By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
Father Ramiere arrives at the same conclusion. " Why, then, should we be surprised," he says, " that Jesus made this human Heart and love, which animate Him, the special object of a devotion calculated to manifest with an incomparable splendor, the infinite love which God feels towards us?
Nor would the human love in the Word-made-flesh be neutralized by this view. His body was only a usufructuary of the Divinity; therefore, it is capricious to divide the two loves as do some theologians. " Jesus" Father Vignat argues, "being only one Person in two natures, divine and human, manifests to us the whole love of His Person by His Heart, not only His created love, but His uncreated withal. Only in this sense, but in the fullest extent of this sense, one may say: Jesus as God loves us by means of His human Heart"
Father Bainvel expresses the same truth by arguing that Jesus when appearing in His human nature, presents Himself simultaneously as a divine Person. Hence, though His Heart does not throb with the uncreated love, still, the created love with which it does throb is only an echo of the uncreated love.
Thus many other modern authors could be cited who are in consonance with the opinions expressed in this chapter. Though their attention may not have extended to all the details pointed out in the course of this investigation, still, their statements, if followed to their logical conclusion, justify the supposition that they are inclined to accept such a view. How much soever Father Vermeersch may object to some of the foregoing assertions, his final statement may be quoted in confirmation of the same conclusion. " We worship," he says, " the living Heart of Jesus in order to find in it the theandric love which it symbolizes, and in order thus to elevate our thoughts through the latter, till we reach the uncreated love, of which the theandric love itself is the supreme benefit."
Finally one must not ignore the universal sentiment of the faithful which is a criterion par excellence, and as such an important factor in settling a disputed theological question concerning a determined and widespread devotion. It cannot be denied that the first exponents of this Devotion had a very imperfect idea of the true nature and extent of the love which constitutes its formal object. But, it is also manifest that they did not entirely eliminate the pre-incarnate love. They, however, laid a greater stress on the human love, elaborated it, and thus promulgated the Devotion. They unfolded the concept of this love by bringing it into relation with all the spiritual facts which can be gathered from Christian knowledge, but, above all, from our primary empirical and intellectual intuition, viz., the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The expositional side of the Devotion accentuated the human love, for it was more tangible and appealing. But from experience we know that the common people do not separate Christ from His Divinity. They view Him as God and man. Whether they are attracted by his words or works, even in His purely human manifestations, He is always God and man in their eyes. They never lose sight of His divine Personality. In every-day parlance the word heart expresses for them all the love a person is capable of exhibiting. While they do not make a clear-cut distinction between the created and the uncreated love, nevertheless, the Sacred Heart symbolizes for them the totality or plenitude of the love of the divine Person in Christ. Therefore, since the faithful fail to distinguish between the two loves, this should be an additional reason in favor of non-separation.
The foregoing remarks are not to be interpreted as advocating the fusion of the two loves into one. On the contrary, the investigation as a whole is calculated to bring out in clear relief the particular excellence and sphere of each love. But it may be contended that, whereas there is no particular reason for such a definite separation, and, whereas the faithful mean to worship the entire love of the divine Person to whom their homages are paid, the two loves ought to be as one united formal object of the Devotion.
It does not require deep theological acumen, nor a special faculty of discernment to see that the decrees of the Sacred Congregation are in favor of promulgating the Devotion in this sense. It is imperative that the faithful, among whom this Devotion reached so high a degree of popularity should be instructed to the fullest extent on so important a factor of a devotion as the formal object must needs be. Hence their obscure notions must be clarified, and if they entertain any erroneous ideas, it is incumbent on the teachers of the Church to root out the tares in order that the wheat may grow in their soul.
All the reasons alleged in course of this exposition are based either on ecclesiastical documents or on sound theological principles. To give more force to the arguments adduced, the opinions of a few modern theologians have been quoted in the vernacular. Still, someone might take exception to the final conclusion on the ground that the Devotion, in its early stage, was not promulgated in that sense. Even if it must be admitted that such an assertion is not entirely gratuitous, that admission would in no way militate against accepting the views advocated in the foregoing pages. To answer this objection the reader's attention is called to the following reasoning :
The Incarnation is the foundation of Christianity. All admit that in the sense of strictly logical evolution, in which the Christian doctrine maintained its individuality and identity throughout, the word germ may be rightfully applied to express the development of dogma. The whole initial Christian knowledge is contained in one sentence, viz., The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. This primitive intuition forms the basis of what may be called the present technical concept of the whole Christian doctrine. Thus our initial knowledge of the Sacred Heart may also be considered as contained in one sentence, viz., Behold the Heart which has loved men so much. This is not a separate knowledge, but only a part of the original intuition or deposition. But if we may admit an evolution in the primitive Christian knowledge, in the sense above indicated, why could we not admit an evolution also in its ramifications, which are indissolubly united with it The Devotion to the Sacred Heart is based on incontestable principles of Christology and Soteriology. It was approved and fostered by the Church.
Under her protection it progressed and was guided into the proper channel. She extended many privileges to its devotees and interpreted it for them. She never checks a devotion unless it fosters superstition, nor does she define it clearly until it is almost fully developed. Her final announcements, as a rule, are indicative of the general sentiments of the faithful. In our opinion the recent decree of April 4, 1900, clearly states that the Heart is to be considered as symbolizing the twofold love; hence, the question so defined can no longer be a purely speculative one.
A brief resume of the whole investigation could be presented as follows: In the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, we worship the corporal Heart of the Word-made-flesh as the symbol of His love. The Heart being in physical harmony with the human love, on account of their mutual vital relationship, directly and immediately symbolizes the created love of Christ, but remotely also His uncreated love. By His uncreated love we mean the love which was the determining cause of His Incarnation. The spirit of the Devotion requires that we arrive at this love by a transition of thought, through the human love which in Him is to be viewed as having a vital nexus with the carnal Heart. Thus the total material object of the Devotion is the divine-human (theandric) Heart of the Word-made-flesh. The total formal object of the Devotion is the created and the uncreated love which the divine Person, the Logos, had for mankind, the former being symbolized by His physical Heart proximately and the latter remotely.