In the preface for the feast of the Sacred Heart, we are told that the Heart of Our Lord was opened in order to become a place of rest for the pious and a refuge for sinners: "ut piis esset requies and paenitentibus pateret salutis refugium". A place of rest and a refuge: two beautiful images of places that we naturally like to be in — we are all sinners, and all need of a refuge from the onslaught of vice, we are experience fatigue in our search for holiness and we all need a place of rest for our tired minds and hearts.
But tradition has given us several other images in reference to the Sacred Heart, approaches as it were, of holy souls to this "burning furnace of divine love". They tell us among other things that the Heart of Our Lord is a Treasure containing all the riches of God. Indeed, since this Heart is united "in persona" with the Second Person of the Trinity, it is truly the Heart of God, the human heart with which God loves us. As such, it contains all the treasures of the divinity, and we can therefore find therein all the riches of grace of which we stand in need. In the litany, we pray: “Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, have mercy on us”.
The Heart of Our Lord may also be considered as a Fountain, an inexhaustible source from which flows Divine Grace. One might be reminded here of the torrent of life that flows from the throne of God and and Lamb in the Apocalypse (22:1) and which symbolises the Holy Spirit, the unending torrent of grace that comes from God and reaches us wherever we may be. It is always possible for us to drink long draughts at this divine source in order to quench the thirst of our souls for God, for purity, for holiness. In the litany we pray: “Heart of Jesus, source of life and holiness, have mercy on us”.
The Heart of Jesus is also considered as the Harp which gives forth ravishing divine melodies under the touch of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the human heart of Jesus, united with the divinity, is under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit who is given to it without measure (John 3:34) and it therefore gives forth the sweetest melodies through the practice of all the virtues. When the Son of God entered our world, He intoned the eternal canticle of praise, the "perfectae laudis munus" which is the most perfect praise of the divine Majesty: only God can praise God as He deserves. And so, from the first moment that it began to beat within the tiny body of the Son of God in the virginal womb, that Divine Heart began the canticle of praise — the divine harp began to give forth its melodious harmonies which ravish God himself and elevate our minds and hearts to the contemplation of the Divinity.
Another profound image given to us that of the Thurible. Just as our earthly thuribles give forth the fragrant smell of incense and are for that reason used in the Sacred Liturgy to symbolise our prayer and adoration — incense is offered to God alone —, so the Divine Heart of Jesus gives forth continually the most consummate acts of adoration and love of the Father that could possibly be imagined. This adoration reaches its climax in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when, on the altar, the immolated Victim offers to the Father the worship and the veneration that are due to Him, giving forth as well the sweet fragrance of all the virtues.
Finally, the Heart of Christ is the Altar upon which the perfect sacrifice is offered to the Father. The Lord Jesus is at once the Priest, the Altar and the Victim, for He is the one who offers, He is the one who is offered, and He is the one upon whom the offering is made. Upon His own Heart, the Lord Jesus offers to the Father the acceptable sacrifice. Our privilege during the Holy Mass is to unite our humble, imperfect acts of adoration with those of Jesus, trusting that they will thus find admittance before the eternal throne, and take part in appeasing the Divine Majesty. This also teaches us to offer ourselves on the altar of our own heart, especially in times of trial and pain: nothing pleases God more than a suffering soul that offers itself without reserve as a total oblation, without reserve, to be consumed for the glory of the Father.
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus teach us. May we learn day by day to imitate Him and may we be drawn ever more into the the burning furnace of charity, inflamed ourselves with love for God and men.