologians who combat the idea of including the uncreated love in the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, because they maintain that the heart can represent symbolically only that love with which it has a vital rapport. Even if this vital connection existing between the heart (signum) and the love (res signata) would be a conditio sine qua non of the symbolical representation, it can hardly be denied that the Heart of Christ may at least metaphorically, which is a milder adverb than symbolically, emblemize also the pre-incarnate love of the Logos; in which case the necessity for the physical relation between the two would cease. It is in this sense that the word heart is used in the Old Covenant. (II. Par. VII. 16.) Still, it might be added, that there is no need of quibbling with such minute distinctions when the decree expressly states that both the created and the uncreated love are symbolically commemorated by the Heart.