About the Solemnity:
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back at least to the 11th century, but through the 16th century, it remained a private devotion, often tied to devotion to the Five Wounds of Christ. The first feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated on August 31, 1670, in Rennes, France, through the efforts of Fr. Jean Eudes (1602-1680). From Rennes, the devotion spread, but it took the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) for the devotion to become universal.
In all of these visions, in which Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus played a central role. The “great apparition,” which took place on June 16, 1675, during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, is the source of the modern Feast of the Sacred Heart. In that vision, Christ asked St. Margaret Mary to request that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated on the Friday after the octave (or eighth day) of the Feast of Corpus Christi, in reparation for the ingratitude of men for the sacrifice that Christ had made for them. The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply His physical heart but His love for all mankind.
The devotion became quite popular after St. Margaret Mary’s death in 1690, but, because the Church initially had doubts about the validity of St. Margaret Mary’s visions, it wasn’t until 1765 that the feast was celebrated officially in France. Almost 100 years later, in 1856, Pope Pius IX, at the request of the French bishops, extended the feast to the universal Church. It is celebrated on the day requested by our Lord—the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, or 19 days after Pentecost Sunday.
Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, we glory in the loving heart of your beloved Son.
As we recall the great things his love has done for us,
may we become worthy to receive overflowing grace
from his heart, the source of heaven’s gifts.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
The First Reading: Deuteronomy: 7:6-11: The Lord loves you and has chosen you.
The Second Reading: I John: 4:7-16: God loved us first.
The Gospel: Matthew: 11:25-30: I am gentle and humble of heart.
St Bonaventure: “With you is the source of life”
Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.
It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.
Arise, then, beloved of Christ! Imitate the dove ‘that nests in a hole in the cliff’, keeping watch at the entrance ‘like the sparrow that finds a home’. There like the turtledove hide your little ones, the fruit of your chaste love. Press your lips to the fountain, ‘draw water from the wells of your Saviour; for this is the spring flowing out of the middle of paradise, dividing into four rivers’, inundating devout hearts, watering the whole earth and making it fertile.
Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service. Come, whoever you may be, and cry out to him with all the strength of your heart. “O indescribable beauty of the most high God and purest radiance of eternal light! Life that gives all life, light that is the source of every other light, preserving in everlasting splendour the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your divinity from the dawn of time! Eternal and inaccessible fountain, clear and sweet stream flowing from a hidden spring, unseen by mortal eye! None can fathom your depths nor survey your boundaries, none can measure your breadth, nothing can sully your purity. From you flows ‘the river which gladdens the city of God’ and makes us cry out with joy and thanksgiving in hymns of praise to you, for we know by our own experience that ‘with you is the source of life, and in your light we see light’.
Act of Love to the Sacred Heart:
Reveal Thy Sacred Heart to me, O Jesus, and show me Its attractions. Unite me to It for ever. Grant that all my aspirations and all the beats of my heart, which cease not even while I sleep, may be a testimonial to Thee of my love for Thee and may say to Thee: Yes, Lord, I am all Thine; the pledge of my allegiance to Thee rests ever in my heart and will never cease to be there. Do Thou accept the slight amount of good that I do and be graciously pleased to repair all my wrongdoing; so that I may be able to bless Thee in time and in eternity. Amen.