Friday, 22 August 2008

Octave Day of the Assumption; Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Devotions like the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary perhaps come naturally to those bought up as Catholics, but often seem a bit alien to converts (unless they have a strong empathy with seventeenth and eighteenth century french spirituality!). But in fact once you understand what they are really about, they are immensely appealing.

To me at least, the heart pierced by a sword, as depicted on the miraculous medal, provides the clearest symbolism for this feast, with its specific reminders us of the example Our Lady provides us.

The heart on the left hand side symbolises Our Lady's Immaculate Conception - conceived without Original Sin, and thus with a pure body and thus heart (and soul), Mary chose obedience to God's will, reversing Eve's disobedience by her 'fiat' opening the way for us to to be redeemed.

Secondly, the heart imagery points to the way Scripture often uses the term, as the seat of the emotions, reason and will. St Luke, of course, presents Our Lady as the model for contemplation, 'pondering the things Jesus did in her heart'.

Thirdly, we have the image of the heart of the soul pierced by the sword of suffering, as foretold by Simeon at Jesus' presentation in the Temple. It reminds us that all Christians must accompany Our Lord on the way of the Cross, accepting sufferings for the sake of others.

The feast itself is actually a very late one - the Office and Mass for it were approved in 1855, but it wasn't instituted for the universal Church until 1944.

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