In Christianity, Jesus Christ is a figure of boundless love and compassion. Even among people of other spiritual paths, he is often honored for his merciful spirit and self-sacrifice. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ uses the heart of his resurrected body as a symbol of his love. The Sacred Heart represents his physical wound from the spear of a Roman soldier, as well as the spiritual wound of giving up his life for humankind.
What is the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
Christ was crucified and his body was later resurrected, still bearing the wounds he received. Initially, these wounds were honored as symbols of his goodness and charity toward all people. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, the ultimate symbol of his sacrifice, grew from this.
Though the first signs of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart began in the 11th century, it did not become a feast until 1670. Today, it is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost.
Jesus made twelve promises to those who practice this devotion:
- I will give them the graces necessary for their life.
- I will create peace in their families.
- I will console them in hard times.
- I will be their refuge in life and death.
- I will bless all their undertakings.
- My Heart will be an ocean of mercy to sinners.
- Apathetic souls shall become passionate.
- Passionate souls shall rise to perfection.
- I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart is venerated.
- I will give priests the power to touch the hardest hearts.
- People who spread this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
- To all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, my love will grant the grace of final repentance. They will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments, and my Heart will be their refuge in that final hour.
Interestingly, the entire nation of Mexico was consecrated to the Sacred Heart in 1914 in order to protect it against revolutionaries and anti-Christian influences. This led to anti-religious feelings in the years after.
In 1927, a priest named Father Hurtado, founder of the Congregation of the Victims of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus was martyred for violating laws against religious practices. As an example of Christlike compassion, he forgave his executioners and insisted on placing the noose around his own neck, so none of them had to bear the guilt of his death.
Creating an Altar for the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Even if you are not Catholic, the Sacred Heart can serve as an example of the spiritual virtues of selfless love and mercy, as well as a way to ask for divine help in your life. To create an altar:
- Find a spot where the altar will not be disturbed, with enough room to sit comfortably in front of it.
- Place an image of the Sacred Heart at the center, whether it is a sculpture, painting, or a small prayer card.
3. Set the altar with an incense burner, candles, and any other tools that feel appropriate. There are candles specifically created for honoring the Sacred Heart and requesting divine aid. White candles are helpful for cleansing, healing, and general prayers, while red ones are useful for protection.
Ways to Honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Frequent prayers and rituals are two of the best ways to honor the Sacred Heart. Doing so is an appeal to Christ's love. This can be as complicated as a full ritual, or as simple as lighting some incense and saying, "Have mercy on us."
If you have prayers that need answering, write your request down on a small piece of paper, and tuck it under a candle on your altar. Light the candle and a stick of incense, and sit comfortably. Say...
I come to you in my hour of need. Please, Lord, have mercy on me and grant my request.
Quietly meditate on the image of the Sacred Heart and the virtue of compassion. When you are ready, snuff the candle and go out prepared to show more love and mercy to everyone you meet. Repeat as often as you need to.
No matter your spiritual path, love, and forgiveness are important qualities to have. Honoring the Sacred Heart in prayers and rituals is a way to keep these virtues fresh in your mind, and receive divine aid in blessing all that you do.