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Looking Ahead to the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 7)…

Looking Ahead to the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 7)…

The expression “poured out” appears time and again in the Church’s texts during Solemnities. For example, the Opening Prayer for Mass during the Day at Pentecost asks the Father to “pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth.” In the second reading for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, St. Paul tell us that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). And St. Thomas Aquinas’s Sequence, Lauda Sion, from the Solemnity of Corpus Christi teaches us that “Blood is poured and flesh is broken, / Yet in either wondrous token / Christ entire we know to be.” The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus continues this current of thought. But it also shows us the source of God’s gracious gifts: the opened heart of the Redeemer upon the Cross.

On this Solemnity, St. John the Evangelist takes us back to this source: “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34; gospel reading for Year B). Recall that the entire drama on Calvary—including the centurion’s stab—is re-presented on the altar of sacrifice. And just as that moment in time is about to come before us on the altar, the Church says similarly in her Preface text for the day, “raised up high on the Cross, he gave himself up for us with a wonderful love and poured out blood and water from his pierced side, the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments.” For this reason—Jesus opening the wellspring of his heart—our thirsty souls are able to drink in the great graces about to pour forth. “Press your lips to the fountain,” writes St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) in the day’s Office of Readings, and “‘draw water from the wells of your Savior; 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.” In short: the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus opens for us the source of our life and heartsick longing.

Truly, if one were to put his finger on the exact object of the day’s Solemnity (even as St. Thomas the Apostle placed his doubtless hand in the side of his Redeemer), it would touch squarely upon the heart of Jesus, which is itself the symbol of God’s very love for us. As the Solemnity of Christmas reveals the birth of Jesus, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, honors the Blessed Mother, or the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul honors the first apostles, so the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus brings us into the opened heart of the Redeemer and surrounds us with divine love.

The heart of the Trinity first poured itself out in a loving act at creation. Indeed, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). And even after we had rejected this love, God continued to love us. “When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son…. [M]y compassion grows warm and tender” (Hosea 11:1, 8, the first reading for Mass in Year B). At Jesus’ Incarnation, that same love that gave us life and sustained our being poured itself out so that we might enjoy eternal life and share in the being of God himself. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And this love of God, this love who is God, is the object of our devotion to the heart of Christ: As Pope Pius XII explained, the devotion to the “infinite love of God for the human race…demands of us a complete and unreserved determination to devote and consecrate ourselves to the love of the divine Redeemer, whose wounded heart is its living token and symbol” (Haurietis Aquas, 20, 6).

How, then, do we respond? How do we love love? St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) was not the first Christian to respond with her heart to the love of God, but she did receive inspiration from Christ himself to honor him on each First Friday of every month. Others make holy hours in honor of his love. The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where an image or statue of Christ and his Sacred Heart is solemnly erected in the home, school, or office, becomes a true beating heart in the midst of the day. For others still, the Morning Offering lifts up our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings along with the Eucharist “for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart.”

The attentive ear will also find direction from the Mass’s prayers and texts on this day about how to respond with devotion to the Heart of God. The psalm between the readings, for example, employs Psalm 23 and these verses: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, / I fear no evil; / for you are with me; / your rod and your staff, / they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4): so be fearless and courageous! The Preface asks of the Father that, “won over to the open heart of the Savior, all might draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation”: let us be joyful! And let us pour that joy out to share with others. For, as the Prayer after Communion proclaims: “May this sacrament of charity, O Lord, make us fervent with the fire of holy love, so that, drawn always to your Son, we may learn to see him in our neighbor.”

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart celebrates the great gift of divine love in the form of Christ’s human heart. It also calls us to join our hearts with his and radiate divine love to all in our midst. O Sacred Heart of Jesus: have mercy on us!

The above entry appears in Ascension’s book Solemnities: Celebrating a Tapestry of Divine Beauty, by Christopher Carstens, Denis McNamara, and Alexis Kutarna. Featuring each of the 17 annual solemnities, Solemnities: Celebrating a Tapestry of Divine Beauty examines the theological, spiritual, and liturgical foundations for each celebration; explains the beauty of the solemnity by a commentary on artistic illustration of the celebration; and offers ideas for living the solemnity in one’s daily life. Solemnities: Celebrating a Tapestry of Divine Beauty was awarded Second Place in the “Pastoral Ministry—Parish Life” category by the Catholic Media Association in 2023. See more about the book at

Image Source: AB/Mosaic of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is in the apse of Sacré-Cœur in Paris. Wikimedia.

Christopher Carstens

Christopher Carstens is director of the Office for Sacred Worship in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin; a visiting faculty member at the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois; editor of the Adoremus Bulletin; and one of the voices on The Liturgy Guys podcast. He is author of A Devotional Journey into the Mass and A Devotional Journey into the Easter Mystery (Sophia), as well as Principles of Sacred Liturgy: Forming a Sacramental Vision (Hillenbrand Books). He lives in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, with his wife and eight children.

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