Devotion to the Sacred Heart in non-Roman Catholic Traditions

Whilst devotion to the ‘Sacred Heart’ might be regarded as something only for Roman Catholics it’s clear that much of the evangelical devotional imperative is rooted in a deep and passionate love for Jesus who is one with the Father (cf. John 10: 30).  He invites us, his disciples, to live in ever closer union with him and to model our lives on him and his teaching.  It was as a consequence of John Wesley’s heart being “deeply warmed” when he heard Luther’s Preface to the Letter to the Romans describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ, that the 18th cent. Evangelical Revival could be said to have blossomed.  Christianity, to Wesley, concerns: “the loving God with all our heart (sic), and our neighbours as ourselves, and in that love abstaining from all evil, and doing all possible good to all men.”

In his book The Sacred Heart of the World: Restoring Mystical Devotion to Our Spiritual Life 1 David Richo writes: ‘Devotion to the Sacred Hearty of Jesus is not limited to Catholicism.  There have been books and references to the Heart of Jesus in other Christian traditions.  In 1842 the Puritan Thomas Goodwin published a book about the Sacred Heart that was reprinted by John Wesley in 1819.  Jacob Boehme (d.1624), a Lutheran mystic, wrote in his Confessions: ‘The transformation is of this world.  It is not an ascent into another world … The true heaven is everywhere, even where you stand and where you go…  This world, in its inner core, unfolds its properties and its powers in union with heaven aloft and so there is one Heart, one Being, one will, one God all in all.”

The Anglican Neoplatonist and mystic, Thomas Traherne (d.1674) describes this magnificent vision: ‘At his cross we enter the heart of the universe. .. All the desire wherewith he longs after a returning sinner, makes Him esteem a broken heart … His heart is always abroad in the midst of the earth, seeing and rejoicing in His wonders there … In all thy keeping, keep thy heart, for out of it comes the issues of life and death.”

Poets access and express mystical themes in their love poetry  and … so many of the mystical revelations speak of experiences that resemble human physical love.  There is, indeed, no distinction of loves in true spirituality.  Notice the theme of the exchange of hearts in love poetry.  For instance, Sir Philip Sydney in the sixteenth century wrote:

My true-love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a bargain better driven.
His heart in me keeps me and him in one;
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own;
I cherish his because in me it bides.
His heart his wound received from my sight;
My heart was wounded with his wounded heart;
For as from me on him his hurt did light,
So still, methought, in me his hurt did smart:
Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss,
My true love hath my heart and I have his. 

In our own modern times we read in e.e.cummings:

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
My heart) I am never without it…’

1 From: The Sacred Heart of the World: Restoring Mystical Devotion to Our Spiritual Life

By David Richo.  Paulist Press. 2016