Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father
My project for the month of June is to offer something of a commentary on the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is perhaps presumptuous of me to try to do this. Others have done it before me, and among them were great saints and mystics such as Pope John Paul II. This is, nonetheless, something I want to do, something that I feel I must do this month. If it brings souls closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so much the better!
Over the years I have come to savour the Litany of the Sacred Heart more and more. Instinctively and not in any systematic way, I have approached each invocation following the “ladder of monks,” the classic pattern of lectio divina:
lectio, each invocation heard;
meditatio, each invocation repeated;
oratio, each invocation prayed;
contemplatio, each invocation held in the heart.
The Little Bag of Saint Thérèse Couderc
I often think of Saint Thérèse Couderc who copied out the thirty–three invocations of the Litany of the Sacred on little slips of paper and kept them in a small cloth bag in her apron pocket. As she went about her work, she would pick an invocation out of the bag at random. She would repeat it and meditate it, allowing it to nourish her interior prayer. She would repeat this as often as necessary throughout the day.
Thou Art My Son
The first invocation of the litany draws us into the ageless mystery of the Son’s relationship with the Eternal Father. I hear the sublime Introit of the Mass of Christmas During the Night, Dominus dixit ad me. The Word Himself, the Son, repeats to us what the Father says to Him from all eternity: “The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (Ps 2:7). The divine affirmation of our sonship by adoption is something that we all need to hear. In an age when so many suffer from the absence of the father or from a father’s silence, there is healing in receiving the testimony of the Heart of the Eternal Son: “The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (Ps 2:7).
The sonship of the Word is at the wellspring of life: the Father gazing with delight upon His perfect and coequal Image; the Son returning the gaze of the Father in a ceaseless rapture of filial love; the Holy Spirit sealing the communion of the Father with the Son, and of the Son with the Father. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God — that is, turned toward Him — and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).
The Heart of the Son
It was, from the beginning, the will of the Most Holy Trinity that a human heart, a perfect heart, a heart pulsating with filial love, should be introduced into their most intimate and ineffable exchange of love. The Father desired that His Son should love Him with Adam’s heart, that is, with a heart of flesh and blood. The Son desired that His love for the Father should be enfleshed, that the heartbeat of His love for the Father might become the very rhythm of the cosmos. The Holy Spirit desired to produce a perfect human heart capable of an exquisitely divine sensitivity to the love and to the glory of the Father, and to the sin and misery of man. And so, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
Sons in the Son
The work of our conversion and sanctification is this: that our hearts should be conformed to the Heart of the Firstborn Son. “You did not receive the the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, the heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom 8:15–17).
The fundamental fruit of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is growth in the grace of adoptive sonship. The more closely one’s heart is united to the Heart of Jesus, the more perfectly does one become “a son within the Son.” One who knows the Heart of Jesus knows the Heart of the Father also (cf. Jn 8:20). Souls privileged by the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are called to filial boldness in prayer, to a limitless confidence in the merciful goodness of the Father, and to serene abandonment to His will. “I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said this to you, that in me — in my Heart — you may have peace (Jn 16:32).
Praying With the Sacred Heart
Sooner or later, true devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus becomes a participation in His filial prayer to the Father: “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee” (Jn 17:1); and again, from the Cross, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:46).
Come, Thou Holy Spirit,
draw me to the Sacred Heart of the Son,
that by entering that wounded Heart
and by passing through its flames,
I may approach the Eternal Father
and be held safe in His embrace.
Let me hearken to the voice of the Son
and incline my ear to His promise:
“All that the Father giveth me will come to my Heart;
and him who cometh to my Heart I will not cast out.
He who loveth me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and manifest my Heart to him.”
Come, Thou Divine Consoler sent by the Father.
Whisper to me the secrets of the Heart of the Son
and bring to my remembrance all that He hath said.
Help Thou me in my weakness
for my prayer is timid and faltering
— that of a slave and not yet that of a son —
and I know not how to pray as I ought.
Let me not fall back into fear
but, rather, go forward in boldness.
Bear Thou witness within my heart
that while I am yet at a distance,
the Father seeth me through the pierced Heart of Jesus,
and hath compassion,
and kisseth me with the Kiss of His Mouth
bestowed on none save sons in the Son.