by Monseigneur Bougaud, 1890
The first of the three revelations took place, no one can doubt, on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, December 27, 1673. It was the same day on which, three hundred and fifty-three years before, St. Gertrude had learned in a vision that if the well-beloved disciple had said nothing of the sacred pulsations of the Sacred Heart, it was because God reserved to Himself to speak of them at a time in which the world would begin to grow cold. The day could not have been better chosen for this revelation. We have the account of it written by Margaret Mary. She gives us the whole scene to the life.
"Once," said she, "being before the Blessed Sacrament and having a little more leisure than usual, I felt wholly filled with this Divine Presence, and so powerfully moved by it that I forgot myself and the place in which I was. I abandoned myself to this Divine Spirit, and yielded my heart to the power of His love. He, made me rest for a long time on His divine breast, where He discovered to me the wonders of His love and the inexplicable secrets of His Sacred Heart, which He had hitherto kept hidden from me. Now He opened it to me for the first time, but in a way so real, so sensible, that it left me no room to doubt, though I am always in dread of deceiving myself."'
We see it was "the first time" that the Lord showed His Heart to Margaret; until then "He had always kept it hidden." And such is the character of this apparition, and the impression that she receives from it, that the humble virgin, ordinarily so timid, so distrustful of self, "could conceive no doubt of it."
Jesus had then spoken; and "This," adds Margaret, "as it seems to me, is what passed: The Lord said to me, 'My Divine Heart is so passionately in love with men that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its ardent charity. It must pour them out by thy means, and manifest itself to them to enrich them with its precious treasures, which contain all the graces of which they have need to be saved from perdition.' He added: 'I have chosen thee as an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance to accomplish so great a design, so that all may be done by Me.'"
Thus, according to the conditions of this first revelation, the new devotion was going to be the grand effort of the Heart of Jesus, "passionately in love with men," and wishing at any cost to draw them from the abyss of perdition. Until then ordinary means had sufficed. But in the sad state in which the world was, Jesus could no longer "contain the flames of this burning charity in His Heart," which wished to save all men. His pierced side opened, and His Heart longed to come forth. It had as yet only shown itself in cloisters and to chosen souls, and in showing it to them had made them faint from love. But now it wished to show itself to the multitude, and try whether, in revealing the hidden secrets of love, it might succeed in melting the ice that was being heaped up in the midst of Christian people. Such was the sense of the first apparition. --page 164-165
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