At a glance, it almost looks like a mirror image.
And that’s probably not by accident. In many traditional devotional images, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are paired together. In many instances—here is one example—Jesus and Mary are wearing nearly identical clothing and are both pointing to their hearts in similar fashion.
As Catholics, we grasp the association on an intuitive level. Just as the Sacred Heart is an emblem of Jesus’ love for us, so also Mary’s Immaculate Heart indicates her maternal love for us. That Jesus and Mary are always together is a conviction reflected in the titles of Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix and the dogma of the Assumption. The Son of God and His Mother are as inseparable as Adam and Eve.
But is the Immaculate Heart of Mary grounded in the gospels? Of course, it doesn’t have to be, but the question naturally arises because the Sacred Heart is most definitely biblical: Jesus was pierced through the side in such a way that theologians and other experts are certain that the spear penetrated all the way to His heart.
Mary is truly a mirror to Christ. So it would be most fitting if the Immaculate Heart was likewise rooted in Scripture. Here are four ways that it is.
1. Jesus took his flesh from Mary.
The doctrine of the Incarnation, which is certainly founded in Scripture, holds that Jesus drew His humanity from Mary. Because of this, the Church has always sensed—and more recently, in the nineteenth century, defined as a dogma—the truth that Mary’s humanity was free of the stain of sin from the moment of her conception. Like the purest white marble ready for a master sculptor, her humanity was immaculately preserved for her Son. Just as His body was fashioned out of hers, so also did His Sacred Heart came from her heart.
Put another way: the Sacred Heart could not be understood apart from the Immaculate Heart any more than Jesus’ humanity is conceivable without His mother.
2. Adam and Eve reversed.
In Mary and Jesus, the faults of Adam and Eve are repealed. This is achieved by repeating and reversing their story. In the first story, Eve was created out of Adam. In the second, Jesus assumed flesh within the womb of Mary. Now recall how Eve was made from Adam: a rib was taken from His side.
Some traditional commentators see significance in the fact that Eve’s source was near the heart of Adam. As one notes, “She was not made out of his head to surpass him, nor from his feet to be trampled on, but from his side to be equal to him, and near his heart to be dear to him.” Although Jesus’ developed naturally in the womb, the Immaculate Heart reminds us that spiritually his generation was similar to that of Eve’s in that it was out of faith and love for God that she assented to the work of the Holy Spirit.
3. The prophecy of Simeon.
In Luke 2:35, at the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Simeon delivers this prophecy to Mary: “And you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Some versions render the beginning of the Greek as also—as in, Mary will also be pierced. The also refers back to the previous half of the prophecy where Simeon says that Jesus will be a ‘sign of contradiction.’
We know from St. Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 1:23 that this is a biblical term for the crucifixion. So what Simeon is essentially saying is that Mary will participate in the crucifixion event. Just as the Sacred Heart was physically pierced, so also her Immaculate Heart was spiritually wounded. This is the reason the Immaculate Heart is often depicted with a sword slicing through it.
4. Mary pondered Christ’s activities in her heart.
Twice in Luke 2—after the visitation of the shepherds and the finding of Jesus in the temple—we are told that Mary ‘pondered these things in her heart.’ Her heart was thus not only a beacon for love. It also became a well of wisdom from which we can draw much knowledge. Later, in Luke 12:34, Jesus declares, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Mary pondered the truth of Jesus’ mission on earth. Her treasure was with Him and there her heart is as well: according to the dogma of the Assumption, at the end of her natural life, Mary was brought up to heaven to be with Jesus. This is the final reason we venerate the Immaculate Heart: it at present with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
O most pure heart of Mary, full of goodness, show your love towards us!