Reparation to the Sacred Heart
Fr. Raoul Plus, S. J.


Section II: The Doctrine of Reparation

2. Our Lord's Reparation
IN the question of our Lord's reparation there are five points to be dealt with:

Reparation and sin.
The morality of reparation.
The reparation of Christ.
Why not a free pardon?
Why the Cross?


Reparation is necessary only because of sin; and because in sin there are two elements there will be two elements in reparation.

Every sin consists in some inordinate pleasure which is indulged in against the law of God. In sin there is pleasure and disobedience: forbidden pleasure, and violation of God's command. Evidently, therefore, to wipe out sin there must be something to counterbalance the forbidden pleasure, and something to compensate for the offence committed against God. Hence the two elements: pain and repentance. The former without the latter would be simply an affliction devoid of any moral significance. It is repentance that gives to suffering its true value, which consists in its being willingly and heartily accepted.

Had there been no sin, there would be no reason for the virtue of penitence; there would be question only of the virtue of temperance, understood in a broad sense as the virtue that regulates our appetites and desires. But sin happened, man's will deviated from the straight path, indulged in a pleasure to which it had no right, and so offended the sovereign will of God. The equilibrium of a pendulum requires an equal swing in either direction; so in the moral order; since in the disorder of sin there are two elements (forbidden pleasure and offence against God) there will be two elements in the process necessary to establish moral equilibrium. And as the essential part of sin lies in the offence, the disobedience to God, the evil consent of the will, so the essential element in reparation will be in the change of heart, in the sorrow for the offence. Punishment alone might expiate the forbidden pleasure; but if the heart is not changed and does not accept the punishment willingly, this material expiation which is called for by the very order of things, would have no moral significance, and sin would remain. This is exactly what happens in the case of the damned in Hell. Why is it that Hell, which is a place of penal expiation, is not a place of true and meritorious reparation? Because the pains of Hell, being undergone by constraint and not in a spirit of repentance and love, do not justify the sinner. For the soul of the damned, since his will is rooted in evil, reparation will never begin, and it is in this sense that when it crossed Hell's threshold, it left all hope behind.

Thus certain terms are elucidated. The punishment that is undergone to compensate for the forbidden pleasure is called expiation. If this compensating punishment is accompanied by certain internal dispositions, viz. voluntary acceptance, sorrow for the sin committed, then we have reparation, and and if the reparation made is complete, proportionate to the offence, it is more exactly called satisfaction. 1 In the case of expiation only justice is satisfied (the objective order of things); in the case of reparation the sinner is re-established in the state of love, and if the motive that determined his return to God is of the highest order, we have charity, or perfect contrition (sorrow for offending so good a God), if the motive is of a lower order (fear, not purely servile, but filial) we have imperfect contrition, or attrition.


We may here consider an objection which is made by certain modern opponents of Christianity. They refuse to admit that there is any need to compensate by punishment for the forbidden pleasure taken in sin, unless, that punishment serves to amend the sinner or to deter others from a like offence. Why, they ask, does an infringement of order call for compensation in the shape of punishment? Is this not to add a further disorder to that already existing. "Vengeance," writes one of them 2

We might well ask those who favour secular morality to agree among themselves. One of them finds in the punishment of the guilty a moral disorder. Another (Bayet) maintains that even for an involuntary wrong a person is bound to make reparation, even before the sentence of the judge. It is difficult to harmonize these two theses. In the name of the ideal beauty of human morality, on the one hand you reject vindictive justice with horror, while on the other, you want to punish one who in conscience is not, guilty at all. The true doctrine is that expiation, far from being a disorder, re-establishes order; but this expiation is only necessary in conscience when in conscience there has been some fault. Every good moralist distinguishes between the moral law and the penal law. It is a principle of natural law that a moral obligation arises only from a moral act, that is, an act which is conscious and free.

But we can go beyond this answer ad hominem. That indulgence in a forbidden pleasure calls for a corresponding punishment is testified "by conscience, by all religions, and by half the philosophers of history" (Mgr. d'Hulst). "In regard to my duty, I am both bound and free; hence I must answer for my choice; if I have chosen well I am the creditor of God, the supreme legislator; if I have chosen ill I am His debtor." Either God must regulate my conscience, or I must pay my debt; there is no middle way. "This concatenation is so perfect that the last term cannot be contested without denying the first: freedom to duty, responsibility to merit, merit to sanction; the chain is complete and unbreakable."

Hear how St. Anselm explains this point in his dialogue with Boso (Cur Deus homo, I 13):

Anselm. It would be the most intolerable of all things that the creature should deprive the Creator of what is His due, and not, restore what had stolen.

Boso. Surely.

Anselm. And therefore justice could never permit it.

Boso. Of course not.

Anselm. But you would not claim that God should tolerate what justice would not tolerate that the creature should not restore to God what he had taken from Him.

Boso. Certainly not.

Anselm. And if God is supremely great and good, sovereign justice must safeguard His honour in the government of the world, and this sovereign justice in none other than God Himself.

Boso. Evidently.

Anselm. But there is nothing that God more justly safeguards than the honour due to His dignity.

Boso. Agreed.

Anselm. Do you think He would safeguard it if He allowed it to be taken from Him without regaining it or without punishing the guilty one?

Boso. I do not think He would.

Anselm. Hence either the honour withheld must be repaid, or punishment must be inflicted. Otherwise God would be unjust to Himself, or He would show Himself to be powerless.

Boso. I think your conclusion most reasonable. That there must be a punishment to compensate for guilty enjoyment is the common doctrine of all the Fathers, and their view may be summed up in this formula: it is just that man should be to a greater or less extent deprived of the things that God allows; according as he has allowed himself the things that God has forbidden. 3 Justice is intransigent on this point. Whether from the human or the Divine point of view, sin calls for expiation; the axiom that there is no pardon without expiation admits of no exception. No earthly judge, no confessor, will absolve a person who refuses to make good the damage he has done; only the impossibility of making restitution can excuse him.

This law of reparation has ever been graven on the hearts of men. From the beginning of the world sinful man has felt the need to offer sacrifices to the Divinity in compensation for his sins. So we see sacrifice offered by Cain and Abel; later by Melchisedech, Abraham, Moses, and so on.

What, then, is a sacrifice? Sacrifice, the essential act of religion, is among other things a payment.

To appease the anger of God Whom they had offended, men offered Him victims. These victims, whether animate or inanimate creatures, were offered, immolated, burnt, destroyed. These oblations or holocausts, costly and sumptuous acts of worship, but voluntary and meritorious, were accepted by God when offered with the right dispositions; they were the symbols of the great Sacrifice to come, that of the spotless Lamb, our Lord.

Other opponents of this doctrine seem to see in it a mere caprice on God's part, as if God were "touchy" in regard to His privileges; so that punishment would be the outcome of a savage and transcendent spirit of revenge. If this were so, punishment would indeed be a second disorder added to the first. But it is nothing of the kind. The word vindictive is perhaps an unfortunate one, because it would seem to attribute to God a revengeful spirit; but when we seek to show the reasonable character of vindictive punishment we do not attribute to God any sentiment that is unworthy of Him. We point simply to the exigencies of justice. Punishment is demanded by the objective reality of things, not by a God Who imitates our petty imperfections. An eminent theologian writing on this subject says:

"We do not as we are sometimes accused of doing, attribute to God any of the foolish sensitiveness of an earthly lord whose feelings have been ruffled; and the reason is that the honour of God is not properly speaking a personal right, or a haughty assertion of His superiority; it is simply the law of the necessary subordination of beings, it is what is called in a vague but true phrase, 'the order of things'." 4


So far we have arrived at the conclusion that just as in sin there is a twofold element, pleasure and insult, so in the just reparation for sin there are two corresponding, elements, punishment or expiation, and compensating honour, or, as we may put it, "making amends".

Normally it is the duty of the offender to make reparation, to make expiation and give satisfaction. Can another take his duty upon himself? Is justice equally satisfied in that case? Evidently not; if the other, being innocent, is seized against his will and forced to pay for a fault that he has not committed. But yes, on the contrary, if he freely allows himself to be substituted for the guilty one. The same thing happens frequently in ordinary human life without anyone being shocked. Why should it not happen also in the supernatural order? Why should not friendship be allowed this most touching manifestation, that of offering to pay the debts of a friend?

In the case of man's sin, we know that our Lord willed to take our place and to offer to God the reparation that was necessary. He alone, in fact, could offer adequate satisfaction. 5

An offence is measured by the dignity of him who is offended; reparation on the contrary by the dignity of him who offers it. In the offence there was something of the infinite. For, after all, what is sin? It is man spurning the command of God, man telling God, if not with his lips, with his actions: "I regard You as of no account, for me You are as if You did not exist; my God is my own will; as far as I am able, I suppress You, You do not exist." How make reparation for this? How offer satisfaction which will give to God the infinite homage which is His due? Only a being who possesses the infinite can do this.

In his dialogue with Boso St. Anselm forces his disciple to the following conclusion:

"Therefore none but God can make full satisfaction for the sin of man." "Logically," answer's Boso.

"On the other hand," says Anselm, "a man must offer it, otherwise satisfaction would not be forthcoming from mankind." "Nothing," answers Boson, " could be more certain." "Therefore only God can offer it, and a man must offer it; hence it must be offered by One Who is both God and man."

Here then is the proof that the Incarnation, though not necessary, is supremely appropriate. Clearly God could have chosen another way of redeeming us. When Anselm speaks of necessity, he does not mean that the Divine will was constrained; he wishes only to emphasize the extremely reasonable motives to which in His goodness He deigned to conform His will. In other words, given that God required adequate reparation for sin, (though He ,vas not bound to do so, since He might have chosen another plan of Redemption) the Incarnation was necessary. In this sense the Roman Catechism says: "Neither Angel nor man were capable of raising up the human race." Only the Word Incarnate could do this.

There are some who misunderstand this substitution of our Lord in our place in the great work of reparation for sin; the Protestants, for example. On the pretext that our participation in the satisfaction offered by Christ would diminish His merit, they refuse to admit that we have any part in it. Our Lord did everything; His merits are applied to us, whether we will it or not; those whom He has chosen are saved, the rest are damned; we can do nothing in the matter.

No. We are free beings, and God Who has redeemed us without consulting us, will not save us without our co-operation. Our Lord did not take our place in the sense that we have nothing to do. The idea of substitution must be supplemented by that of solidarity. We shall see later that this solidarity does not only demand that we should co-operate with our Lord to save our own souls; if we understand our Christian doctrine aright, it will lead us to work with Christ for the salvation of our brethren.

It might perhaps be asked why God, instead of planning the Redemption as He did, should not have contented Himself with granting a free pardon, without demanding any expiation at all. "You have done wrong; but I condone it; let us say no more about it."

Obviously God was not in any way bound to act as He did. In the first place He might have left no room for a redemption. We are so accustomed to the idea of the Redemption accomplished by Christ that we can hardly conceive the possibility of any other order of things. And yet, as St. Ignatius remarks in one of his meditations" there was forgiveness for man, but there was none for the Angels. Why? The true reason is that God so willed it. God might have left us in our unhappy state. He treated the Angels in this way; for us He chose another way. Or God might have pardoned us freely. He did not choose this way either. Or again He might have willed to accept an inadequate satisfaction. Nor did He choose this way.

As a matter of fact, He chose, to demand an adequate satisfaction. Why? Because by this means He could show more wonderfully His love and his justice.

First, His justice. God is good, indeed; He is infinitely good. Also He is infinitely wise. To have forgiven without demanding compensation would have manifested wonderfully His infinite mercy and goodness. But His justice would not have appeared. And might not this condonation of the offence have tended to encourage man to sin. "If God pardons so easily, why worry?" Doubtless for man thus to abuse God's mercy would have be an abominable sin; but knowing man as we do, can we suppose that such an attitude on his part would have been unlikely? Even now that God threatens him with the rigorous sanctions of His justice, he takes little trouble to lead a good life, hoping perhaps in the last moment of his life to be pardoned by Him Whom he has spent his life offending.

But did not God violate justice when He asked Christ, the Innocent Lamb, to undertake the work of reparation? No; because Christ offered spontaneously and willingly to do so. But surely the idea is rather horrible. To choose His Own Son and ask Him to make payment for us, miserable wretches that we are. What selfishness! Because one has lost a little of one's own glory, to recoup it through the humiliation of what one holds most dear. Is this not unworthy of God?

On the contrary, what a marvellous display of love in this fulfillment of perfect justice. God had to choose, so to speak, between His Only-begotten Son and His adopted sons. JustIce claimed an adequate satisfaction for sin, and only His Own Son could provide it. At this price His adoptive sons could be saved, And God out of His great love for us chose to help us by sacrificing His Own innocent Son. In this work of love justice too is safeguarded, for on Christ's part the offering was voluntary: "He was delivered up because He Himself willed it."

It is strange, is it not, that there should not be a feast in the liturgy in honour of the Father, especially to celebrate the infinite love of Him Who is Infinite Goodness? In the Middle Ages at one time it was proposed to set apart December 25 for this feast. Evidently in popular devotion this date would always be associated with the Holy Infant in the cradle. But it was a beautiful idea, this medieval conception which above the cradle, above the Angels singing Gloria, saw God the Father giving to mankind the royal gift of His Only-begotten Son.

And together with this display of love in the Father, what a manifestation of love in the Son! Before the Incarnation, in that period to which the Evangelist refers when he says, "In the beginning was the Word," the Word was already offering Himself. The holocausts that ascended from the earth were insufficient. "Behold I come" says the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Before the Incarnation this is the relation of the Word to Us; He is the perpetual Offerer, He says constantly to His Father: "Father, for Your glory, for their happiness I deliver Myself up. On the day fixed in Your eternal decrees I will descend upon the earth, and I will live among these little beings called men, I will become one of them, and thus the honour which they have taken from You will be restored, and the Divine life which they have lost will be given back to them."

And so at the time appointed in God's decree the Word, without ceasing to live in Eternity, began to live in Time. He became man, taking a human body from one of the daughters of men. See Him as a child in the manger, as a young boy, playing before the door of the house of His foster-father Joseph; as a young man, His hands hardened by toil at the carpenter's bench; as a grown man on the roads of Judaea and in the country lanes of Galilee, uttering words which hitherto no man had heard; see Him finally as He dies a cruel death on the Cross.

And all this for us; for me. All this for the sole purpose of making reparation; the life and death of a God for the sin of men.

What a miracle of love! We can well understand why the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the centre of Christian cult and one of the most suitable forms of reparation. To carry out His work of redemption the Word united with Himself a human nature, and the loving power of this human nature thus joined itself with the loving power of the Word, and so were fused in the love of the God-man for us. Hence by this devotion we worship first and principally the human love of our Lord for mankind-----a love which is symbolised by His human Heart-----and then in consequence that Divine love for us which is the love of the Word Incarnate.



But, it may be asked further, why should the Word Incarnate go to such lengths? Why the Cross? How could the Father have consented to such a sacrifice? If the smallest act would have been sufficient, why all this blood, why all this torture? St. Bernard in his discussion with Abelard does not  shirk the problem: "A word was enough, you say; then why the shedding of blood?"
The, best of all answers is that infinite Wisdom decreed that it should be so. Let us never forget that we are nothing in God's sight. Does the vessel say to the potter: Why hast thou made me thus?

Yet when we seek with all reverence to penetrate these secrets, does not the mystery of the Cross, formidable though it is, seem less than the mystery of the Cradle? The Incarnation itself is a far more wonderful mystery than the death of the Word Incarnate on the Cross. It is possible to find a generous man who will give up his life for his brethren, it is possible to understand that a God made man should do this; I have some analogies to help me. But that God should become a little child in a manger, the Infinite a puling infant in a woman's lap; I have no analogy which can help me to bridge this abyss between the Infinite and the finite. It is the sight of the Word made man seeking a resting place in this world that should fill us with amazement. The Cross appalls us; but the mystery of the cradle should bewilder us. To see an Incarnate God die is a lesser marvel than to see a God be born as man.

None the less the mystery of the Cross is indeed overwhelming. How can we understand that the Father, infinitely good as He is, infinitely wise, loving the Word infinitely as He does, should have designed such a plan of the Redemption? Is not the idea so barbarous that even to think of it would be a blasphemy?

While considering the love of the Father and the Son perhaps we have to some extent lost sight of His justice. The wonder of the plan of redemption is that it so wonderfully combines both love and justice. Just as love intervenes to make full justice possible, so justice finds its place in the work of love. God withheld a free pardon in order that His justice might be manifested. But if God had showed His justice alone, man would have been crushed beneath it, lost for ever as Lucifer was: So the Divine Love allows the Son to offer Himself, and mankind is saved.

Yet in this work of love God willed that His Justice should appear, and it appears in the treatment meted out to the Word Incarnate. Not that the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the crucifixion were absolutely necessary for our redemption; for this the slightest act of the Son of God would have sufficed-----but in this way sin appeared to us more dramatically horrible, and the love of the Word Incarnate showed itself in all its royal splendour.

Hence we must not subject God to the rules of mathematics by representing the death of Christ on the Cross as necessary. When the Fathers-----in particular St. Anselm
-----speak of the necessity of Calvary for our redemption, they do not mean that God was obliged to permit this. All they mean is that the way which God chose for the Redemption was most fitting; no method could have better combined love and justice. To us these appear as two distinct and opposite attributes. In God they are one and the same. God, in the one single act of His infinite being, is both infinite justice and infinite love.

1. Evidently the word is not taken in its restricted sense as used in connection with the Sacrament of Penance.
2. Gabriel Seailles: Les affirmations de la conscience moderne, pp. 124-25.
3. See for example St. Gregory: Pastor. III, cap. 30.
4. J. Riviere: Le dogme de la Redemption, 2nd ed., p. 4. On the whole of this question see also the article Redemption by D'Ales in the Dictionnaire Apologetique (Beauchesne).
5. In his article Redemption D'Ales quotes the following very fair comment of a Protestant author: "It is surprising to find that those who remain unmoved before the difficult problems raised by the question of solidarity, cry out against us when we mention the word 'substitution'.  . . . When multitudes suffer for the fault of one, they appeal to solidarity. But if an innocent person offers voluntarily to take upon himself the sins of all others, he is regarded as upsetting every law, ,human and Divine. That Divine Providence, which has seen so many crimes committed on the earth, should have allowed themost hateful and useless of all crimes, that Divine justice should stand convicted of having left unheard the last supplication of His Son on the Cross, this causes them no difficulty; reason and conscience say to each other: solidarity! But when above the hands that work iniquity, above the counsels of evil men, there is revealed a Divine and eternal plan which is a supreme manifestation of justice and grace, then, the scandal begins! Well, personally I confess that
 I am more shocked to see so many innocent ones suffer in the course of history than to see the free and sublime act of one who dies in the place of another" (Gr
étillac, Theologie systématique,
t. iv, p. 364).