The Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ

SY101: Sacred Heart

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The Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ

“Behold the Heart that has so loved men … instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part (of mankind) only ingratitude …”

— from Revelations of Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque

Brief history and background info:

Saint Lutgarde

The sacred heart of Jesus Christ is a symbol that entered the world through the mystical experiences of many Roman Catholic nuns to whom the pierced Heart of the Saviour appeared in visions. Among them were Saint Lutgarde, Saint Mechtilde, Saint Gertrude and Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque who contributed to the expansion/propagation/spreading of devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Yet it was Saint Mary Alocoque who perceived, through many supernatural visions of Christ’s passion, the symbol of  the inflamed pierced heart, encircled with thorns. This vision is known as the “great apparition”, which occurred during the octave of Corpus Christi, in June of 1675.

In this vision Jesus entrusted Saint Mary with the mission of propagating the new devotion. Through her perseverance Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 11, 1899.

“And He [Christ] showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin that made Him the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure Him all the honour and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which His heart is the source.”

— from Revelations of Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque

Sacred Heart of Jesus
Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ

The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart.


  1. Heart: The heart is the center of being, both physical and spiritual. The heart represents compassion, understanding, love and charity. It also represents the temple of God, His Divine Centre and dwelling place. The heart is the spiritual center of a being. The pierced and bleeding heart alludes to the manner of Jesus’ death and reveals to us Christ’s goodness and charity through his wounds and ultimate sacrifice.
  2. Crown of thorns: A crown is a symbol that represents sovereignty, victory, honour, dignity, reward, the highest attainment, dedication, completeness, the circle of time, of continuity and endless duration. For Christians it is also a symbol of the righteous, blessing and favour, and victory over death. Yet the crown that was placed on Christ’s head was made of thorns to deliberately parody the crown of roses worn by the Roman Emperor. The crown of thorns has thus become the symbol of the Passion and martyrdom of Jesus Christ.
  3. Cross: This is a cosmic symbol from the most remote times that is better than all others. It is a world centre and therefore a point of communication between heaven and earth and a cosmic axis, thus sharing the symbolism of the cosmic tree, mountain, pillar, ladder, etc. The cross represents the Tree of Life and the Tree of Nourishment. It is also a symbol of universal, archetypal man, capable of infinite and harmonious expansion on both the horizontal and the vertical planes. The vertical line embodies the celestial, spiritual and intellectual, positive, active and male aspects, while the horizontal line personifies the earthly, rational, passive, negative and female aspects of the archetypal being. The two lines combined into the cross form the primordial androgyne. The cross also expresses the dualism in nature and the union of opposites and represents spiritual union and the integration of man’s soul in the horizontal-vertical aspects necessary to full life. In Christianity the cross is a symbol of salvation through Christ’s sacrifice. It is redemption, atonement, suffering and a symbol of faith.
  4. Flames or Fire: Transformation, purification, renewal of life, power, strength, energy. Fire facilitates change or passage from one state to the other. Fire manifested as flame symbolizes spiritual power and forces. Fire and flame both represent truth and knowledge as consumers of lies, ignorance, illusion and death.
  5. Light: It is the manifestation of divinity, of cosmic creation. Light is a symbol of life, truth, illumination and a source of goodness. Radiance emitted by light symbolizes new life from divinity and the power of dispelling evil and the forces of darkness. It also embodies the aspects splendor, glory and joy. When illustrated the straight line usually represents light and the undulating line is symbolically heat; light and heat are symbolically complementary and polarize the element of fire.

In conclusion:
The sacred heart is a symbol of great self sacrifice and unconditional divine love for all beings captured in the actions and deeds of Jesus Christ. When our love and compassion overcomes and sacrifices our own ego, our spirit will be liberated and transform our entire being into a holy one. If we align ourselves with meaning of the Sacred Heart and the liberating vibration of Christ consciousness, this great symbol can become a gateway for us to change the world through our expression of unequivocal, genuine  love. So let us love one another unconditionally.

As my Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.

— John 15:8

Sacred Heart Stained Glass


Cooper, J. C. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978. Print.

Bryan, Kim. Signs & Symbols. London: DK Pub., 2008. Print.

Bainvel, Jean. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 14 Oct. 2014. Sacred Heart

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