By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE FRUITS OF DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART
Some cold winter's night, as a man is carried swiftly home on the electric car, reading his paper in the bright light from the bulbs above his head, he gives very little thought to the cluster of wonders of which he is the center. He is so accustomed to this journey night and morning that any surprise he might have felt has long since disappeared. He reads; he is borne along, and he feels the grateful warmth that keeps out the cold of winter. Suddenly the car is dark; the speed slackens and ceases; the heat gradually grows less. He begins to feel the cold, and he now appreciates the power of that mysterious force of which he was the center. Electricity gave him light and warmth and motion. We may not have appreciated, as we ought, the triple benefit which devotion to the Heart of Christ has brought into our religious lives. If it went out of them, assuredly there would be darkness and want of energy in our souls. We have seen how this devotion gave light and warmth. It remains to be seen how it gives life and motion.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart brought life into the practice of our religion. It brought us below the surface of Christ's life, into the very secret of its existence and to the force that pulsated through its every action. It made us aware of the rich, invigorating life-blood which warms and flushes the pale, cold records of the written Gospel. It made us touch the very life of His life and be thrilled through with an increase of life. How did it accomplish all this? Devotion to the Heart of Christ laid its finger on His pulse and revealed almost to our sight the motives which brought Him to life and death. "Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." To focus the life of Chri$t into the glowing center of a heart, is to bring out, as words could not, the love of Christ for us. The symbol of this devotion is a rubric that rivets the attention and draws it, as no other symbol could, into the very soul of the Incarnation. Devotion to the Heart of Christ, it cannot be too often repeated, is devotion to His love; it is the recognition, the study, and the full, practical acknowledment of that love. The singling out of Christ's Heart emphasized His love for us and so stirred the pulses of our life.
This devotion emphasized also the love of Christ in its principal and most loving manifestation. The Incarnation took on new life. The world refused to adore Christ, losing sight of His Godhead; this devotion, in protest, singled out a part for adoration. The world was making Christ a man; this devotion made Him, if possible, more so, by insisting on His human nature, while showing Him reverence and honor such as could be paid only to God.
The Eucharist also received an increase of life.
If heresy would declare that Christ left us a mere figure, and that the Pasch which He had desired with desire to eat was no more than ceremonial, with less significance than the older pasch which it replaced, then this devotion to Christ's Heart would protest against so narrow, so cold and so false an interpretation of the words of the Saviour. The Eucharist, therefore, became the home, the dwelling-place of a Heart. It was the center towards which gratitude was directed and from which reparation warded off all attacks. By devotion to the Sacred Heart, Christ was brought more frequently than ever before out of the tabernacle and into the monstrance, out of darkness into the light, out to the hearts of men. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament became numerous and received new interest from the spirit of reparation, which found one of its most touching manifestations in the Holy Hour.
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a devout practice, whose rise and spread is practically one with the rise and spread of this devotion. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is associated in the minds of the faithful with the same devotion. Communion was received from a new, unselfish motive, a motive which invited frequency and enkindled friendship and added fuel to its flames. They who might not be at the altar at all, or rarely, would often be there when an appeal was made, not to their own advantage, great though that undoubtedly was, but to the advantage of a Friend whose Heart could find relief from the neglect and insults of others in their love and service. So, in every way, new life came to the Eucharist from devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The Passion, too, ceased to be mere history; it became actual and present. The cross and the Heart were brought together and both were helped by their union. The source of the Passion was made strikingly manifest in the way the Heart of our Lord was usually depicted. "He loved me and delivered Himself up for me," said St. Paul in his magnificent egotism. What St. Paul united in expression, this devotion unites in representation, His love and His death. His love was the impelling motive of His death, and when the cross was enthroned upon the Heart, when the crown of thorns was wreathed, too, about it, even the eyes saw what St. Paul told the faithful. The same picture revealed not only the source of the Passion, but touchingly brought out its poignancy. It made us feel that it was not a man but a Heart that was suffering. The silence, the dignity, the reserve and almost passiveness of Christ during the hours of His Passion might possibly hide from us the keen pain which throbbed beneath that restrained exterior, but in this devotion the eye and mind could not forget the lesson of the Agony. We saw now not merely the tell-tale drops of blood rushing out to reveal to us the pain within, but the whole treasury of His life-blood was laid bare to our gaze, furnishing us with an illustrated commentary of the words, "Greater love than this no man hath, than that he lay down his life for his friend." Those who are devoted to the Heart of Christ could never misunderstand or forget the meaning of those words. They saw the crown transferred from His head to His Heart; they felt that its sharp points had always pierced there; they understood that the Passion was the crucifixion of a Heart, the wounding, the torturing, the death of love itself.
In return for the life imparted to Christ's life, this devotion expected life to be imparted to the souls of men. The life of the soul is in faith, in hope, in love, and these virtues all felt the thrilling touch of devotion to the Heart of Christ. True devotion is the enthusiasm of conviction; it is purpose coupled with energy. The conviction of faith, the determination of hope, the energy of love, were all intensified by the new light, the new warmth and new life of devotion to the Heart of Christ. His Heart put a heart into our religious life.