This past weekend the wisdom of the Church invited us to experience a beautiful truth – the unity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Church led us into this discovery of this union by celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart on Friday that leads us into the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Saturday. You can also see the deep union of hearts illustrated in our very own St Mary’s Cathedral: above the right side-alter, above the statue of St Joseph, you’ll see a small circle window showing the Sacred Heart, and above the left side-alter, above the statue of Mary, as if in mirrored reflection of the right hand side, you’ll see another small circle window showing the Immaculate Heart (Although I couldn’t find the exact date online, I’ve heard that at one point in history these two windows were covered up, only to be discovered in one of the more recent renovations. See here, page 16, for a great old photo of the windows).
My own first real contact with this unity of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts was on a Jesuit retreat in Dallas, where we did a sort of 3-day crash course on the Spiritual Exercises. There was something new about seeing the hearts of Mary and Jesus in this way that drew me in, and marked the experience of that weekend.
What can the beautiful truth of this union of hearts mean for our lives and our relationships? First let’s look at what we mean by “heart.” In the Catholic faith, we understand the heart as the inmost part of a person. In the Catechism we find:
“The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. (2563)
As the inmost place of ourselves, the heart is the place where prayer originates. When we really let yourselves sink down into prayer, to that place of inner silence where even a whisper aloud would seem to be an avalanche, we pray from the heart: “Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays.” (2562)
In our hearts, we know ourselves and we are known – and from this place of knowing, our will is active. Deep decisions of the will come from the heart: ” The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death.” (2563)
And ultimately, as we know ourselves and are known by God in our hearts, the heart is “the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.” (2563)
What beautiful wisdom we find in the Church! How does understanding our hearts as “the place of covenant” shape our lives? Covenant implies a two-way relationship. God and man are in relationship with each other – and through God, we find true relationship with the other. We this perfect covenant between the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and we can also experience this covenant in our own human relationships.
Fr Joseph Kentenich describes it as a “three-in-oneness.” ¹ He prays, “Let us abide in holy three-in-oneness and thus go in the Holy Spirit to the Father.” He then explains: “As it is strived for here, “three-in-oneness” is the union of the soul with Mary and Christ.” The three being the person, Mary, and Christ. However this covenantal understanding of the heart goes deeper than that – and includes our covenant with our fellowman – our families, our friends, and in special way, spouses. How is this?
Fr Kentenich explains it by using the St Augustine’s definition of love: “the inscription of one heart in the heart of the other.” The explanation of this mutual inscribing of hearts continues:
“It is not something isolated, but has a living, personal being at its focus, which, as an image of God, ultimately awakens and nurtures the warmth of love and leads and transmits it back to the heart of God (…) by leading the immediate human object of noble love with itself into God and into God’s love. That is so true that the beatific vision not only consists of the spiritual intimacy between soul and God, but also between one soul and another, between human partners” ¹
Let’s break that down. Think of someone you love. When you love him/her in a noble way, this awakens a love that leads you both into the Heart of God, who is love. As you inscribe your name on each other’s hearts, so your names are also inscribed in the Heart of God. Three-in-oneness. That’s covenant.
Mary and Christ lived a perfect mutual inscription of Hearts. She, more than any other human being, was gifted a Heart that was perfectly full of Christ – we could say that her Heart is entirely within His. Thus, as we allow ourselves be drawn into a covenantal relationship with Mary, the Mother of God, she draws us more and more into the Heart of her Son. And as we learn to live in this three-in-oneness with Mary and Christ, to the end of being caught up in the divine life of the Holy Trinity, He who is Three-In-One, we shall always draw all those whom we love into the same great Heart of God.
I’d like to close with a verse that always reminds me of this Three-In-Oneness when I need it most:
“The Bridegroom in my helps me carry everything,
and the Mother keeps watch, so we always three.” ²
Bonus: Just in case you’re hungry for more, here’s great blog post by Dr Gregory Popcak, Catholic therapist and author, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and God’s love for us.
¹Fr Joseph Kentenich, Schoenstatt’s Covenant Spirituality, p 148-166
² “The Bridegroom” is Christ. Fr Joseph Kentenich, Heavenwards, p 111.