Sacred this, the most holy that...what next? The most holy Roast beef?
Today, if you're Roman Catholic, is the feast of the ''sacred heart'' of Jesus. I never liked this feast, or the devotion. Even as a child, on trips to my grandparents' house, I always shied away from their majestic portrait of the Sacred Heart over the mantelpiece - I was intimidated by it. I don't know if it was the eyes, staring widely up to the Father, or the fact that it was awfully tacky, but I hated it. I much preferred their large Spanish crucifix (salvaged from a church in Spain in the early '70s - my grandfather said that the priest was about to throw it into a skip...), which to scare away Jehovah's Witnesses, they hung up in their hallway - in full view of the porch doors. I spent hours staring at it.
Anyway, I think there is something very queer about devotion to the Sacred Heart - it detracts somewhat from the one worship of Christ's one Person. It is clearly a ''pious devotion'' that has got rather out of hand. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, like Corpus Christi, is relatively modern. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that it was familiar by about the 12th century and, like Low Mass, it spread rapidly throughout Christendom. It wasn't until the 17th century that the devotion, which quite rightly had hitherto remained strictly private, was celebrated as an actual ''feast'' with its own Office. To her credit, 18th century Rome refused to grant indulgence for a universal institution of the ''feast'' (to celebrate what exactly?!), but under pressure from the French bishops she eventually caved in, and in 1856 Pope Pius IX made it a Greater Double, and in 1889 Leo XIII made it a Double of the First Class. I think the devotion is tacky, tasteless and pernicious. It is noteworthy that the ugliest church in France is dedicated to the Sacred Heart...Hideous beyond belief...what period is it? Late Wedding Cake?
As I have said, devotion to the ''Sacred Heart'' detracts from the one and inseparable worship due to God the Son, according to both the Divinity and Humanity, since both are inseparably united in the one Hypostasis of the Word. Canon IX of Constantinople II (an Ecumenical Council, and therefore binding on all Christians) says: If anyone shall take the expression, Christ ought to be worshipped in his two natures, in the sense that he wishes to introduce thus two adorations, the one in special relation to God the Word and the other as pertaining to the man; or if anyone to get rid of the flesh, [that is of the humanity of Christ,] or to mix together the divinity and the humanity, shall speak monstrously of one only nature or essence of the united (natures), and so worship Christ, and does not venerate, by one adoration, God the Word made man, together with his flesh, as the Holy Church has taught from the beginning: let him be anathema.
In the light of this canon of Constantinople II, does not the cult of the ''Sacred Heart'' seem out of harmony with the Tradition of the Church? Clearly the devotion was a Medieval ''enthusiasm'' - like the strange practice of going to Mass purely to see the Elevation of the Sacred Host (held aloft sometimes for minutes on end - I'm gonna lift it, lift it higher!), or the notorious practice of throwing about pieces of unconsecrated bread on the feast of Corpus Christi. To me, devotion to the Sacred Heart is just as worthwhile as devotion to the most holy bowel-movements of Christ. Liturgy should direct pious devotions, not the other way round. The foundation of the Church's life, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, ought to be celebration of the Sacred Liturgy by the Bishop with the assistance of his Priests and Deacons, not ill-informed popular pieties, which are heretical.
I speak with the authority of the Church (I won't elaborate that) when I say that devotion to the ''sacred heart'' is heretical, pernicious and aliturgical. It should have been condemned, or at least left to die out like devotion to the Holy Face...
Much better. This Icon is full of symbolism; the perfectly round head, cruciform halo etc. Notice also that the hand with which Our Lord is imparting blessing is making use of the traditional Sign of the Cross.