The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a devotional name used to refer to the interior life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and perfections, her love for God, and her Divine Son and her compassionate love for mankind.
Mary’s heart is visible outside of her body. This points to her undying love for all people. Her love is such that she can not contain it within. Some artists choose to depict the Blessed Virgin carrying her heart in her hand, simply pointing with a finger to her heart, or with some blood dripping from it. The gesture suggests that Mary wants to give her heart to the contemplator.
Her heart is typically on fire, which emphasizes the intensity of her love.
Banded with White Roses
There are white roses that encircle her heart. These symbolize her purity, brought about by her Immaculate Conception, creating within her a most pure heart. In some cases her heart is also shown with a lily coming out of the top, emphasizing the same meaning.
Pierced with a Sword
A single sword is sometimes added going through her heart, referring to the passage of Luke (“a sword shall pierce…”) and brings to mind the sorrows she endured during her lifetime, especially during the crucifixion.
Traditionally, the heart is depicted pierced with seven wounds or swords, in homage to the seven dolors of Mary, which are:
The Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34–35)
The escape and Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:43–45)
The Meeting of Mary and Jesus on the Via Dolorosa.
The Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary. (John 19:25)
The Piercing of the Side of Jesus with a spear, and His Descent from the Cross. (Matthew 27:57–59)
The Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. (John 19:40–42)
Rays of Light
The heart is typically surrounded by rays of light. This brings to mind Revelation 12:1, where it describes the Blessed Virgin Mary as “a woman clothed with the sun.”
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