On the Octave of Corpus
Christi, we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus; today, on the octave of the Assumption of Mary, we
celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (in the Novus Ordo,
it is celebrated on the day after the Feast of the Sacred Heart).
The focus of this feast is Mary's heart -- not just her corporal heart,
but her memory, intellect, will, spirit, and other aspects of her
interior life and response to God, all of which St. John Eudes called
"a vast sea of grace, a measureless ocean of perfections, an immense
furnace of love." While our devotion to Christ's Sacred Heart is one of
the human to the Divine Himself, our devotion to Mary's Immaculate
Heart is rooted in our desire to imitate her human perfections, to come
to be as virtuous and as close to God as is she, the one whose
heartbeat lulled the unborn Jesus during the months He spent in her
womb, the one who held Her Creator in her arms when He was a Baby, all
the while knowing the destiny of His Passion as a young man, the one
who stood bravely and filled
with sorrow as she watched Him die on the
Cross. Read much more about the history and meaning
of devotion to Mary's Immaculate Heart here. And for a much deeper
dive into the mystery of Mary's heart, this book (pdf)
from this site's Catholic Library
may be of interest to you: The
Admirable Heart of Mary by St. John Eudes (you'll find an excerpt
rom the book below).
Many prepare for this feast by praying the Novena
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary starting on August 13 and ending on
August 21, the eve of this feast. Good prayers for the feast itself
include this brief one by St. Gertrude --
Heart of Mary, I have nothing in myself to offer thee that
is worthy of thee; but what thanks ought I not to pay thee for all the
favors which thou hast obtained for me from the Heart of Jesus! What
reparation ought I not to make thee for all my tepidity in thy service!
I desire to return thee love for love; the only good that I possess is
the sacred Heart of Jesus, which thou thyself hast given me. I offer
thee this treasure of infinite price; I cannot do more, and thou dost
not deserve less at my hands; but, receiving from me this gift most
precious in thy sight, be pleased, I beseech thee, to accept my heart,
which I here offer to thee, and I shall be forever blessed. Amen.
-- this longer one by St. John Eudes --
Mother of God the Son.
Hail Mary! Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary! Temple of the Most Blessed Trinity.
Hail Mary! Pure Lily of the Effulgent Trinity.
Hail Mary! Celestial Rose of the Ineffable Love of God.
Hail Mary! Virgin pure and humble,
of whom the King of Heaven willed to be born
and, with thy milk to be nourished.
Hail Mary! Virgin of Virgins,
Hail Mary! Queen of Martyrs,
whose soul a sword transfixed.
Hail Mary! Lady most blessed!
unto whom all power in Heaven and earth is given.
Hail Mary! My Queen and my Mother!
my Life, my Sweetness and my Hope,
Hail Mary! Mother Most Amiable,
Hail Mary! Mother of Divine Love,
Hail Mary! Immaculate! Conceived Without Sin!
Hail Mary! Full of Grace! The Lord is with Thee!
Blessed art thou among women!
And blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus!
Blessed be thy spouse, Saint Joseph,
Blessed be thy father, Saint Joachim,
Blessed be thy mother, Saint Anne,
Blessed be thy guardian, Saint John,
Blessed be thy holy Angel, Saint Gabriel,
Glory be to God the Father, Who chose thee,
Glory be to God the Son, Who loved thee,
Glory be to God the Holy Spirit, Who espoused thee.
O Glorious Virgin Mary, may all people love and praise thee.
-- or the Litany to
the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
As I wrote on the page about the Feast of the Sacred Heart,
There are no
special food-related customs that I know of, but a heart-shaped cake or
cookies come easily to mind. To make a heart-shaped cake without a
special heart-shaped pan, pour half of your cake batter into an 8"
round pan, and the other half into an 8" square pan (make sure equal
amounts of batter go into each pan). After they're baked, removed from
pans, and cooled, position the square cake on the diagonal so a corner
is pointed toward you. Cut the round cake in half across its diameter,
then place half up against the top left diagonal side of the square
cake, and the other half against the top right diagonal side of the
square cake. Press it all together with buttercream, and then decorate
as usual (don't forget the thorns!). Note that the cake will be rather
large in terms of surface area. You might have to get a 17"X17" piece
of cardboard and cover it with foil to use as a base for it. Note, too,
that you could use 9" pans; just be sure that the pans are of equal
size -- either both 8" or both 9"
But instead of thorns, you'll want roses and, if desired, one, three,
or seven swords (see this site's page on The
Three Hearts for illustrations of the hearts of Jesus, Mary, and
There is no special music for the day that I know of either, but I
lovely versions of Ave Maria, by Mozart. The first -- K554 -- is a
To sing the K554 version above (you'll need four voices), you can download the sheet music in
Because of my deep love for the sea, I can't resist including on this
page the reading below, from St. John Eudes's "The Admirable Heart of
Mary" linked to above:
Excerpt from "The Admirable Heart of Mary"
by St. John Eudes
Mary's Heart, the Sea
The Admirable Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not only a fountain,
as we have seen, it is also a sea, of which the ocean created by God on
the Third Day is a beautiful figure. This is the fifth symbolic picture
or representation of Our Lady's immaculate Heart. St. John Chrysostom
says that the heart of St. Paul is a sea: Cor Pauli Mare Est,(1) but
the Holy Ghost Himself gives this name to the most holy Mother of God,
and therefore to her Heart, to which the title is even more applicable
than to her person, 'Or we shall show that her Heart is the principle
of all the holy qualities that adorn her.
The Holy Spirit declares that Mary, His most worthy Bride, is a sea. A
humble and learned writer who, while revealing his brilliant gifts in
his excellent commentary on the psalms, has chosen that his name and
person remain unknown,(2) reaches us that the name of sea is given in
Sacred Scripture to the glorious Virgin because she is indeed a sea of
purity, vast in extent and in usefulness. We shall consider shortly
that Mary is an mean in purity and in extent. As for usefulness, this
holy Doctor tells us that just as the sea does not permit the adjoining
land to remain sterile, so the souls who approach the Mother of God
with true devotion bring forth abundant fruits of benediction, thanks
to the graces she lavishly bestows on them. Let us say of her Heart
that it is a sea full of great and wondrous riches.
In the order of nature, the sea is one of the greatest marvels of God's
omnipotence. "Wonderful are the surges of the sea." (3) God, Who is
great everywhere, is especially admirable in the sea. "Wonderful is the
Lord in the depths." (4) The holy Heart of Mary is an ocean of wonders
and an abyss of miracles. it is the extraordinary masterpiece of
essential and uncreated Love, in which the effects of infinite Power,
wisdom and goodness shine more brilliantly than in all the hearts of
angels and men.
What is the sea? It is the gathering of the waters, says Sacred
Scripture, or if you prefer, it is the place where all the waters are
gathered. "Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered
together into one place." (5) And the sacred text adds: "the gathering
together of the waters, be called Seas." (6) Now what is the august
Heart of Mary? It is the place where are gathered and united the living
waters of all graces springing from the Heart of God, as from their
first source. St. Jerome says: "Grace is divided among other saints,
but Mary possesses the plenitude of sanctity." (7) For the same reason
St. Peter Chrysologus calls Mary collegium
sanctitatis,(8) that is the place where grace and holiness are
assembled and gathered together; and St. Bernard, mare admirabile gratiarum,(9) a
prodigious sea of graces.
"All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea doth not overflow," says
the Holy Ghost.(10) Thus also all the streams, all the torrents and all
the rivers of heavenly grace run into the Heart of the Mother of Grace,
and are readily contained there. All the graces of heaven and earth
merge their waters in the great sea of the Holy Heart of the Mother of
the Saint of Saints. "In me is all grace of the way and the truth."
(11) In Mary's Heart are all the graces of the angels and of men, all
the graces of the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues,
Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels, all the graces of the
holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists, disciples of Jesus,
martyrs, priests and levites, confessors, hermits, virgins and widows,
of the Holy Innocents and of all the blessed in heaven. There is no
overflow of grace in Mary; she is not overwhelmed, for her Heart is
worthy of all the gifts and all the liberalities of God's infinite
goodness, and is capable of receiving and using them all for the glory
of His Divine Majesty.
St. Bernardine of Siena tells us that all the gifts and graces of the
Holy Ghost descended into the soul and heart of this heavenly Virgin in
such fulness, especially when she conceived the Son of God within her
chaste womb, that her Heart forms an abyss of grace which no human or
angelic intellect can comprehend. The mind of God, that of her Son,
Jesus Christ, and her own, are alone capable of understanding the
abundance and perfection of this mean of grace.(12)
The sea does not hoard its waters, but freely dispenses them to the
earth through the rivers, which flow into the mean only to come out of
it again, that they may water the whole earth and make it bear all
kinds of fruit. "Unto the place from whence the rivers come, they
return, to flow again." The Heart of our munificent Queen does not
withhold any of the graces she receives from the generous hand of God.
She returns them all to the first source, and waters the barren earth
of our hearts to the extent needed to make them fruitful for God and
for eternity. "That we may bring forth fruit to God." (13)
St. Bernard's words on this subject are most beautiful. He tells us
that Mary desires to become everything to everyone. In her abundant
charity, she denies no man a claim upon her Heart. She opens the door
of her mercy and the portals of her generous Heart to all, that all may
receive of her fulness. To the captive, she brings redemption; to the
sick, healing; to the afflicted, comfort; to the sinner, forgiveness;
to the just, increase of grace. She augments the joy of the angels; to
the Son of God she gives the substance of human flesh, and to the Most
Blessed Trinity glory and everlasting praise. The love and charity of
her Heart make themselves felt by the Creator Himself and by all His
Yes, Mary's admirable Heart is indeed a sea, being, after Our Lord
Himself, the basis and sustenance of the Christian world, a sea of
charity and love, a sea more solid and firm than that which sustained
the feet of St. Peter as he walked upon its surface. Her heart is an
mean more strong than the firmament itself, that sea of which St. John
speaks in the Apocalypse: "And in the sight of the throne was, as it
were, a sea of glass like to crystal; a sea of glass mingled with fire,
and them that had overcome the beast . . . standing on the sea of
glass, having the harps of God." (15)
Let us study the symbolism of the vision of the Evangelist. Glass is a
product which owes its clarity, shape and perfection to moulding in the
heat of intense fire. Similarly, the Heart of Mary was fashioned in the
all- consuming fire of the Blessed Trinity, the furnace of the Holy
Spirit, of which it is the most perfect work. Also, during her life on
earth, the heart of Mary was tempered, like glass, in the furnace of
St. John speaks of glass like to crystal, meaning glass that is both
transparent and shining, absorbing and radiating clear light, the most
vivid symbol of purity. The sea like unto crystal is the mean of Mary's
heart shining in its flawless purity. Glass made by man is dark in
darkness, needing light to be luminous, shining most brilliantly in the
direct brightness of the sun, reflecting the measure of light it
receives. Similarly, the admirable Heart of Mary absorbs and reflects
most marvellously the full celestial radiance of the Eternal Sun. She
is the sea of crystal "in the sight of the Throne" that is, directly
before the face of the Divine Majesty, her entire existence being to
receive and to reflect the image of God, not only as a sea but as a
St. John also speaks of the vision of a miracle, a sea mingled with
fire, and thus he explains the inspired words of the Canticle of
Canticles: "Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods
drown it." (16) These floods represent the torrent of sorrow that
engulfed the heart of Mary, the Beloved Spouse, particularly during the
Passion of her Divine Son. ". . . O Virgin daughter of Sion, great as
the sea is thy deep affliction." (17) Yet even the mean of sorrow did
not overwhelm the fire of love in the heart of Mary, but rather caused
its flames to glow more brightly.
The Evangelist envisions the saints standing upon the sea of crystal,
because their salvation has been founded upon Mary and they have chosen
to dwell with her Beloved Son. Because of her, they have won the grace
to chant forever the canticle of the Lamb, the hymn of praise, of joy,
of victory over evil; therefore they stand upon the sea of her heart,
O adorable Jesus, grant unto us that we may sing with Thee, with Thy
Mother most admirable, and with the entire company of the saints, this
miraculous canticle in praise of the adorable Heart of the Blessed
Trinity, which is the source of the countless wonders and perfections
enriching the heart of Mary, the ocean of grace and charity.
O Mary, thou sea of love unquenched by sorrow, behold my heart, the
least and smallest of all hearts, a mere drop of water seeking to unite
itself with thy vast ocean, to become lost in thy depths forever! O
Mary, Queen of all hearts consecrated to Jesus, look down upon the tiny
drop, my unworthy heart, offered to thee, to become merged forever in
the sea of thy glowing love! Mother of Mercy, thou seest us here below,
tossed upon a stormy sea of raging trial and temptation. In thy great
mercy, deign to be our strength, our guiding-star, our sustenance,
that, standing firm upon that crystal sea before the Throne, thy
Admirable Heart, which tempests cannot assail, we may sing without
fear: "Thy royal heart is our pure light, our refuge safe. Why should I
fear? Her goodness is firm support of our lives. Nothing can trouble
(1). In cap. 28 Act. Apost. homil.
(2). Incognitus, in PS. 71.
(3). Ps. 92, 4.
(5). Gen. 1, 9.
(6). Ibid. so.
(7). Caeteris per partes: Mariae vero simul se tota infundit pIenitudo
gratiae. Serm. de .assumpt. B. Mariae.
(8). Serm. 1, 46.
(9).Serm. de B. Virg.
(10).Eccles. 1, 7.
(11)Ecclus. 24, 25
(12). Serm. 5 de Nativ. B. Virg, cap. 12.
(13). Rom. 7, 4.
(14). Serm. de verb. Apoc, Signum magnum.
(15). Apoc. 4, 6 and 15, 2.
(16). Cant. 8, 7.
(17). Lm. 2, 13