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The MOST Theological Collection: Vatican II: Marian Council

"Chapter 23 - Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart"


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Vatican II so strongly advanced Marian doctrine and supported Marian devotion that it deserves to be called the Marian Council, yet many have asserted it called for downgrading Mary. Similarly, a great falling off in devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has followed the Council, yet, Pope Paul VI wrote:1 "This, therefore, seems to us to be the most suitable ideal: that devotion to the Sacred Heart which, we say it sadly, has declined somewhat in some, now reflourish daily more and more, and be esteemed by all as an excellent and acceptable form of true piety, which, in our times, especially because of the norms laid down in the Second Vatican Council, is strongly called for toward Christ Jesus, the king and center of all hearts who is the head of His Body, the Church..."

And it is strange indeed, that in an age when there is so much talk of love, there is so little understanding of it. Especially, men think it proper to ignore that aspect of our religion which is precisely the paying of honour to the love of God, under the image of the Sacred Heart of Christ.

Really, devotion to the Sacred Heart is not just a sideline feature in our religion: it is part of the very mainline, the center of everything. For it is, as we said, simply the honour paid to the Heart of Christ as the symbol and organ of that divine love to which we owe both our creation and our re-creation in grace by the Redemption.2

Devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart have gone down together. Quite naturally, in a way, for they are so closely bound together. Back in the golden era of the Patristic Age, two great Doctors of the Church, St. Gregory Nazianzus and St. Cyril of Alexandria stressed the fact that if one believes that Mary is the Mother of God, he logically must also believe the true doctrine about the two natures, divine and human, united in the one Divine Person of Christ. Actual experience of that age and of later ages, especially that of the so-called Reformation, shows how right these two Doctors were. Those who rejected Mary's divine Motherhood ended by rejecting also the divinity of her Son. Similarly, many today who began by dropping their interest in Mary and in her Immaculate Heart, now no longer accept the divinity or the Sacred Heart of her Son.

Devotion to these two Hearts is strikingly parallel in many ways, especially in structure and in motive.

Pope Pius XI, in his classic Encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor, on the Sacred Heart, tells us there are two chief features involved in devotion to the Sacred Heart, consecration and reparation:3 "But certainly, among the other things which properly belong to the worship of the Sacred Heart, that consecration stands out and is notable, by which we, recognizing that we have received all that we are and have from the eternal love of God, dedicate ourselves and all that we have to the Divine Heart of Jesus."

In a parallel way, Vatican II and Pope Paul VI, as we have already seen, have urged consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Pius XI adds this teaching on reparation to the Sacred Heart:4 "... if the first and chief thing in consecration is the repayment of the love of the creature to the love of the Creator, the second thing at once follows from it, that if that Uncreated Love has been neglected by forgetfulness or violated by offenses, compensation should be made in some way for the injustice that has been inflicted: in common language we call this debt one of reparation..."

At first sight, one might wonder if it is proper to speak of making reparation also to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yet, on reflection, we see that it is most obviously due: Is not reparation, that is, some sort of make-up, due when we have offended even the most ordinary person? But our sins have hurt her most gravely: they were the cause of the dreadful passion and death of her Son to which she, out of love for the Father. for Him and for us, lovingly consented, at the cost of such tremendous suffering that, as we saw,5 it is literally beyond our ability to measure it. Pope Pius XII in his great Encyclical on the Sacred Heart, the Haurietis aquas, brought out this fact very well, in the course of a theologically important passage in which he stressed the interconnection of the devotions to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart:6 "In order that more abundant benefits may flow upon the Christian family, and, in fact, upon the whole human race from this worship of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, let the faithful take care that devotion to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God also be closely joined to it. For since, by the will of God, the most Blessed Virgin Mary was inseparably joined with Christ in accomplishing the work of human redemption, to such an extent that our salvation came from the love and sufferings of Jesus Christ, intimately joined with the love and sorrows of His Mother, it is altogether fitting that the Christian people, since they have obtained divine life from Christ through Mary, render also to their heavenly Mother similar piety, love, and sentiments of a grateful and atoning heart..."

The thought of the great Pope is splendid. He tells us that precisely since Mary was joined inseparably with her divine Son in the Redemption, in the gaining of divine life for us, so devotion to the two Hearts should be joined together, in such a way that to her too there be offered love, and atonement.

This union of the two Hearts was not only a union in the summit of the Redemption, in Calvary. It was also a constant union of Jesus and Mary in all the mysteries of His life, death and resurrection. It is a union that extends beyond the consummation of time into the endless reaches of eternity. It will never cease. Pope Pius XII summed it up well when he said, in the document in which he defined the Assumption, that she was7 "always sharing His lot."

Vatican II expressed the same truth much more fully. For, as we saw in chapter 6, it painted for us a picture of magnificent sweep of the entire existence of Jesus and Mary, from the eternal decree for the Incarnation, in which she was designated as the Mother through whom it would take place, through each of the events of His and her life on earth, including especially the great sacrifice, then on to His glorification in the Resurrection and hers in the Assumption, and finally to their unending rule, beginning in time, extending beyond the end of time to the limitless reaches of eternity after the final consummation of all things. The Council stressed repeatedly that the union of Mary with Jesus was evident at each point. We saw that this great theological canvas provides us with a basis for a most full consecration to her, so that just as the Father has given her an all-pervading role in all His dealings with us, we might most logically and properly give her a similarly all-pervading role in all our response to Him.

Rightly, then, since she shares in all else, the devotion to the two Hearts could not be an exception. What the Father has eternally joined, we should not separate. Consecration, reparation, devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart should be eternally united.


1 Epist. Apostolica, Investigabiles Christi, Feb. 6, 1965: AAS 57, 300.
2 Pius XII, in his Encyclical, Haurietis aquas, May 15, 1956, stresses this point, and draws a distinction between the essence of Sacred Heart devotion, i.e., honour paid to the love of God in the Heart of Christ, and the particular means used to express this devotion. The former is essential, the latter are open to variation. Cf. also W. Most "The Theological Interconnection of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary according to Vatican II" in: Ephemerides Mariologicae 21 (1971) 29-39.
3 AAS 20,167-68.
4 AAS 20,169.
5 In Chap. 8, above.
6 AAS 48,352.
7 AAS 42,768.

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