Q: What is the origin of the Marian title of the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
A: The devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary enjoys renewed popularity and fervor in the present, probably because of its connection to apparitions, in general, and Fatima, in particular. However, an even deeper reason may be found in the rediscovery of affective and eucharistic spirituality which led many people to a special devotion to the Heart of Jesus and eucharistic adoration. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are frequently revered together; there exists even a spiritual movement under the title of the "Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary."
The devotion to the Heart of Mary is grounded in Scripture, namely Luke 2:19 and 2:,51. Both of these passages refer to Mary's treasuring and pondering of God's words and ways in her heart. Memory an:d mind in Scripture are sometimes assimilated to the heart (Luke 251). One of the most beautiful revelations of Mary's heart is the Magnificat. Mary's heart sings God's praise for the salvation of all the world.
We find private devotion to the heart of Mary among many spirituals and saints of the middle ages, not only men like Saint Anselm (d. 1109), Eadmer (d. 1141), Saint Bernard (d. 1153) and Hugh of Saint Victor (d. 1140), but in particular women mystics and saints such as Mathilda of Hackeborn, Gertrude the Great, and Brigid of Sweden (13/14 c.). Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444), the fiery Italian preacher and missionary, saw in the heart of Mary seven flames akin to the seven acts of love expressed in the seven words attributed to Mary in the Bible.
The devotion to the Heart of Mary found new impulse and impetus in the 16/17 centuries. This renaissance is linked with the name of Saint John Eudes (d. 1680) who is called Father, Doctor and promotor of the devotion of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Pius X). Other important events in the history of this devotion are the Miraculous Medal (1830) and the appearances at Fatima (1917). The high point was reached in 1942/1944 when Pius XII extended the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the universal church (May 4, 1944) and celebrated her on the Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The same Pope consecrated 1942 the whole of Christianity and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The heart is a symbol of love; it stands also for the human person as a whole: consciousness, freedom, intelligence, will and affectivity. It points to the unity of body and soul. The Immaculate Heart of Mary represents the single-mindedness and radical commitment to the cause of her Son from Annunciation to the end of times. It serves as model for Christian maturity and responsibility, meaning an ever fuller response to God's challenge of love. This devotion is an invitation to cast ourselves on the heart of Mary. Here are some of the spiritual benefits derived from this spiritual osmosis:
1) It unifies and deepens our understanding of the
mysteries of God and Mary;
2) it promotes and strengthens our practical commitment to God;
3) it helps to reach a greater union with Christ who is in a special way present in the heart of his mother;
4) it opens our hearts to the needs of our brothers and sisters.
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