The Theology of the Heart of Jesus


On November 17, 1944, Alfred Delp wrote to a friend that he would like to write something cohesive. Yet he was afraid that his bound hands would not offer him the endurance to write anything more than just letters. Gradually he learned to write sustained reflections with his bound hands.

The English speaking world is relatively familiar with Delp’s prison reflections on Advent. Yet he left behind a series of reflections on the devotion to the Heart of Jesus, which, if I am not mistaken, has not yet been published in English.

Delp’s biographer, Fr. Roman Bleisten, SJ, describes these particular reflections to be a rescue (“a yanking out” would be a more accurate translation) from the kitsch that has invaded the devotion. In Delp’s treatment the devotion to the Heart of Jesus becomes concretely and existentially actualized.

Before Delp delves into his “prayer” on the Heart of Jesus, he provides a theological ground. Here is the first 1/3 of the “Theology of the Heart of Jesus.”

[The translation is taken from Alfred Delp: Gesammelte Schriften: IV: Aus dem Gefängnis.]

Berlin-Tegel Prison

Among several points of view, one can contemplate the emergence, the meaning, and the nature of the devotion to the heart of Jesus. A theological view of this devotion as well as a history of religious piety has often been overlooked.

Above all else, however, there is a theological reflection and historical assessment of this inner-church event: it gauges God’s action for the salvation of humankind, yes, if God would have intervened for the salvation of humankind amidst their current crisis.

One must soberly and fairly evaluate the adoration of the sacred heart of Jesus: what God has authentically inspired in and through the Church, and not what has been made into an ignorant devotion.

Yet, this is one of the great follies, which we have done today, that we abandon many decisions, judgments, attitudes, and achievements to the clueless—pious and non-pious. As a consequence, spiritual fertile insights are not given their authentic meaning and brought to historical effectiveness.

One must unfold only once the evaluation of the above-mentioned three points and query their inner content, in order to see what spiritual and religious inspiration and liberation through the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can and could be.

The theological treatment of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will certainly notice that devotion to the Heart of Jesus has always been practiced in the Church, and that it is also a typical German devotion…

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a manifestation of the mystical friendship with the Lord to a collection of like-minded frail souls and hearts dedicated to Him, in a sense of that last invocation in the litany of the Heart of Jesus. Yet it is ultimately a matter of God’s offer of mercy and redemption to a species threatened by its very self in their cry of fear, destitution, and forsakenness.

[to be continued…]

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