The Two Hearts and the Rosary

sacredheartThis past Friday and Saturday we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  These feasts go together: the fruit of the Heart of Jesus is the Heart of Mary, the source of Mary’s heart is Jesus’.

But before we speak of these two hearts, we should speak of Jesus’ own two hearts.  The Sacred Heart itself is a celebration of the union of God’s heart with man’s.  The Sacred Heart is God’s heart beating in man’s, or man’s heart beating in God’s.  

This is the mystery of grace: the love of God poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5).  St. Thomas makes a kind of analogy of grace.  He speaks of the Incarnation as “the grace of union,” distinct from but analogous with sanctifying grace.  Sanctifying grace enters our hearts to unite us to God.  The grace of union is the deepest reality of Jesus.  

They are different, as the difference of being Son of God by nature and son by adoption.  In the case of Jesus, it is inseparable from who he is; in our case, a change must come about, and it can be undone.  

But they are similar, for in each case it is the union of God and man.  What happens in the heart of Jesus is what Jesus desires for us.  What happens in the heart of Jesus is what happens in the heart of Mary: God’s love poured into our hearts, total union of God and man.

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The rosary is a kind of meditation on this union of the two hearts.  It is a meditation, first, on the life of Jesus, of God’s love in the human life of Jesus — and most deeply, in his human heart.  But it is a meditation, second, on Mary’s participation in these mysteries.  What happens in the heart of Jesus is what happens in the heart of Mary.

In the Eastern Church, they constantly rediscover the icon of the face of Christ, even tracing its outline with their fingers.  In the rosary, we retrace the face of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, rediscovering over and over again his mystery, which is the mystery that he recreates in us.

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The Hail Mary is a meditation on the mystery of the two hearts.  It has three acts, tracing three directions in the relation between these two hearts.

The first act commemorates the action of Jesus’s divine heart on Mary: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”  What does it mean to say Mary is full of grace?  It means that the Lord is with her.  Praying this prayer alongside the mysteries of the rosary, we see the heart of the Lord who is with her.  The Lord – the Lord whose heart is on the cross, or in agony in the garden, or rising to heaven, or making wine at Cana, etc. – that Lord, is with Mary.  

The fruit of his presence is that his heart is impressed on hers.  That is what “full of grace” means: he is with her, and acts on her.  And what he brings about is a re-creation of his heart in hers.

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immaculateheartThe second act commemorates the similarity of the two hearts: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”  His blessing is her blessing.  And she is truly blessed.  She has all the riches that humanity can receive, the riches that set her above all her kind.  And that is the blessing of the one who, as fruit of her womb, shares in her nature.  He too, her child, has all the riches of humanity.  The two hearts are alike.

(Again and again, as we trace the faces of Jesus and Mary, we turn to their hearts, their innermost depths: that is where they are truly similar.)

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Finally, the third act commemorates Mary asking Jesus to share this favor with us:  “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the heart of our death.”  She prays for us, asks God’s blessing on us.  

But what blessings does she ask for?  Well, she is holy – conformed to Jesus.  Because her heart is like his, she asks for the blessings that he considers blessings, the blessings of the heart of Jesus.  

That is why we, who are sinners, so close to death, ask her to pray – because as sinners, we tend to ask for the wrong blessings, so forgetful of the hour of our death and focused on things that do not endure.  She who is holy asks for the blessings of the heart of Jesus.  

And as his mother, mother of God, she has, not power over him, but influence – the influence he chose to give her, in uniting his divine heart to a human heart, becoming her child.

In the mysteries of the rosary, we trace over and over the face of Jesus, the heart of Jesus – the heart he gives to Mary, giving her true likeness to his heart, so that she can beg the same blessing for us.

What do the two hearts mean to you?

eric.m.johnston

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