Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Lk 2:41-51
On the day after the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, we remember the heart from which that Heart took flesh: the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Speaking of the Sacred Heart, Pope Saint John Paul II said that “All [the liturgical] cycle is enclosed definitively in . . . the Heart of the Man-God. From it, too, the whole life of the Church irradiates every year.” By setting the memorial of the Immaculate Heart the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, the Church highlights, not only the importance of Mary’s role in salvation history, but also that “devotion to the Immaculate Heart is the synthesis of all Marian doctrine and devotion.” In order to see why this is, let us first examine the importance of Mary’s heart in Scripture, and then the connection between the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.
While there is no explicit mention of Mary’s heart in the Old Testament, many fathers of the Church pointed to the Song of Songs and noted that there are two references to heart that stick out. In Sgs 5:2, we hear the Bride say, “I was sleeping, but my heart was awake. The sound of my lover knocking!,” and later, in 8:6, she says “Set me as a seal upon your heart.” Some fathers have said that “my heart was awake” refers to how Mary contemplated divine things in her heart, whereas the second, “Set me as a seal,” refers to how Christ so marked the Virgin’s heart through charity and faith, that she was sealed in her contemplation and her heart was made to resemble her Beloved’s Son. Indeed, “as Christ is the perfect image of the Father, so Mary is humanity’s best image of the Son, and since internally and externally no created soul has so perfectly resembled the Source of all Grace, we are not surprised to see in the commentaries of the Fathers on the [Song of Songs] the vestiges of the devotion to that Heart which pre-eminently loved Christ, and which in charity resembled His divine Heart most closely.”
Both of these elements re-occur in the New Testament as well. Luke mentions Mary’s heart explicitly twice, one time of which we heard in today’s Gospel, Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” This would be in keeping with Mary’s profound and constant contemplation of the divine mysteries. We can also think of Calvary, where, as Christ was pierced with the lance, Mary was pierced with the sword of sorrow.
Because of this intimate connection, Saint John Eudes would write that “Jesus lives in [Mary’s] soul and body. . . . His Heart abides in her Heart, His soul in her soul. . . . His virtues, mysteries, and divine attributes are living in her Heart.” This sharing comes from the profound connection between the two hearts, our second point.
As one author describes it, “the basic spiritual bond between these Hearts is, of course, the bond of love. The love of Christ for men includes naturally, in the first place, His Blessed Mother; and Mary’s love for God of necessity includes the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, her divine Son. . . . It is because of the nature of Mary’s love, and because of what constitutes her sanctity, that we can say the devotion to the Immaculate Heart is the synthesis of all Marian doctrine and devotion. The love of Mary as the foundation and root of all her virtues and the motivating force which prompted every action of her life, and her sanctity as the underlying foundation of all her gifts and privileges, are the connecting link between her Immaculate Heart and all Marian doctrine.” Mary’s love for her Son is the source of all the graces and blessings she has.
For us, then, this memorial is an excellent reminder that all of the graces we need flow from Christ through Mary. Mary’s heart was completely human; it was completely pure, and wholly given to God. How well do our hearts resemble hers? Is Christ the seal upon our hearts? Let us ask our Blessed Mother, through her Immaculate Heart, to grant us the grace to love Christ as she did.