The Sacred Heart of Jesus

(1) Special object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart

The nature of this question is complex and frequently becomes more complicated because of the difficulties arising from terminology. Omitting terms that are over-technical, we shall study the ideas in themselves, and, that we may the sooner find our bearings, it will be well to remember the meaning and use of the word heart in current language.

(a) The word heart awakens, first of all, the idea of a material heart, of the vital organ that throbs within our bosom, and which we vaguely realize as intimately connected not only with our own physical, but with our emotional and moral life. Now this heart of flesh is currently accepted as the emblem of the emotion and moral life with which we associate it, and hence the place assigned to the word heart in symbolic language, as also the use of the same word to designate those things symbolized by the heart. Note, for instance, the expressions "to open one's heart", "to give one's heart", etc. It may happen that the symbol becomes divested of its material meaning that the sign is overlooked in beholding only the thing signified. Thus, in current language, the word soul no longer suggests the thought of breath, and the word heart brings to mind only the idea of courage and love. But this is perhaps a figure of speech or a metaphor, rather than a symbol. A symbol is a real sign, whereas a metaphor is only a verbal sign; a symbol is a thing that signifies another thing, but a metaphor is a word used to indicate something different from its proper meaning. Finally, in current language, we are constantly passing from the part to the whole, and, by a perfectly natural figure of speech, we use the word heart to designate a person. These ideas will aid us in determining the object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

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