Fourth Conference on the Most Sacred Heart
Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer
We have now learned that the reason we know and love the Sacred Heart of our Lord in a special manner is because the heart is the seat of His human love and the symbol of His divine love. To study the Sacred Heart of Jesus is, therefore, to study His love. The devotion to the Sacred Heart is a devotion to love and a devotion of love; consequently, the theology of the Sacred Heart is the theology of love: in other words, the love of Jesus as manifested in Creation, in the Incarnation, in the Passion, and in the Blessed Eucharist, becomes the subject of our study and meditation, when we aim at understanding the Heart of the Man-God.
But all love presupposes knowledge. We cannot love what we do not know. We cannot love intensely what we do not know intimately. Nor can we wish the good of a friend whom we do not in some measure know and appreciate. Hence, Christ's love presupposes science, knowledge of those He loves, and a knowledge of the good He wishes them to possess, as also of the evil from which He desires to save them. We will, then, as a last preliminary to the study of the love of the Sacred Heart, endeavor to obtain a clear idea of its knowledge.
The knowledge of Jesus, coming from four sources, is fourfold. He is God, equal to the Father and to the Holy Ghost, He is in fact the Word, that is, the living expression of the knowledge of the Father; consequently, He possesses an infinite, divine knowledge. But He is also man. As man, from the very moment of His conception, His human soul enjoyed what the blessed enjoy in Heaven, namely, the vision of God; it follows that He has the knowledge of what is called the Beatific Vision. As man, from the first moment of the creation of His soul, knowledge was infused into Him, just as it had been infused into Adam, and just as, to a certain degree, it was infused into the prophets and into St. John the Baptist while yet in his mother's womb. Thus, He has an infused knowledge. Finally, as man, He has all that knowledge which He acquired as other men, from seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking and suffering. We see, then, that Jesus has a fourfold knowledge: a divine knowledge, a beatific knowledge, an infused knowledge and an acquired knowledge. Each deserves a brief explanation. Let us begin with the last.
First, He has acquired knowledge. He knew all those things which man, by force of his natural reason, can master. We learn from one another, we are taught by preceptors, we instruct ourselves by reading books, we reason and deduce one truth from another; if we be learned men and studious, or possess natural genius, we penetrate into the secrets of nature, and may possibly surpass the great minds that have preceded us in the walks of science. But our Lord did not learn precisely in this way; He never went to school, nor did He read books to study, nor was He taught even by angels, much less by men. Yet He exercised His intellectual powers after the manner of rational beings. He did not see with His bodily eyes all sensible objects, nor was He in every place by His human presence, still through the medium of His sense perceptions, He drew unerring conclusions by the strength and energy of His natural intelligence. In a word, as St. Thomas says, whatever can be acquired by the natural powers of the mind, all that our Lord did acquire without being taught, by the natural power of His human intellect. Therefore, all that which the greatest philosophers, astronomers, geologists, scientists, physicians, philologists, historians, etc., can ever learn by research and study, He knew by the force of His own reason. Again, all that from which man can suffer in soul, as trials, temptations, afflictions, agonies, despair, etc., all these He knew. Not that He underwent every kind of temptation and every species of trial. He never, for example, permitted a temptation against the angelic virtue to approach Him, but, as Holy Scripture expresses it, "He learned by the things which He suffered."
Secondly, our Lord has an infused knowledge. There are many truths which the human mind, however strong and penetrating it may be, can never even suspect unless it be inspired from above, or be supernaturally taught and assisted. Such truths are, for instance, the mysteries of Faith, as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Grace, etc., or visions into the future. No human genius can infallibly know what is to come; none could have foretold the Resurrection of the Messiah, the establishment of the Church, and the persecutions assailing it. The human mind is so weak that, without Revelation, it can scarcely establish its own immortality. Now, besides the knowledge of those things which the human intellect can possibly acquire by its own efforts, our Lord had a knowledge of all things and all beings, natural and supernatural; and that knowledge was, of course, infused into His soul, for it could not be acquired naturally. By reason of this infused knowledge, He knew every truth and every mystery that had ever been revealed to man; He knew the past, the present, and the future; He knew every angel in heaven, and every man on earth; He knew every creature, animate or inanimate, that had proceeded from the hands of God, or would yet be called into existence. He knew all that would happen to the Church and to souls till the end of the world; He knew the temptations, the trials, the sins, the virtues, the thoughts and desires, the eternal salvation or perdition of each one of us: all was unfolded before Him, heaven, earth and hell, from the beginning of time, till eternity neverending. Such was His infused knowledge.
Thirdly, He had what may be called beatific knowledge, or the knowledge obtained by the Beatific Vision. What is meant by the Beatific Vision? It is the seeing of God face to face in Heaven. We cannot see God at present; we know that He exists, we may feel at times His presence, still we never behold Him. Even after death we cannot see Him, not even an angel can naturally see Him. It is true that the blessed in Heaven see Him as really and as substantially, face to face, as we see one another, but they behold Him thus because their souls are illumined and strengthened by some special gift, which gift theologians call the light of glory. When a soul is admitted into Heaven, the light of glory first penetrates, enlightens, raises and fortifies it, and then only can it behold God as He is, just as light must enter a room before anything within becomes visible to us. In thus beholding Him, it beholds in Him, as in a mirror, an immense number of truths and existences, possible and actual. It does not see all things, for then it would comprehend God, and that is impossible, nor does it perceive truths in God with a clearness of vision equal to that possessed by every other soul, for then all would be equally happy. On earth, one mind knows more and understands more fully than another; in Heaven, also, one sees more in God and of God than does another, and what it sees it understands more clearly than another. Now, our Lord's human soul, even on earth, before His death, was enlightened, penetrated and fortified by this light of glory. Continually, even in sleep, it beheld, face to face, the Blessed Trinity, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and in thus beholding God, it saw in Him all realities, all that was, and is, and shall be, and what it saw in Him, it saw with an all-pervading vividness and not only in general, as it were, but in particular: each fact, each existence, each event stood unveiled before Him with all its intense individuality. In a word, it saw all things as God sees them. It is true that, by infused knowledge, He knew already all realities, all things existing, the past, the present, and the future; yet He knew these things as man knows them. But by the Beatific Vision He saw and knew all these things as God sees and knows them; therefore,may we not believe that He saw them with still greater comprehensiveness and intenser distinctness? For it is well said: "All other science, whatever its excellence, is unreal, superficial, shadowy, compared to the science of the Beatific Vision."
Finally, our Lord had divine knowledge, for He is God, He is the Eternal Word of the Father, He is, as St. Paul says, the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance; in Him all things were created in Heaven and on earth, and without Him was made nothing that was made. In Him is all light, all truth. He is God of God, light of light, truth of truth. He is, in fact, the knowledge of the Father. When we think of ourselves, we beget an idea, a thought in our minds. This idea is in us, not the mind itself; it is not a substance, it is only a form, an accident in the mind. God the Father, in thinking of Himself, of His being, also begets an idea, a thought, but in Him this idea is a substance, not a mere form, as in us, and this substance is His Son, so that in very deed, the Son is the living knowledge of the Father, He is truth itself. "O! the depth of the riches of His wisdom and of His knowledge." "O Lord! Thou knowest all things." "Let then our hearts be comforted, for in charity instructed, we know that all the riches and all the fullness of the knowledge of all the mysteries are possessed by the Heart that loves us!"
How sweet, when kneeling before the Tabernacle, to say to ourselves: He knows all - all my miseries, my failings, my trials, my sufferings, my sorrows and my desires, He can do all things, and He loves me!