Saturday, 8 June 2013

Filipino hymn to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

This is one of those rare occasions when the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ falls on the First Friday of the month of June. Eschewing the risk of being redundant, let us point out the two remarkable things in this occurrence. First, it falls on a first Friday. The Feast always falls on a Friday, since Pope Clement XIII decreed that it be celebrated on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christ. On the First Friday of each month, when the Votive Mass in Its honour is celebrated, devotees of the Sacred Heart traditionally received Communion. Second, it falls in the month of June, the traditional month of the Sacred Heart. Last year, the feast fell on the third Friday of June. Next year, it will fall on the last Friday of June. The earliest possible date for the Feast is 29 May. 

Brief history
Humble beginnings

Vision del Cuore di Gesù di Margherita Maria Alacoque
Antonio Ciseri

The first Mass in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated on Wednesday, 31 August 1672, in the Grand Séminaire de Rennes, through the labours of Saint John Eudes, who himself composed its Mass and Office (which would not be replaced until the 29 June 1929 decree Urbis et Orbis of the Sacred Congregation of Rites), impelled by the private revelations of Christ to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, propagated by Saint Claude de la Colombière and his fellow Jesuits.

After almost a hundred years later, the Feast was finally established on 26 January 1765 when Pope Clement XIII acceded to the opinion of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, having received the petition of the venerable Bishops of Poland to institute a feast in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Congregation published the decree on 6 February 1765.

On 11 May of that year, the Pope extended the Feast to the Visitandine sisters, with a decree dated 10 July 1765.

Champions and enemies
The devotion found its greatest propagators amongst the Jesuits, who at that time also advocated frequent Communion, something which the Jansenists, who in their theological proclivities were the antithesis of the Jesuits, fervently opposed. The Jansenists, as a consequence, condemned the devotion to Sacred Heart, under the belief that it disjoined the hypostatic union in favour of venerating a physical part of Christ. Jansenism and Gallicanism were two schools in vogue in Europe in that century, and both had earned varying levels of reproof from the Apostolic See, culminating to their outright proscription and condemnation as heresies.

The Synod of Pistoia convoked by Scipione de’ Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia and Prato, at the instigation of the Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, himself a Regalist, with the purpose of reforming the Tuscan Church, from 18 to 28 September 1786, was the single greatest attempt in Europe to impose the tenets of Jansenism and Gallicanism upon Holy Mother Church. Amongst the many victims of this condemned synod was the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and its devotees, a natural consequence owing to the aversion of Jansenism to the devotion championed by the Jesuits.

In his pastoral instruction sent to his clergy on 3 July 1781, de’ Ricci made scathing remarks on the devotion and the devotees, which earned him the mild censure of Rome. He made a protestation to the Duke of Tuscany, who wasted no breath to defend the bishop. Rome replied with another mild censure, but de’ Ricci apparently did not learn from it. We reproduce below his vitriolic words against the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

We must note that he is opposing the devotion to the physical Heart of Christ under the wrong notion that it dichotomises and eventually separates the natures of the Second Person. The entire synod, its acts and decrees as published in the Atti e decreti del concilio diocesano di Pistoja dell’anno M DCC LXXXVI, including the abovequoted pastoral letter of de’ Ricci, were eventually and finally condemned by the Bull Auctorem fidei, issued by Pope Pius VI on 28 August 1794. The specific condemnation meted out to the pastoral letter is given below.

Extension to the universal Church
It would take almost a century after the institution of the Feast for it to be extended to the universal Church. With a decree Urbis et Orbis by the Congregation of Sacred Rites dated 23 August 1856, Pope Pius IX inscribed the Feast in the universal calendar.

On 29 January 1929, Pope Pius XI raised the rank of the Feast to duplex I. classis cum Octava privilegiata III. ordinis through a decree Urbis et Orbis from the Congregation of Sacred Rites, replacing the previous Mass and Office granted to Poland and to other countries.

[Erratum: C. Card. LATJBENTI should read C. Card. LAURENTI.]

Filipino devotion

Sacred Heart of Jesus venerated
in the Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

In the course of the centuries, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus grew and spread throughout the globe that by far it is placed amongst the most practiced devotions in Christendom, having been particularly strong in post-Revolution France, in Spain and her colonies, and in other parts of Europe. The Filipino devotion to the Sacred Heart was nurtured and nourished by the Jesuits, in whose Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Walled City was enshrined the most famous and most venerated of images of the Sacred Heart. (When the Americans liberated Manila, the Jesuit church was reduced to ashes, and with it the image of the Sacred Heart.)

Side altar of the Sacred Heart
with the same image above in the same church

But such catastrophe of near-apocalyptic magnitude could not even shake the Philippines from her adhesion to the Sacred Heart. Such special devotion, whose ultimate purpose is the worship of the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, and which had moved the Lord to shower the Filipino Nation with blessings both in the spiritual and in the temporal, rings out in the most important and most beloved summary of the love of the Philippines for the Lord, the Himno al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, more popularly and devotedly known as No más amor que el tuyo. Here is a recording of the said hymn by Don Guillermo Gómez Rivera with the same trio, Los tres corazones. 

The poem from which the lyrics were taken was penned by another eminent Filipino poet in Spanish Manuel Bernabé, known for having poetically duelled in Spanish with another poet, Jesús Balmorí, on the issue of recuerdo  and olvido, in a literary form known in Filipino as bátutián (named Huséng Batutè, by which name the poet José Corazón de Jesús signed his works). Bernabé wrote a coro and two estrofas, but only the coro and the first estrofa were absorbed in full into the hymn. The second estrofa was rewritten in its entirety that very little of poem can be read through it.

The melody of the hymn was composed by Maestro Simeón Resurrección, a Filipino composer and music teacher who taught at the Ateneo de Manila, and who also penned music for zarzuela pieces. One of her daughters donated the original sheet music of the hymn to the deceased Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Sin, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.

Below is the original poem written by Manuel Bernabé:

And below is the lyrics of the hymn with the altered second verse: 


The refrain wastes no time in heaping unto the Sacred Heart the greatest of praises. In eight Spanish words, Bernabé declares the love of the Sacred Heart as the most sublime and the greatest of all love. With their tongues, all people, who had already consecrated their hearts to Him, shall invoke the Sacred Heart in both church and home. So professed and cherished is the Sacred Heart that without doubt It shall reign without interruption from the northernmost of the archipelago to its southernmost point, de Aparri hasta Joló, a phrase that Eat Bulaga! uses in its introductory song in Tagalog as mulâ Aparri hanggáng Joló.

[Note: The geographical northernmost point of the Philippines is Mavudis (Yami) Island, Itbayat, Batanes, located between the coordinates 21° 07′ N 121° 57′ E, while the geographical southernmost point is Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi, located between the coordinates 4° 24′ N 119° 14′ E. The choice for Aparri and Joló is apparently poetic, because the particle de easily merges with the first syllable of Aparri, and Joló is a two-syllable palabra aguda, as opposed to Tawi-Tawi being a four-syllable palabra llana.]

The first verse speaks of great hope and expectation, ha tiempo que esperamos, for the empire of Christ in the Orient. Consider the duration: ha tiempo— it is not numbered, not a decade, not a score, not a century, not a millennium, not even a lifetime. This conveys a sense of infinity, of timelessness, that no matter how long the wait is, the Filipino Nation wills to wait. The faith, which sustains this unbounded steadfastness, is compared to the sun (burning, ardent), to the rock (firm, unshakeable), and to the sea (immense, profound), all of which are important Catholic symbols. These are qualities that we easily understand as they are tactile and perceivable and dimensional. We feel the warmth of the sun, test the hardness of the rock, and marvel at the vastness of the sea.

German processional banner of the Sacred Heart

In so large a space, physical in the first half, and then converted to the spiritual in the other, occupied by the Divine Love of Christ, inhabited by His immeasurable charity, how could evil establish its dominion? Thus, we boldly proclaim that iniquity can never be the mistress of these Islands. For against these diabolic assaults, there stand upon the pinnacles of our mountains the great heavenly banners, the great hallowed gonfalons, of Christ, a collective testament to the kingship of Christ over these Islands, that the gates of Hell cannot prevail.

The original second stanza from the poem bears a striking resemblance to the gozos of the novena of the Santísimo Nombre del Niño Jesús de Cebú, and is, in fact, speaking more of the Holy Child, tus glorias desde niño, and the Holy Name, tu nombre venerando. The most visible motif found in both this stanza and the gozos is the imán or magnet.

This stanza talks of the Name of Jesus as más fuerte que el imán, stronger than the magnet. It therefore is capable of drawing people unto Its protection more than any other physical phenomena. The copla of the gozos of the Holy Child of Cebu begins with batobalanì sa gugma, magnet of love. He is the supreme magnet, superior even to the strongest gravitational pull, a manifestation of God’s infinite charity and immeasurable generosity, His mercy and His justice. The verse praises the Holy Name as the most worthy first sound that an infant should learn and the last groan that a dying man should expel. In other words, the worship of God spans our life from womb to tomb.

The Holy Child of Cebu

Between natural life and natural death, it is our supreme duty to imitate Christ, making our home a reflection of His life, with the wife teaching her husband the love for the Lord, and teaching their children His glories. The woman symbolises the Church in Her teaching ministry, converting hearts, and cultivating minds towards the worship of the Triune God.

The second verse of the hymn is composed of impetrations to the Sacred Heart: protection of the home and blessing of the Filipino people for its supreme good. It is visible that the cause of this protection should be the consecration of the home to the Sacred Heart, and of this blessing the devotion to the Sacred Heart, especially on the first Friday of each month. The mantle of Christ, of His theandric love, enshrouds the ancestral home, la casa solariega, the natural locus of the extended family, where the patriarch and the matriarch receive the filial piety of their children and grandchildren, united as one in their devotion to the Sacred Heart. And as the fundamental unit of Filipino society, it is in la casa solariega, wherein the Sacred Heart of Christ is devoutly enthroned, where the blessing of the Filipino Nation should begin.

In the latter half of the verse, we encounter an illustration of orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Sacred Tradition is here described as an ark, el arca de nuestras tradiciones, recalling the vessel in which God, in His justice and mercy, spared Abraham from the Deluge. In calling Tradition an ark, the verse rightly states that it is the vessel by which we shall be also preserved from the shipwreck of the world, steeped in vice and modern compromises and errors. Note that the ark is neither still being built nor is already built but stationary; it is already floating, mientras flota el arca. For while Tradition is kept, the Sacred Heart of Jesus shall reign within our hearts and His glories shall spread throughout the Islands.

In a letter sent by the Episcopal Commission of the Philippines, then presided by His Eminence Julio Cardinal Rosales of Cebu, concerning the preparations for the Second National Eucharistic Congress of the Philippines, held in Manila from 28 November to 12 December 1956, on the occasion of the centenary of the extension of the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart to the universal Church, we read this endeared quotation from the hymn:

Esta carrera triunfal del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús también ha recorrido las Islas Filipinas, de Aparri hasta Joló. La Jerarquía Católica desea reconocerlo con un público homenaje y por medio de la presente Carta anuncia la próxima celebración del Segundo Congreso Eucarístico Nacional en Manila durante los días 28 de noviembre a 12 de diciembre de este año de 1956 para conmemorar el centenario del establecimiento de la fiesta del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. Obedeciendo a las recientes exhortaciones de nuestro santo Padre nuestro programa ha de ser trabajar para conseguir un MUNDO MEJOR POR MEDIO DEL CORAZÓN EUCARÍSTICO DE JESÚS. 
Just as the devotion spread to the most extreme points of the Philippines, so shall It continue enwrap the world in Its burning love.

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