The Annual Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

By Kim Buck

(This is Part IV of a series of Pages at this site, introducing the Sacred Heart Devotion. You can click here for the Introduction Page and a Table of Contents).

Saint Margaret Mary before the Sacred Heart – from Tuam Cathedral, Ireland. Design: Joshua Clarke. Photograph courtesy Andreas F. Borchert under the CC-BY-SA-3.0 license.

 

So, we now come to the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the date for which was requested by our Lord Himself:

“I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honor My Heart.”

It is interesting to note that it was within this Octave of Corpus Christi, that Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque received this call from Our Lord. It came during the Third of the Great Apparitions at Paray-le-Monial in 1675 which have formed the practice of the Devotions to the Sacred Heart – including The Holy Hour of Reparation, the First Fridays Devotion and now the Feast that we are considering here.

Just as importantly, she experienced this Third Great Apparition, whilst she was kneeling before the Corpus Christi Himself, the Blessed Sacrament, in adoration.

As she adored His Eucharistic splendour, she began to experience His immense love. She wrote:

I received from my God signal tokens of His love, and felt urged with the desire of making Him some return, and of rendering Him love for love.

The Sacred Heart then appeared before her and spoke these words:

Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this Sacrament of Love. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me, that treat Me thus.

Therefore, I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honor My Heart, by communicating on that day, and making reparation to It by a solemn act, in order to make amends for the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honour It, and cause It to be honoured.

In order to understand more deeply what this Feast is about, let us look closely at these words of Our Lord. What does He mean when He says, “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love”?

Sacred-Heart-Tradition

Sacred Heart Holy card from Montmarttre

His Heart “has spared nothing”, for Jesus Christ has given of Himself through total sacrifice on the Cross. And He has given of Himself completely, His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Eucharist. He has “consumed” and “exhausted” Himself for us: all for love of us – for our salvation.

Yet our salvation also depends on good works – on our efforts. Our salvation, the eternal happiness, for each and every one of us, is dependent on this return of love our Lord requests from us.

It is dependent on the opening of our hearts. Opening them, first of all to God. For when we love God with all our heart, we are then able to love our neighbour.

We are then able to forgive, to begin turning our tiny hearts of stone, towards that great Heart – the ‘Burning Furnace of Charity’ that never ceases to love. And in turn, to enflame our own hearts not only towards God, but towards each other.

Yet we have not done this. We have failed to make this return of love. Therefore, Our Lord is asking for acts of reparation, “to make amends.”

For He has received “ingratitude … irreverence and sacrilege and … coldness and contempt … in this Sacrament of [His]Love.”

And so it is that He makes His request:

that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honor My Heart … in order to make amends for the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars.

The Sacred Heart and the Eucharist

Let us further examine what it is our Lord is asking of us.

Father John Croiset, S. J. in his book The Devotion to the Sacred Heart, invites us to meditate on the subject of the Feast. He states that what we are concerned with here, is:

The incomprehensible love which Jesus Christ shows us in the Blessed Sacrament where He is so little known by men and still less loved even by those who know Him.

He continues to suggest that our goal in this exercise:

is to grieve over the extreme ingratitude of men … in order that we may make reparation as far as it is in our power, by a return of love, by our acts of adoration and by every kind of homage for all the indignities which the Sacred Heart of Jesus has received until now in the Blessed Sacrament.

Let us stress these ‘indignities which the Sacred Heart of Jesus has received … in the Blessed Sacrament.’

We come here, to the indivisible connection between the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist – a connection which was actualised by the Sacrifice on the Cross.

In order to explain, let us look to the Last Supper.

At the Passover, Jesus spoke those holy words, those holy words of consecration that are repeated with intimate reverence by Priests across the globe day in, day out. The very words which bring to life that which Jesus was offering to us, both at the Passover as food and on the Cross in reparation for our sin: His Flesh and Blood.

As we read in the Gospel:

‘And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: “Take ye, and eat. This is my body” And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: “Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28).

And as we hear at the Consecration of the Mass:

Who the day before He suffered took bread in His venerable hands, and with His eyes lifted up to heaven, unto Thee God, His almighty Father, giving thanks to Thee, He blessed, broke and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take and eat ye all of this, FOR THIS IS MY BODY.

In like manner, after He had supped, taking also this excellent chalice into His holy and venerable hands, and giving thanks to Thee, He blessed and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take and drink ye all of this, FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL TESTAMENT; THE MYSTERY OF FAITH; WHICH SHALL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR MANY UNTO THE REMISSION OF SINS.

As often as ye shall do these things, ye shall do them in remembrance of Me.

So it was on this great night of the Last Supper or Passover, that Jesus instigated this New Covenant. The Covenant of His Body and Blood, given in the form of bread and wine, as food, as nourishment.

Whilst He was to ascend to His Father in Heaven, He left us this unfathomable gift. This gift of Himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. A Gift, the meaning of which was to be realised the following day, when He literally gave up His life for us on the Cross. A sacrifice for the remission of our sin, in order to bring us to eternal life.

Each and every day, when the words of consecration are uttered by the Priest, His Flesh and Blood are given again in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass.

He comes to us in the form of food, bread and wine, to nourish us. He feeds us with His Body and Blood, in this unfathomable gift of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist, the form of nourishment that will bring us to eternal life. As Our Lord Himself said:

The bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world…He that eateth this bread shall live for ever” (John 6:52, 59).

The immeasurable love shown us through His Sacrifice on the Cross brings real the daily sacrifice He offers for us in Holy Communion.

Through the receiving of Holy Communion, we are day in, day out receiving that very Flesh and Blood that our Lord sacrificed for our sin. We ingest His Body and His Blood.

How on earth can we ever be grateful enough for this most incredible gift? How can we ever bow low enough in adoration before such a Mystery? He has given us everything.

He has given us Himself in totality, not simply once, as He died on the Cross, over 2000 years ago. But eternally, as He eternally dies on the Cross. And eternally, as He continually brings Himself to us in the gift of the Eucharist.

Words fail …Tears flow … as we ponder, as we fall down in awe before such a mystery, before such a gift; a gift that we are not worthy to receive.

As we say at Holy Mass, before receiving the Sacrament of His love: Domine, non sum dignus – ‘I am not worthy’.

Let us really feel these words. Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum – ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive Thee!’

Feel these words and make ourselves worthy. Bow down in awe before Him, hearts brimming with gratitude, in order that we may worthily receive this greatest of gifts. This is what He wants of us. This is what He is asking for at this Feast – just as every day in the Holy Mass:

The priest bows low, calling to mind that the Victim sacrificed on the altar in our churches is the Lamb which in heaven is “sacrificed”(Saint Andrew’s Missal of the Latin Mass).

And as the Priest then says (in the Latin Mass):

We most humbly beseech Thee, almighty God, command these things to be carried up by the hands of Thy holy angel to Thine altar on high, in the sight of Thy divine majesty, that as many of us who, by participation at this altar, shall receive the most sacred Body and Blood of Thy Son may be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace.

To repeat, that we who participate, through receiving Holy Communion, may be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace. This is the Priest’s prayer. A prayer that the consecrated gifts upon the altar may be worthy to be received in heaven. And that blessings and graces will therefore be bestowed upon us.

We find a similar expression, an expression of love, when in this Third Great Apparition, the Sacred Heart says:

I promise you that My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honor It, and cause It to be honored.

How much God gives us and how little we return!

Our Chance to Make Reparation in an Annual Feast

Yet now is our chance to make Reparation, to amend the situation through a ‘solemn act’ – carried out on this very day that the Sacred Heart of Jesus has requested a special Feast in His honour. As we kneel at the altar to receive Holy Communion, let us bring to mind His proclamation, “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing”.

 

 

“It has spared nothing”! In order that we may focus our attention more deeply on these words, let us return to the meditations of Father John Croiset. He writes:

Not only has our loving Saviour graciously consented to share with us in this august Sacrament all the blessings of which He is the Source, but by giving Himself to us, He has willed to give us the very Source of these blessings: … the Blessed Eucharist.

He continues:

Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament bestows His blessings at all times and on everyone who approaches Him…This bountiful God, foreseeing our infirmities and our weaknesses, gives Himself to us as our nourishment in order to restore our strength and be a sovereign remedy for all our evils …

And still he writes:

Our divine Saviour did not rest content with opening His Sacred Heart to us in token of His love, and pouring out on us all His blessings and graces; He wishes to be Himself our strength and our defense against all the efforts of our mortal enemies.

In pondering all of these thoughts and words, we cannot fail, but to see that through God the Son, the Father has most beautifully and generously bestowed upon His children, all that is necessary to care for the salvation of their souls, our souls. It is now up to us. This is why the Sacred Heart of Jesus petitions us.

He petitions us to feel in our hearts, in some small way, the same kind love He feels for us, in order that we return ‘love for love’.

Without these good works, we will continue to drift away from Our Lord. It is only by our own efforts that we can make this return of love. God has given totally of Himself. It is now up to us to make amends: to make reparation for all the sins we personally have committed and to make amends for all the sin that we, as mankind, have committed.

Our Lord is clear as to the way in which this amendment is to be made. In Reparation, for all the ways we have failed in honouring Him in His Blessed Sacrament. Reparation by means of this special Feast.

So, how can we make this Reparation, this ‘solemn act’ in a way that will be pleasing to our Lord? We would do well to take note of Father Croiset, when he passionately writes:

‘O most adorable and amiable Heart of my loving Jesus! O Heart worthy of the respect and adoration of men and angels! O Heart worthy to possess all the hearts and to reign over all hearts, what must be Thy sentiments at seeing Thyself treated with such ingratitude! But what should be the sentiments of my heart at seeing Thee so badly treated? Thou seest, O Lord, that I am deeply grieved at such ingratitude.

He continues to write that the outrages and sacrileges that Our Lord has felt are so great that we tiny creatures are unable to make adequate Reparation. But, with hope and determination, he then says ‘at least I have a heart capable of loving Thee, capable of rendering Thee homage … I have a heart, and this heart will love Thee.’

Other Pages in this Section of our website introducing the Sacred Heart Devotion can be found with this:

Table of Contents

  1. An Introduction to the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  2. The Holy Hour of Reparation
  3. The First Friday Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  4. The Annual Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  5. Exposition of the Image of the Sacred Heart
  6. Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the Home
  7. Prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 

UPDATE 2017: I would just like to add to this page that my husband Roger Buck, also author of a book on the Sacred Heart (Cor Jesu Sacratissimum – here at Amazon worldwide) has recently produced a beautiful video about the Sacred Heart. In that video, he talks about our experiences on pilgrimage to Paray-le-Monial in France, experiences which completely changed both of our lives and led to the creation of this website dedicated to His Most Sacred Heart. The videos also features many images related to devotion to the Sacred Heart as well as photos of Paray-le-Monial, taken by me and others.

 

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