The heart is the universal symbol of love.
Devotion to the Heart of Jesus is a recognition of that love
so central to the Christian faith: "The Sacred Heart is…quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol
of that love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings without exception."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church §478). Yet Teresa Higginson's
great mission was to promote devotion to the Sacred Head of Our Lord as the Seat of Divine Wisdom, not as
a substitute for devotion to the Sacred Heart, but as its perfection. At first this sounds a little strange. It only
takes a little reflection, however, to recognise the extraordinary sense it makes; it is the head that controls
and directs the heart: wisdom guides love.
Origin of the Devotion
This is best given in Teresa's own words, written in obedience to her spiritual
director (her sentences are quite long!) It seems Lady Kerr's biography might be mistaken concerning the first revelation.
A schoolteacher friend, Margaret Ashworth, testifies to Teresa's describing the devotion for the first time in 1874 or 1875. However, an important spiritual experience occurred in the
little village school house at Neston, on the feast of the Sacred Heart 1879. Earlier in the day Teresa had felt a great sense
of unworthiness and humility until Our Lord had consoled her. Then towards evening she retired to her room in a deep recollection:
"I was considering the excessive love of the Sacred Heart
and offering to my Divine Spouse this same love to make amends for our coldness, and His constancy and infinite riches to
make up for our poverty and misery, when our divine Lord suddenly represented to me the Divinity as a very large bright crystal
stone in which all things are reflected or are, past present and to come, in such a manner that all things are present to
Him. This immense precious stone sent forth streams of richly coloured lights brighter beyond comparison than ten thousand
suns, which I understood represented the infinite attributes of God. This great jewel also seemed to be covered with innumerable
eyes which I understood represented the Wisdom and Knowledge of God….Our Blessed Lord showed me this Divine Wisdom
as the guiding power which regulated the motions and affections of the Sacred Heart, showing me that it had the same effect
and power over its least action, and raising it, as the sun draws up the vapour from the ocean. He gave me to understand that
an especial devotion and veneration should be paid to the Sacred Head of Our Lord as the Seat of divine Wisdom and guiding
power of the Sacred Heart, and so complete this heavenly devotion."
Most of the subsequent (and frequent) revelations took place in St Alexander's Church in Bootle (tragically destroyed in the Blitz, May 1941).
Teresa's writings abound with explanations of the devotion, referring to directions from Our Lord
or responding to questions from her spiritual directors (only a very small selection can be given here). More-often-than-not
her words take on the form of impromptu prayers. On April 27th 1880 she writes in a tone of triumph as though still
half rapt in ecstasy:
"Our divine Lord says
the time is at hand when the Wisdom of the Father shall be adored and the Love of God for man shall be revealed in the Light
which shineth in darkness and enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. It is the Will of our dear Blessed Lord that
His Sacred Head be adored as the Seat of Divine Wisdom: not the Sacred Head alone, (I mean as we worship His sacred hands
and feet) no, but the Head as the shrine of the powers of the Soul and the faculties of the Mind and in these the Wisdom which
guided every affection of the Sacred Heart and the motions of the whole Being of Jesus our Lord and God. It is not His divine
Will that the attributes or abstracts of the soul or mind, or that divine Wisdom which guided, governed and directed all in
Him (the God Man) should have a distinct worship, but that they should all be specially honoured and His sacred Head adored
as their Temple. And Our dear Blessed Lord has shown me too how the head is also the centre of all the senses of the body,
and that this devotion is the completion, not only of the devotion of the Sacred Heart, but the crowning and perfection of
all devotions….Our dear Blessed Lord did not positively state the precise time that this should be made a public devotion
but He gave me to understand that whoever should venerate His sacred Head in this manner should draw down on themselves the
choicest gifts of Heaven."
"As I told
you our dear B. lord expressly asked me to tell you from Him that He wished His most Sacred Head to be publicly worshipped
and honoured as the Seat of Divine Wisdom, and said too that the Friday, octave day of the feast of the Sacred Heart, should
be dedicated as a festival day in its honour, and special reparation and atonement be then offered to Him."
Promises for those who honour the Sacred
June 15th 1880 she writes: "Our dear B. lord showed me the great glory that would be given to the adorable
Trinity and to His sacred Humanity through this devotion."
September 10th 1880: "….And He gave me to understand that He would crown with a peculiar glory all
those who furthered this Devotion. He would clothe with glory before angels and men in the courts of heaven those who clothed
Him in glory on earth and would crown them in everlasting bliss. I saw the glory prepared for three of four concerned therein
and I was amazed at the greatness of their reward for I felt that our B. Lord and His holy Mother considered this homage to
wipe out the outrage offered to the most wise and holy God when He was crowned and mocked in derision and scorn and clothed
as a fool. It would seem that now those thorns would blossom, I mean that He would wish now to be crowned and acknowledged
as the Wisdom of the Father, the true King of Kings."
For a time of intellectual crisis in the Church
showed me how man outrages the divine Wisdom by the abuse of the three powers of His immortal soul and by his sins - stamps
out as far as he can the image of the triune God in himself and by mad folly tries also to rob nature of its God… …
Man too darkens his understanding by his infidelity. Take away the sun and we cannot have light or heat. Take away faith which
is the light of the soul and all is decay and desolation, if we have not faith we cannot serve or love God… …
It is worldly wisdom which is folly that is drawing down souls into an abyss of darkness which is Hell, and as of old when
the heart of man set his affections against God, the Sacred Heart of Jesus really human yet divine, because (united to the
Person of God the Son) belonging to God the Son made Man, was the atoning object and Jesus revealed the burning love of His
Sacred Heart and complained of man's coldness and demanded a reparation and condolence, and souls were warmed in that furnace
of divine love and souls burnt again with charity towards the God of Love - now too when infidelity and pride of intellect
and open rebellion against God and His revealed law, self will and self-conceit is filling the minds of men and drawing them
away from the sweet yoke of Jesus and binding them with the cold heavy chains of self-seeking, private judgment, and abandoning
all right to be governed and wishing to govern oneself, disobedience to God and His holy Church - that same Jesus the incarnate
Word, the Wisdom of the Father who became obedient even unto the death of the cross, again gives us an antidote, an object
which can and does, and will in every way make up and repays a hundredfold the debt that is contracted to the infinite justice
Conversion of England
The Ascension 1881:
"When I knelt to adore the thrice Blessed Trinity for all the glory of the sacred
Humanity, I was caught up as it were and dissolved in the excessive heat and glory of the Sun of divine Justice, and I heard
sounds of praise and songs of joy in the heavens which echoed and re-echoed from the earth, and they were hymns of thanksgiving
and adoration of the Seat of divine Wisdom. Then I saw reflected in the large crystal the glory which the ever blessed Trinity
would receive from the devotion to the Sacred Head and the numberless souls that would be guided by its light to the bosom
of the true Church and eventually to the throne of God. I understand too that this should be the one great means of the conversion
of poor dear England, and that it was not far distant when she would bow her understanding to the obedience of faith and repair
in some manner through this devotion the great evil of her apostasy, and that Mary's name and Mary's Son should be more honoured
than ever they had been dishonoured by our people."
"He urged me to pray
for true light, faith and wisdom for all especially heretics and poor sinners, and made me feel that the people of our dear
land should shine in the brightness of this true light and bring back more souls through this devotion than they had scattered
through the darkness of their infidelity. And it seemed to me that Mary prayed with me and reminded Him her Divine Son that
this England is called her Dower and He filled her hands with graces and blessing for us and a new glory as it were shone
around her, the reflection of the glory that surrounds the Seat of Divine Wisdom."