Devotion to the Heart of Mary goes back centuries, probably to the middle ages, becoming widely popularized by the preaching of St Bernard of Clairvaux. In the 17th century St. Jean Eudes compiled enough research and writings to get permission for adding special proper prayers for Mass and the Divine Office commemorating the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Not long after, St. Catherine Labore had visions of Jesus and Mary, in which she was given the images for the Miraculous Medal. On this medal, the Hearts of Jesus and Mary were shown side by side, each bearing symbolism. Since then, images including the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate heart of Mary have become very popular, as well as devotions to them. In Fatima, Our Lady made specific mention of consecration to her Immaculate heart, and Jesus told Sr. Lucia that reparations needed to be made for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The image shows the Blessed mother, heart exposed… She is holding lilies, which most likely makes reference to her ever-virginity. There is another single lily on top of her heart. This probably makes reference to her heart being Immaculate, and a reference to her Immaculate Conception. However, it can also be interpreted that this lily represents Christ, coming forth from the fire of her love, conceived and birthed in her virginity.
The sword is shown piercing her heart, which recalls the prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple in Luke 2:35. The fire represents the burning love of the Blessed Mother for Jesus her Son.
The five roses set this image apart from many others… Most images of the Immaculate heart show seven wounds, seven thorns, or seven roses, in honor of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. This one shows five. This very likely represents the five wounds of Christ, which would have fulfilled Simeon’s prophecy that Mary would suffer so that the hearts of many could be changed. The number five is very significant in reference to the Immaculate heart of Mary: Jesus told Sr Lucia of Fatima that there were five sins against Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and the reparation requested was Mass and Confession on five consecutive Saturdays.
This image is deeply moving and beautiful. Mary is depicted as quite youthful. In contrast to other Immaculate Heart images, Mary is not holding her heart in her hand, but rather pulling back her outer cloak to reveal her heart in a posture which is far more vulnerable and humble.
Please also check out the companion Sacred Heart of Jesus Image!