By laudable custom, each time we enter a church building we take holy water from a place by the door and with it trace upon our bodies the sign of the life-giving cross. Two things are significant about this outwardly simple gesture. First, we do it to remind ourselves of the saving power of that cross; of the effects of the sacrifice of Christ on that cross which, through baptism—our own ritual cleansing with water—we have now inherited. Secondly, we make this act of reverence as we come into the church from the world. We move to the sacred from the profane, literally turning our backs on the world and orienting ourselves toward the dwelling-place of the Lord our God.
By this feast of the Most Sacred Heart the Church today draws us as individuals closer and closer to the person of Christ by acknowledging that his natural heart—the fleshy reality of the human organ—is itself intertwined with the supernatural reality of his divine and all-consuming love for us. By venerating sacred images of his wounded and flaming heart, and by our own desire to become one with the perfect fire of his charity which such images represent, we are presented with the opportunity to become more perfectly conformed to the Lord; united to his eternal sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in the presence of his everlasting Father.
This essential conformity to the heart of Christ is perhaps most clearly understood through the depiction of his heart burning with flames of fire. Far from being some overly-pious icon of sentimentality, such an image is a true sign of Christ’s all-consuming love; a love that invites us to join ourselves to those very flames in order that, one with his own holocaust offering of self-sacrifice, we may be entirely annihilated, that only he remains. Christ’s love for us—and indeed the love that is thus demanded of us for him—is that perfect sacrificial gift of the self for the other. So it is in the sacrifice of the person of Christ on the cross of Calvary that we catch the fullest glimpse of his supernatural love—of his Sacred Heart—a glimpse which is re-presented for us in the Eucharistic oblation.