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Substance and Foundation of Devotion to the Sacred Heart - (Excerpt from Behold The Pierced One)

The Mystery of Easter*

Substance and Foundation of Devotion to the Sacred Heart

Excerpt from: Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1986. 

1. The Crisis in Devotion to the Sacred Heart In the Age of Liturgical Reform

Although the encyclical Haurietis aquas was written at a time when devotion to the Sacred Heart was still alive in the forms of the nineteenth century, a crisis in this kind of devotion was already clearly detectable. More and more, the spirituality of the liturgical movement was dominating the Church’s spiritual climate in Central Europe; this spirituality, drawing its nourishment from the classical shape of the Roman liturgy, deliberately turned its back on the emotionalistic piety of the nineteenth century and its symbolism. It saw its model in the strict form of the Roman orationes, in which feeling is restrained and there is an extreme sobriety of expression, free of all subjectivity.

Along with this went a theological cast of mind which wanted to steer entirely by Scripture nd the Fathers, fashioning itself equally strictly according to the objective structural laws of the Christian edifice. The more emotional emphases of modern times were to be subordinated once more within this objective form. This meant, first and foremost, that Marian piety as well as those modern forms of prayer of a christological stamp, the Stations of the Cross and devotion to the Sacred Heart, had to retire into the background or else look for new modes of expression.

Since the rise of the biblical and liturgical movement, attempts had also been taken in hand to reveal and deepen the biblical and patristic basis both of devotion to the Sacred Heart and of Marian piety in order to preserve the inheritance of more recent ages of the Church and involve it in the return to Christian origins. Hugo Rahner deserves special mention in the German-speaking area, for he uncovered the connection between Mary and the Church in the theology of the Fathers and was thus one of the first to prepare a way for the Mariology of the Second Vatican Council.1

He endeavored to provide a new basis for devotion to the Sacred Heart by connecting it with the way the Fathers had interpreted John 7:37-39 and John 19:34.2 Both passages are concerned with the opened side of Jesus, with the blood and water which flow from it. Both passages are an expression of the Paschal Mystery: from the Lord’s pierced Heart proceeds the life-giving stream of the sacraments; the grain of wheat, dying, becomes the new ear, carrying the fruit of the Church forward through the ages. Both texts also express the connection between Christology and pneumatology: the water of life which springs from the Lord’s side is the Holy Spirit, the spring of life which makes the desert blossom. This also brings out the connection between Christology, pneumatology and ecclesiology: Christ communicates himself to us in the Holy Spirit; and it is the Holy Spirit who makes the clay into a living Body, i.e., fuses isolated men into the one organism of the love of Jesus Christ. It is also the Holy Spirit who imparts new meaning to Adam’s becoming “one flesh” with Eve, applying it to the Second Adam: “He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17). The liturgical movement had discovered the center of Christian spirituality in the Paschal Mystery. In his researches, Hugo Rahner had tried to show that devotion to the Sacred Heart, too, is nothing but devotion to the mystery of Easter and thus concentrates on the core of Christian faith.

The encyclical Haurietis aquas begins with that prophetic word of Isaiah 12:3, of which the Lord proclaims himself to be the fulfillment in his Easter mystery in John 7:37-39. Thus its very opening words link up with the efforts of men like Hugo Rahner: it too was concerned to overcome the dangerous dualism between liturgical spirituality and nineteenth-century devotion, to let each of them stimulate the other to bring forth fruit, to bring them into a fruitful relationship without simply dissolving the one in the other. The encyclical was evidently aware that the reflections of HugoRahner alone would not suffice to provide a new basis for devotion to the Sacred Heart and to ensure its continued vitality. Doubtless Hugo Rahner had made it abundantly clear that devotion to the Sacred Heart is in touch with a central biblical reality—that it is an Easter spirituality. He had shown that tremendous picture of the opened side of Jesus, from which blood and water flow, and laid it before the spiritual eyes of Christianity’s Sacred Heart devotion, as the new devotional image, as it were, the biblical icon. Thus he had invited people, in meditating on this picture, to fulfill the word of the prophet Zechariah (12:10) which John himself quotes in this context: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (cf. Jn 19:37; Rev 1:7; also Jn 3:14). Yet two objections remain which Rahner did not deal with:

1. The two passages in John 7 and John 19, on which he focused as the biblical basis of devotion to the Sacred Heart, do not mention the word “heart”. The person who accepts devotion to the Sacred Heart as a reality in the Church can discover in these texts its inner ground and its most profound substance, since in fact they interpret the mystery of the heart. Of themselves, however, they cannot explain why it is the Lord’s Heart that is the center of the Easter image.

2. But a more radical question can be asked. If devotion to the Sacred Heart is a mode of Paschal spirituality, what is there that is specific to it? Surely it is superfluous to behold the Easter mystery in an emotional way, in a devotional image, when it is possible actually to participate in it where it is really present in mysterio, in the sacraments, i.e., in the Church’s liturgy? Surely this devotional empathizing, this emotional way of making the Easter mystery real, is a secondary form of Christian spirituality, a secondary form of mysticism, compared with the primary mysticism of the “mystery”, i.e., the liturgy? Did it not arise simply because people no longer had a sense of this primary mysticism, no longer understood it in the fossilization of the old liturgy? Is it not doomed once this liturgy comes to life again?

2. The Encyclical Haurietis aquas Indicates The Elements of a New Rationale for Devotion to the Sacred Heart

Questions such as these, in the wake of the Council, led to the idea that everything expressed prior to the liturgical reform was now invalidated. And in fact they brought about the disappearance, to a large extent, of devotion to the Sacred Heart. This is of course a misunderstanding of Vatican II: the encyclical Haurietis aquas replied to these very questions, and in terms which were presupposed, not superseded, in the Council’s liturgical reform. So it is not merely the fact that twenty-five years have passed since this encyclical appeared that causes us to give it fresh thought; the state of the Church’s spirituality itself calls for it. My reflections simply trace the encyclical’s basic answers to these questions, clarifying and drawing out somewhat, in the light of subsequent theological work, the lines there developed.

2.1. The devotion’s foundation in a theology of the Incarnation

The encyclical develops an anthropology and a theology of bodily existence, which it regards as the philosophical and psychological basis of the cult of the Heart of Jesus. The body is not something external to the spirit, it is the latter’s self-expression, its “image”. The constituents of biological life are also constitutive of the human person. The person exercises personhood in the body, and the body is thus the mode of expression; the invisible presence of the spirit can be discerned in it. Since the body is the visible form of the person, and the person is the image of God, it follows that the body, in its whole context of relationships, is the place where the divine is portrayed, uttered and rendered accessible to our gaze. Thus, from the very beginning, the Bible represents the mystery of God in the metaphors of the body and its world. In doing so, it is not making graven images for God, extrinsically, but using bodily things as illustrations, speaking of God in parables, because all these things are genuinely images. Thus Scripture, in speaking in parables, far from distancing itself from the bodily world, actually addresses itself to it as what is most its own, as the core of what it itself is. By interpreting the bodily world as a store of images for God’s history with man, Scripture illuminates its true nature and makes God visible at the place where he really expresses himself. This is the context, too, in which the Bible understands the Incarnation. The taking up of the human world, of the human person expressed in the body, into the biblical word, its transformation into parable and imagery of the divine by means of the biblical proclamation, is a kind of anticipation of the Incarnation. In the Incarnation of the Logos we have the fulfillment of something that has been underway ever since the very beginning in biblical history. It is as if the Word has continually been drawing flesh toward itself, making it its own flesh, the sphere of its own self. On the one hand the Incarnation can only take place because the flesh has always been the Spirit’s outward expression and hence a possible dwelling for the Word; on the other hand it is only the Son’s Incarnation that imparts to man and the visible world their ultimate and innermost meaning3

With this philosophy and theology of corporality the encyclical complements the Easter aspect which, in Hugo Rahner for instance, had tended to dominate. The Incarnation, certainly, does not exist for its own sake; of its very nature it is ordered to transcendence and hence to the dynamism of the Easter mystery. Its whole basis is the fact that, in his paradoxical love, God transcends himself and enters the realm of flesh, the realm of the passion of the human being. Conversely, however, this self- transcendence on the part of God only serves to bring to light that inner transcendence of the entire creation which the Creator himself has appointed: body is the self-transcending movement toward spirit, and, through the spirit, to God. Beholding the invisible in the visible is an Easter phenomenon. The encyclical sees it summed up in John 20:26-29: doubting Thomas, who needs to be able to see and touch before he can believe, puts his hand into the Lord’s opened side; in touching, he recognizes what is beyond touch and yet actually does touch it; he beholds the invisible and yet really sees it: “My Lord and my God” (20:28). The encyclical illustrates this with the beautiful passage from Bonaventure’s Mystical Vine, which is a cardinal element of devotion to the Sacred Heart: “The wound of the body also reveals the spiritual wound… Let us look through the visible wound to the invisible wound of love!”4

Ultimately, then, everything here has an Easter orientation. But we can discern the basis of the Easter mystery, the ontological and psychological situation it presupposes; namely, the connection of body and spirit, of Logos, Spirit and body, making the incarnate Logos into a “ladder” which we can climb as we behold, touch and experience. All of us are Thomas, unbelieving; but, like him, all of us can touch the exposed Heart of Jesus and thus touch and behold the Logos himself. So, with our hands and eyes fixed upon this Heart, we can attain to the confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”

2.2. The importance of the senses and the emotions in spirituality
What we have just said has already indicated the lines of the conclusion drawn by the encyclical on the basis of its theology of corporality and of the Incarnation: man needs to see, he needs this kind of silent beholding which becomes a touching, if he is to become aware of the mysteries of God. He must set his foot on the “ladder” of the body in order to climb it and so find the path along which faith invites him. From the point of view of our contemporary problems, we could put it like this: the so-called objective spirituality, which is based on participation in the celebration of the liturgy, is not enough. The extraordinary spiritual depth which resulted from medieval mysticism and the ecclesially based piety of modern times cannot be abandoned as obsolete (let alone deviant) in the name of a rediscovery of the Bible and the Fathers. The liturgy itself can only be celebrated properly if it is prepared for, and accompanied by, that meditative “abiding” in which the heart begins to see and to understand, drawing the senses too into its beholding. For “you only see properly with your heart”, as Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince says. (And the Little Prince can be taken as a symbol for that childlikeness which we must regain if we are to find our way back out of the clever foolishness of the adult world and into man’s true nature, which is beyond mere reason.)

The theology of corporality which the encyclical puts forward is also, therefore, an apologia for the heart, the senses and the emotions—precisely in the realm of spirituality. The encyclical bases itself in part on Ephesians 3:18f.: “that you . . may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. . . .” As long ago as the Fathers, in particular in the pseudo-Dionysian tradition, this passage had led theologians to stress that reason had its limits. This is the origin, in the latter tradition, of the ignote cognoscere, knowing in unknowing, which leads to the concept of docta ignorantia; thus the mysticism of darkness comes about where love alone is able to see.5 Many texts could be quoted here, for instance, Gregory the Great’s “Amor ipse notitia est”; Hugh of St. Victor’s “Intrat dilectio et appropinquat, ubi scientia foris est”; or Richard of St. Victor’s beautiful formulation: “Amor oculus est et amare videre est” (“love is the eye, and to love is to see”).6

The encyclical concentrates, however, on verse 18, the “breadth and length and height and depth” and interprets it like this: “We must realize that God’s love is not only spiritual.” The Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms and the Song of Songs, bears witness to an entirely spiritual love, “whereas the lovewhich addresses us in the Gospel, the Acts and the Apocalypse . . . expresses not merely divine love but also the tangible form of human love . . . for God’s Word did not assume an imaginary and inconsequential body”.7

Here, therefore, we are explicitly invited to enter into a spirituality involving the senses, corresponding to the bodily nature of the divine-human love of Jesus Christ. In the terms of the encyclical, however, spirituality of the senses is essentially a spirituality of the heart, since the heart is the hub of all the senses, the place where sense and spirit meet, interpenetrate and unite. Spirituality of the senses is spirituality in the sense of Cardinal Newman’s motto: Cor ad cor loquitur (heart speaks to heart), which sums up, in perhaps the most beautiful way, what spirituality of the heart is, a spirituality focused on the Heart of Jesus.

The encyclical adds another important set of motifs to these reflections on the tradition of devotion to the Sacred Heart. For the heart is an expression for the human nadry (passions)—i.e.; not only man’s passions but also the “passion” of being human. Over against the Stoic ideal apatheia, over against the Aristotelian God, who is Thought thinking itself, the heart is the epitome of the passions, without which there could have been no Passion on the part of the Son. The encyclical cites Justin, Basil, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, John Damascene, exhibiting different variations of the same theme, which it sees as common ground in patristic Christology:. . . passionum nostrarum particeps factus est (he has come to share in our “passions”).8

For the Fathers, who were brought up with the moral ideal of the Stoa, the ideal of the wise man’s impassivity, where insight and the will govern and master the irrational emotions, this was one of the places where it proved most difficult to achieve a synthesis of Greek inheritance and biblical faith. The God of the Old Testament, with his wrath, compassion and love, often seemed nearer to the gods of the obsolete religions than to the lofty concept of God of the ancient philosophy, a concept which had facilitated the breakthrough of monotheism in the Mediterranean world. From the vantage point of Cicero’s Hortensius, Augustine could not find the way back to the Bible; thus there was a very strong temptation to adopt the Gnosticism which separated the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Covenant. On the other hand, however, it was plain enough that the figure of Jesus, who experiences anguish and anger, joy, hope and despair, is in the Old Testament tradition of God; in him who is the incarnate Logos, the anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament are radicalized and attain their ultimate depth of meaning. The Docetic attempt to make Jesus’ sufferings a mere surface illusion was an option congenial to Stoic thought. But it must be clear to every unprejudiced reader of the Bible that such an option would attack the very heart of the biblical testimony to Christ, i.e., the mystery of Easter. It was impossible to excise Christ’s sufferings, but there can be no Passion without passions: suffering presupposes the ability to suffer, it presupposes the faculty of the emotions. In the period of the Fathers it was doubtless Origen who grasped most profoundly the idea of the suffering God and made bold to say that it could not be restricted to the suffering humanity of Jesus but also affected the Christian picture of God. The Father suffers in allowing the Son to suffer, and the Spirit shares in this suffering, for Paul says that he groans within us, yearning in us and on our behalf for full redemption (Rom 8:26f.).9

And it was Origen also who gave the normative definition of the way in which the theme of the suffering God is to be interpreted: When you hear someone speak of God’s passions, always apply what is said to love.10 So God is a sufferer because he is a lover; the entire theme of the suffering God flows from that of the loving God and always points back to it. The actual advance registered by the Christian idea of God over that of the ancient world lies in its recognition that God is love.11

The topic of the suffering God has become almost fashionable today, not without reason, as a result of the abandonment of a theology which was one-sidedly rationalist and as a result of the rejection of a portrait of Jesus and a concept of God which had been emasculated, where the love of God haddegenerated into the cheap platitude of a God who was merely kind, and hence “harmless”.12 Against such a backdrop Christianity is diminished to the level of philanthropic world improvement, and Eucharist becomes a brotherly meal. The theme of the suffering God can only stay sound if it is anchored in love for God and in prayerful attention to his love. The encyclical Haurietis aquas sees the passions of Jesus, which are summed up and set forth in the Heart, as the basis, as the reason why, the human heart, i.e., the capacity for feeling, the emotional side of love, must be drawn into man’s relationship with God. Incarnational spirituality must be a spirituality of the passions, a spirituality of “heart to heart”; in that way, precisely, it is an Easter spirituality, for the mystery of Easter, the mystery of suffering, is of its very nature a mystery of the heart.

Developments since the Council have confirmed this view on the part of the encyclical. Theology today is certainly no longer confronted with a Stoic ethos of apatheia, but it is faced with a technological rationalism which pushes man’s emotional side to the irrational periphery and allots a merely instrumental role to the body. Accordingly, the emotions are placed under a kind of taboo in spirituality, only to be followed by a wave of emotionalism which is, however, largely chaotic and incapable of commitment. We could say that the taboo on pathos renders it pathological, whereas the real issue is how to integrate it into the totality of human existence, the totality of our life as we stand before God. Similarly, the neglect of a meditative, contemplative spirituality in favor of an exclusive, community-based activism has produced a wave of meditation which largely dissociates itself from the specifically Christian content, or even finds the latter a hindrance. These developments show how much has collapsed in the life of the Church at the very moment when people thought they could cast aside the entire spirituality of the second Christian millennium as being of no account, thinking they should be satisfied with what was imagined to be the pure spirituality of the Bible and of the early centuries.

2.3. The anthropology and theology of the heart in the Bible and the Fathers

All this shows that Christian spirituality involves the senses, which are structured by and united in the heart, and the emotions, which are focused on the heart. We have shown that this kind of heart- centered spirituality corresponds to the picture of the Christian God who has a heart. We have shown that all this is ultimately the expression and elucidation of the Paschal Mystery which sums up God’s love story with man. However, we must go on to ask whether this emphasis on the word “heart” accords, not only with the issue itself, but also with the language of the inherited tradition. For, if the concept “heart” is as fundamental as we have shown it to be, the word itself must have a firm foothold, at least, in the Bible and tradition. In reply I would like to offer two observations:

a. As far as I have been able to ascertain, it was above all the language of the Song of Songs which was the determining factor in the development of medieval mysticism, e.g., phrases such as “You have ravished my heart” (4:9) or the verse quoted by the encyclical, “Set me as a seal upon your heart . . . for love is as strong as death” (8:16). The Fathers, like the great theologians and men of prayer of the Middle Ages, saw the impassioned language of this love song as expressing the theme of God’s love for the Church and the soul and also that of man’s response. Words such as these were thus fitted to integrate all the passion of human love into man’s relationship with God. To the extent that, in modern times, under the dominant influence of a straitened historical mode of thought, people lost the ability to enter into this movement of transcendence whereby the words lead out to mystery, the source itself dried up. To that extent, the possibility of a renewal of the Church and spirituality is also dependent on a recovery of that understanding of the Bible as a whole, in its historical movement, which, because of one or two eccentric manifestations, has wrongly been made taboo (and dismissed as “allegory”).13
However, rather than pursuing this—which, from a historical point of view, is decisive—I want to mention a passage from the Old Testament where the “heart” theme is quite plain and where the Old Testament’s self-transcendence into the New is so obvious as to be unavoidable. I refer to the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hosea, which Heinrich Gross recently put beside 1 Corinthians 13, describing it as “the Canticle of the love of God”.14 The first verses of this chapter portray the immense proportions of the love which God has bestowed on Israel from the very morning of its history: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” But there is no response from the people to this unwearying love of God which is always running after Israel: “The more I called them, the more they went from me. . . .” (v. 2). According to the Deuteronomic principle of justice, action like this on man’s part must result in a corresponding answer: Israel continually turns away from its vocation; it is always turning around and going back in spite of the Pasch which is intent on saving it. So the sentence is uttered: “They shall return to the land of Egypt”—which means, under the prevailing conditions, “Assyria shall be their king” (v. 5); once again Israel will be a banished people, under foreign subjugation. “The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates and devour them in their fortresses” (v. 6). Suddenly, however, a change comes over God’s words: Israel may abandon its salvation and deny its election, but can God go back on it? “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! . . . My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger . . . for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy” (v. 8f.).

H. Gross has pointed out that the Old Testament speaks of God’s Heart twenty-six times.15 It is regarded as the organ of his will, against which man is measured. It is because of the pain felt by God’s Heart on account of the sins of mankind that he decides to send the Flood. Again, it is the insight into man’s weakness on the part of God’s Heart that restrains him from ever repeating that kind of judgment. Hosea II takes up this line of thought and brings it to a completely new level. God ought to revoke Israel’s election and abandon it to its enemies, but “My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender”. God’s Heart turns around—here the Bible uses the same word as in the depiction of God’s judgment on the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrha (Gen 19:25); the word expresses a total collapse: not one stone remains upon another. The same word is applied to the havoc wrought by love in God’s Heart in favor of his people. “The upheaval occasioned in God’s Heart by the divine love has the effect of quashing his judicial sentence against Israel; God’s merciful love conquers his untouchable righteousness (which, in spite of everything, remains untouchable).”16

But how can we say that God’s righteousness remains untouchable if love has caused such an about-face? Not until the New Testament comes is this made plain. Here we see the upheaval in the Heart of God as God’s own, genuine Passion. It consists in God himself, in the person of his Son, suffering Israel’s rejection. For in Hosea, God speaks of Israel as “my son”, a formula which Matthew will apply to Christ: “Out of Egypt have I called my son” (11:1; Mt 2:15). God takes the destiny of love destroyed upon himself; he takes the place of the sinner and offers the Son’s place to men once more, not only to Israel, but to all nations. According to Hosea 11, the Passion of Jesus is the drama of the divine Heart: “My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender”. The pierced Heart of the crucified Son is the literal fulfillment of the prophecy of the Heart of God, which overthrows its righteousness by mercy and by that very action remains righteous. We can only discern the full magnitude of the biblical message of the Heart of God, the Heart of the divine Redeemer, in this continuity and harmony of Old and New Testament. We see the beginnings of devotion to the Sacred Heart in Bernard of Clairvaux and his circle because at that time the two Testaments were read as a unity; in the Song of Songs of the Old Covenant, people recognized the Canticle of Christ’s love for his Church. Today too, we can only appreciate the rationale of the devotion if we receive it once more within the totality of the biblical testimony and so come to comprehend, as Paul urges us, “thebreadth and length and height and depth” (Eph 3:18).

b. How do things stand with the Fathers? According to A. Hamon, the first century is silent on the subject of the “Heart of Jesus”. Apparently, the word occurs for the first time in Anselm of Canterbury, yet without having acquired its specific meaning.17
It was Hugo Rahner who, in his analysis of the patristic interpretation of John 7:37-39 and John 19:34, brought the Fathers into the history of devotion to the Sacred Heart. As we have already mentioned, there remains the problem that the Fathers do not use the word “heart” in this context. Now, while it is true that the phrase “Heart of Jesus” apparently does not occur in the Fathers, they do provide, beyond what is indicated by H. Rahner, an important basis for devotion to the Sacred Heart as a result of what can be called their “theology and philosophy of the heart”. For the latter is so significant for their whole thought that E. Maxsein, for instance, could publish a study of Augustine’s philosophia cordis.18

Anyone who has read his Confessions knows the great part played in it by the word “cor” as the center of a dialogical anthropology. It is quite clear that at this point the stream of biblical terminology, and, with it, the stream of biblical theology and anthropology, has entered into his thought and combined with an entirely different, Platonic conception of man, a conception unacquainted with the notion of “heart” in that sense. We are left with the question of how far a genuine synthesis has been achieved here. Much writing on this subject evinces the suspicion that in the Fathers the biblical world of images and the Platonic world of ideas never actually interpenetrated; Augustine, for instance, one reads, remained largely a Platonist as far as concepts were concerned. But people were deeply aware of the problem of the two anthropologies, as we can see from Jerome, who says on one occasion that according to Plato and the Platonists it is the intellect which is the center of man, whereas according to Christ it is the heart.19

If we examine the matter more closely, it becomes apparent that what we have here is not simply Platonism versus the Bible: the opposition between Platonic and Stoic anthropology is also involved. The tension between these two gave the Fathers the opportunity of drawing on the Bible to create a new anthropological synthesis.20
In Platonic anthropology it is possible to distinguish individual potencies of the soul, which are related to one another in a hierarchical order: intellect, will, sensibility. Stoic thought, which conceives of man as the microcosm exactly corresponding to the macrocosm, rejects this view; the entire cosmos was fashioned by the primal fire, which is itself formless but adopts the form of that which it creates out of itself. In the same way the human body is fashioned and given life by a spark of this divine, primal fire which permeates it. This single, invigorating energy (πνεμα πυρδες) transforms itself in accord with the various life functions which serve to preserve and benefit the living being and becomes now hearing, now sight, now thought, now imagination. It is always the same and yet operates in different modes, which implies that there is a kind of ladder of inwardness. The primal fire which sustains the cosmos is called logos; thus its spark in us is called “the logos in us”.21

It is not hard to see the possibilities yielded by these ideas for an understanding of the mystery of Christ. The Stoics had equated this center of the cosmos with the sun, which thus bears the name “heart of the cosmos”. Correspondingly the spark of the primal fire in man has its seat in the heart, the organ from which life-giving warmth flows out into the whole organism. The heart is the body’s sun, it is the logos in us. Conversely the logos is the heart of the world. Thus Stoic thought has a quite distinctive theology and anthropology of the heart as compared with the intellectualism of the Platonists.22 We must describe the view of the Stoics, taken by themselves, as a remarkable amalgam of banal naturalism and profound philosophical intuition. However, they offered the Fathers, engaged in relating the Platonic inheritance to biblical faith, a magnificent opportunity to achieve a new synthesis. And again it was Origen who seized this opportunity most energetically. The signal for himto take up these ideas was the Baptist’s word which has come down to us in John 1:26: “Among you stands one whom you do not know.” Origen goes on: It is the Logos which is at the center of us all— without our knowing—for the center of man is the heart, and in the heart there is the γεμονικόν—the guiding energy of the whole, which is the Logos.23

It is the Logos which enables us to be logic-al, to correspond to the Logos; he is the image of God after which we were created.24 Here the word “heart” has expanded beyond the reason and denotes “a deeper level of spiritual / intellectual existence where direct contact takes place with the divine”.25 It is here, in the heart, that the birth of the divine Logos in man takes place, that man is united with the personal, incarnate Word of God.26

E. von Ivánka has given a gripping account of the development, from these lines of thought in Origen, of that stream of spirituality and thought which lead to the start of devotion to the Heart of Jesus in William of St Thierry and among the German nuns of the Middle Ages and in more general terms, to that mysticism which is aware that the heart takes precedence over reason, love over knowledge. From there the line continues in a great arch until it reaches Pascal’s principle. “Dieu sensible au coeur, non à la raison.” “Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît pas.”27 And of course Newman’s motto, “cor ad cor loquitur”, to which we have already referred, stands in the same continuity.

To that extent, therefore, the view that the heart is the locus of the saving encounter with the Logos has a very firm basis in the new synthesis achieved by patristic thought, as we see, for example, in Augustine’s exhortation in connection with the Psalms: Redeamus ad cor, ut inveniamus eum (let us return to the heart, that we may find Him). It would be a very agreeable task to show how, on this basis, the anthropological foundations of devotion to the Sacred Heart grow and deepen. Such a task, however, would take us far beyond the limits we have set ourselves here. One final observation in conclusion: Stoic thought regards the heart as the sun of the microcosm, the life force and preserving energy of the human organism and of man as such. It defines the function of this ήγεμονικόν, this guiding power, as συντήρησις, as that of holding things together. Cicero puts the meaning of this “holding together” like this: Omne animal . . . id agit, ut se conservet. Seneca expresses it similarly: …omnia …feruntur in conservationem suam (everything aims at self- preservation).28 The task of the heart is self-preservation, holding together what is its own.
The pierced Heart of Jesus has also truly “overturned” (cf. Hos 11:8) this definition. This Heart is not concerned with self-preservation but with self-surrender. It saves the world by opening itself. The collapse of the opened Heart is the content of the Easter mystery. The Heart saves, indeed, but it saves by giving itself away.

Thus, in the Heart of Jesus, the center of Christianity is set before us. It expresses everything, all that is genuinely new and revolutionary in the New Covenant. This Heart calls to our heart. It invites us to step forth out of the futile attempt of self-preservation and, by joining in the task of love, by handing ourselves over to him and with him, to discover the fullness of love which alone is eternity and which alone sustains the world.


* A paper given to the Sacred Heart Congress in Toulouse, July 24-28, 1981, commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the encyclical Haurietis aquas.

1 Cf. esp. Maria und die Kirche (Innsbruck 1951); Mater Ecclesia. Lobpreis der Kirche am dem ersten Jahrtausend (Einsiedeln 1944).
2 The relevant articles are collected in H. Rahner, Symbole der Kirche. Die Ekklesiologie der Vater (Salzburg 1964), 177-235.
3 Encyclical Haurietas aquas, AAS 38 (1956):316f.; cf. 327; 336; 334 350. What was new in this encyclical, as compared with previous rationales, is very well presented in F. Hausmann, “Haurietas aquas. Marginalien zum dogmatischen Verständnis der Herz-Jesu-Verehrung in der Herz-Jesu- Enzyklika Papst Pius’ XII”, in J. Auer-F. Mussner-G. Schwaiger Gottesherrschaft-Weltherrschaft (Festschrift R. Graber) (Regensburg 1980), 279-94.
4 Bonaventure, Vitis mystica c 3, 4 (ed. Quaracchi VIII 163 b); cf. Haurietas aquas, 337.
5 On this, cf. the important analyses in E. von Ivánka, Plato christians (Einsiedeln 1964), 309- 85.
6 PL 196:1203. Cf. Ivánka, 309, 335.
7 Haurietis aquas II, 322f.
8 Haurietis aquas, ibid., 325f. The text quoted is Justin, Apol II, 13 (PG 6:465).
9 Cf. Origen, Ezech. h. 6, 6 (Baehr. VIII 384f.): “. . . The Father himself is not without feeling (impassibilis). When we cry to him, he has mercy and shares in the experience of suffering; because of love he tastes something which, from the point of view of his sublimity, he cannot experience.” Gregory Nazianzen writes similarly in his poem on human nature, V. 121f. (PG 37:765). For aninterpretation of these texts, cf. H. U. von Balthasar, Das Ganze im Fragment (Einsiedeln 1963), 300f. On the “passion” of the Spirit, cf. die profound interpretation of Romans 8:26 in H. Schlier, Der Römerbrief (Freiburg 1977), 268ff.
10 Cf. H. de Lubac, Histoire et esprit: l’intelligence de I’Écriture d’après Origins (1950). De Lubac situates Origen in the history of biblical interpretation. He finds a parallel and a development of the ideas of the Alexandrian scholar in Bernard of Clairvaux’s beautiful dictum: impassibilis est Deus, sed non incompassibilis (In Cant. cant. 26, n. 5 PL 183:906); he regards Pascal’s “Everything that does not tend toward charity is a figure” (Pensées 583) as central even to Origen’s hermeneutics.
11 This must be made absolutely clear, lest the way be opened for a new Patripassianism, as J. Moltmann seems to be proposing in The Crucified God (London 1974). On this particular issue, cf. H. U. von Balthasar, “Zu einer christlichen Theologie der Hoffnung”, in MThZ 32 (1981): 81-102. An important book arising from the recent debate on the pain of God is J. Galot, Dieu souffre-t-il? (Paris 1976). H. U. von Balthasar sums up the present position in Theodramatik IV (Das Endspiel) (Einsiedeln 1983), 191-222. Like Galot, Balthasar refers in this connection to a remarkable treatise by J. Maritain, entitled “Quelques réflexions sur le savoir théologique”, in Rev Thorn 77 (1969): 5-27. Von Balthasar (239) cites the following sentence from it: “God ‘suffers’ with us, and in doing so he suffers more than we do; as long as there is suffering in the world, he shares this suffering, he experiences ‘compassion’.” This once again takes up St. Bernard’s line of thought: impassibilis-sed non incompassibilis (see note 10 above), which alone is inadequate, in my view, to Scripture and tradition. The papal encyclical Dives in misericordia (1980) takes up the very same point (n.b. its highly significant note 52) and seizes upon the central element uniting theology, Christology and anthropology. An important article on the philosophical issues here is M. Gervais, “Incarnation et immuabilite divine”, in Rev des Sciences Rel 50 (1976): 215-43.
12 Cf. H. Kuhn, “Woran man sich halten kann”, in MThZ 30 (1979): 49-52.
13 H. de Lubac has presented a thorough discussion of these issues in his book on Origen (see previous note 10). Cf. also H. de Lubac, Dergektige Sinn der Schrift (Einsiedeln 1956), reprinted in Geist aus der Geschichte (Einsiedeln 1968).
14 H. Gross, “Das Hohelied der Liebe Gottes”, in H. Rossman-J. Ratzinger (ed.), Mysterium der Gnade (Festschrift J. Auer) (Regensburg 1975), 83-91.
15 H. Gross (see previous note), 88; cf. H. W. Wolff, Anthropologie des Alien Testaments (Munich 1973), 90-95.
16 H. Gross (see note 14), 89.
17 A. Hamon, “Coeur (Sacre)”, in Diet, de Spiritualite 2:1023-46. 18 A. Maxsein, Philosophia cordis. Das Wesen der Persönlichkeit bei Augustinus (Salzburg 1966).
19 . . . quaeritur, ubi sit animae principals Plato in cerebro, Christus monstrat ess in corde. Epist. 64, I CSEL 54:587; H. Rahner, in Symbole der Kirche (1964), also points out (148) the related passages in Gregory of Nyssa, De hominis opificio, c. 12 (PG 44:156 CD) and Lactantius, De opificio Dei (CSEL 27:51ff.).
20 On the following remarks, cf. Ivánka (see note 5), 315-51.
21 Ivánka, 317-21, especially the passages referred to on 321.
22 Ivánka (364-85) examines in detail the relationship between Platonic, Stoic, Origenist and Augustinian elements in this strand of tradition.
23 Origen, in Joa GCS IV 94, 18; cf. the fragment GCS IV 497f.; Ivánka, 325.
24 Origen, GCS IV 494, 22ff. On the view which we begin to detect here, of the divine birth from the heart of the Church and the faithful. cf. H. Rahner, Symbole der Kirche (see note 2), 13-87.
25 Ivánka, 326.
26 Ivánka, 325f.
27 Ivánka 350.

28 References in Ivánka, 320, where he adduces further related texts.

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