Even though the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was instituted for the universal Church relatively recently (1944), this devotion has a long history in the Church, going back to Scripture itself.
We read about the Heart of Our Lady three times in the Gospels. All three instances are contained in the second chapter of Luke, which—of the four Gospels—gives us the most detail about Our Lady and the early life of Our Lord.
The first reference is in Luke’s narrative of Our Lord’s Nativity. The Evangelist speaks of the adoration of the shepherds and their marvelous testimony of the angelic message they had received:
…and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2:18-19).
We hear similar language further on, after Our Lady and St. Joseph find the Child Jesus in the Temple:
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51).
These simple statements from St. Luke offer us deep insight into Our Lady’s interior life and her continual spirit of contemplation.
The final passage we’ll examine describes the prophecy of Simeon when the Holy Family comes to the Temple to present Jesus to His Father forty days after His birth. While the word is usually translated “soul” rather than “heart,” it’s the same idea.
Simeon says to Mary:
“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
In this passage we can see the basis for the traditional depiction of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, with the sword piercing it. Both the prophecy of Simeon and the Crucifixion—where this prophecy was most fully realized, where this sword was at its sharpest and most painful—are counted among Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows.
Interestingly, St. Joseph is present at all three of these instances. His heart, too, kept all these things, and we often honor the three Hearts of the Holy Family together, united as they are in charity. Honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Chaste Heart of St. Joseph with our new Three Hearts Framed Print. Designed and produced right here at The Catholic Company, this beautiful, vintage-style image is the perfect way to honor these Hearts. Available today at The Catholic Company!