Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was Pope Paul VI who moved this feast to the Saturday, immediately after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It had been instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1944 to be celebrated on 22 August, coinciding with the traditional octave day of the Assumption.
There are two differences between Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and that of his mother, Mary. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is especially directed to the “Divine Heart”, as overflowing with love for humanity. In the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on the other hand, the attraction is the love of her Immaculate Heart for Jesus and for God. A second difference is the nature of the devotion itself. In devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we venerate in a sense of love, responding to love. In devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, love is formed from study and imitation of Mary’s yes to God as the mother of Jesus. In this devotion, love is more the result, than the “object” of the devotion; the object being rather to love God and Jesus by uniting one’s self to Mary for this purpose and by imitating her virtues, to help one achieve this.
In St Luke’s Gospel after the shepherds left Mary and Joseph and the child we read: “But Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. After finding Jesus in the temple, at the age of twelve, Mary and Joseph and Jesus settled in Nazareth and we are told that Mary “stored up all these things in her heart”. Luke also recounts the prophecy of Simeon that her heart (soul) would be pierced with a sword. This image (the pierced heart) is the most popular representation of the Immaculate Heart.
May we have a heart like Mary’s, so that we may ponder and reflect on Jesus and his word in our hearts and like Mary be with Jesus as we ponder his suffering and death.