The feast for the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of the so called movable Feasts, that is, it occurs on a different date in different years. The most evident movable Feast is Easter, whose date changes every year. Actually, most of the movable Feasts are set by the date of Easter Sunday, therefore they have no fixed date for celebration. Catholic movable Feasts can also be set by Epiphany, or can be connected to specific days of the week in defined times of the year.
For example, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is always on the Friday following the Corpus Domini Sunday, that is, sixty-eight days after Easter. The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the other side, is on the Saturday after the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and depends on that one as well. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be between May 29th and July 2nd. This year for example it was on June 8th, and the whole month is consecrated to this celebration.
Other movable Feasts are the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany, and all Advent Sundays.
All holidays connected to Easter are consequently movable Feasts: Moundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Monday always change date according to the date Easter falls on.
The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrates the physical heart of Jesus as a man, besides a real God, on one side, and the heart meant as goodness, mercy and love of the Savior for us all on the other side.
As an organ that symbolizes Christ humanity, this particular heart has the right to be adored.
Iconography of the Sacred Heart and devotion
Traditional iconography shows the Sacred Heart in the middle of Jesus’ chest, with a cross on it, and crowned with thorns. On the side of the Heart there is a bleeding wound that recalls the one Jesus suffered on the cross, and symbolizes the wounds that men’s sins keep inflicting on him everyday. The sacred Heart is surrounded by flames, symbol of a burning mercy, of a blazing love from the Savior towards all men.
The cult of the Sacred Heart is traced back to the Medieval age, and originated in the sphere of the great German mystics, but became more popular only in the XVII century thanks to S. John Eudes (1601-1680), French pious, preacher and scholar, who spread the devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in all France, and especially thanks to S. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690). She was a French nun, with great mystical powers, who had four revelations since 1673 till the day of her premature death; she also had many minor visions from Jesus.
In those occasions Jesus himself talked to her, and in all of those, His Sacred Heart played a fundamental role. In the first of her visions, for example, Jesus told her: “My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning Charity, It must needs spread them abroad. I have chosen you to accomplish so great a design so that all may be done by Me.”
In the following visions the Saint saw the Sacred Heart burst into flames, in a crown of thorns, shining bright, regardless of the wounds, in the Savior’s chest. We owe the traditional iconography we know today to her.
During her fourth vision, Jesus told Saint Margaret he was suffering from the arrogance and lack of humility of Christians, and even more from the blasphemous sacrileges. He showed her His will: the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost, that is the eight day after Corpus Domini, should be dedicated to celebrate His Heart.
Regardless of the obstacles raised by other religions, which claimed it was idolatry, the cult of the Sacred Heart was very popular since the beginning and spread very quickly. In 1672 the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart was officially celebrated for the first time. In 1856, Pope Pius IX established the Feast as obligatory for the whole catholic Church, and many men and women congregations were born around it since then.
Prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated through the Eucharistic adoration every first Friday of the month, and through the recital of the Litanies of the Sacred Heart. There are many, here are a few examples:
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I put my trust in You!;
Sweet Heart of my Jesus, make me love You more and more!
O Jesus burning with love, I wish I had never offended You!
Love of the Heart of Jesus, inflame my heart.
Charity of the Heart of Jesus, spread inside my heart.
Strength of the Heart of Jesus, support my heart.
Mercy of the Heart of Jesus, make my heart sweet.
Patience of the Heart of Jesus, don’t get tired of my heart.
Kingdom of the Heart of Jesus, settle in my heart.
Wisdom of the Heart of Jesus, tame my heart.
O Heart of Jesus,
to you I entrust
in this night
my soul and body,
so that gently
in you they may rest.
And since during
my sleep I will not be able
to praise my God,
please do so in my place,
as many times
my heart will beat
in this night,
as much will be the praises
that you will give
to the holy Trinity.
To join you in your prayers and litanies, many special rosaries and devotional crowns have been made, or even medals of any shape and material.
Many statues have been made following the Sacred Heart iconography, depicting the Savior in his characteristic act of pointing to his open chest with his hand, where His heart beats, wounded but still full of love for all of His sons.
A curious fact. Angels play a special role in the cult and devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In fact, Christ heart is identified as the spring of love that involves all men, but also saints and angels. John Paul II claimed that the Sacred Heart is some kind of mystic place made of Love, and those who can enter it, can pull out endless and eternal joy from it.
Angels in particular can contemplate the merciful love of Jesus in all of its greatness and perfection in every moment, but they also act as messengers between God and men, as tradition says, and also between the Love of God and us all. They form some sort of spiritual chain, which pushes us closer to the Love of God, makes us participate in his immensity, and makes us understand his warmth and perfection. And, to some extent, this love infects us, pushing us closer to Jesus, more similar to him in being capable of loving in a pure and humble way, with His mildness and spirit of sacrifice. With all the strength of his Sacred Heart.