This concludes Alfred Delp’s prison memoirs on the devotion to the Sacred Heart, in particular the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He never finished the meditations on the invocations, because the 1st Sunday of Advent was presumably upon him. As a result, he switched his focus onto the meaning and portent of Advent. One can find his prison meditations on Advent here and here.
It has been a challenge to get into Delp’s heart and mind on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The roughness of his words were born and written in solitary confinement in an unheated prison cell. In some ways, Delp’s difficult message to a violent world is no different from his Protestant contemporary–Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
After this I will take a step back, go to Alfred Delp’s “earlier” Jesuit days, and translate his dairy while he underwent the Spiritual Exercises as a tertian. When Delp entered the last stage of Jesuit formation, the young priest rediscovered his love for the devotion of the Sacred Heart. An encounter that arguably prepared him for his arrest, imprisonment, and execution.
[translated from Alfred Delp: Gesammelte Schriften IV: Aus dem Gefängnis]
Berlin-Tegel Prison, late November 1944
The Heart of Jesus–Infinite Majesty
It suffices to continue what has been said earlier. The statement of this invocation is a kind of result of previous statements. By the same token, a breathing after the first astonishing encounter and an astonishing realization of the value, of the dignity, of the abundance what one has just met.
One has to, however, seriously received the words that are used and to let them be exactly as they are: maiestas infinita.
Maiestas is a relatively comparative word and means the superiority of that from which it is predicated, above all, with which it is compared. This is how the term majesty arose as the highest dignity and power in a place. To begin with, the word means a statement about being and only afterwards about the status, reputation and privileges.
When the word majesty became connected to hereditary there was nothing left other than to lose the grandeur and the dignity from the often miserable person and to have it declared to be a position, an office.
Here a statement of being is definitely meant. This loving heart has a limitless power of love because its reality is maiestas: elevated, superior to everything comparable, for this reason reverentially reserved and commanding of great silence.
Infinita: the comparative meaning is lifted to the absolute, the result of the previous predication on the ontological relationship at God. It is the heart of my God that beats here. Therefore maiestas, therefore infinita maiestas.
In light of this reality, religious talk falls silent which has so ruined the devotion to the Heart of Jesus adoration. The minimization and trivialization come to an end on their own, just like ordinary chatter on a real ascent to a mountain where the heights of the peak and the massive seriousness come before the soul. Silent prayer and devout distance are, despite all intimacy, particularly, when it comes to this prayer, the necessary attitudes.
Familiarity with God entails no lack of reverence. We are no longer familiar with the secret life of the devout. But the devout is the only true person. Only he is capable of the immense experiences and benefits of the human heart, of prayer and of love.
The kitschy nature, which annoys many a heart when it comes to the call of mercy in the message of the devotion to the Heart of Jesus obstructs the call of mercy and has ruined so many human echoes, stems from this lack of reverence.
The burning thorn bush in whose proximity one had to remove the shoes is the model and notion of what is meant here. Only those can speak to God who have been silent in front of him in devout genuflection of the Creator.*
*Here the writing terminates.