The Immaculate Heart of Mary represents the Virgin Mary as “Mother of Sorrows,’ the grieving mother, regarded as a symbol of deep compassion for humanity.
The heart of Mary is a very old form of Catholic devotion, with many layers of symbolism. Much of the present symbolism of the heart and its attendant devotions are derived from Marian apparitions- appearances of the Virgin in the visions of Saints and devotees. The devotions are traced to St.s Anselm and Bernard of Clairvaux in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and popularised in the seventeenth century by Saint Jean Eudes.
A common devotional image of the Immaculate Heart
The Immaculate Heart is almost invariably pictured aflame, ringed with roses or lilies (symbolizing heavenly joy and purity, respectively) The sword piercing the heart illustrates a verse from the Gospel of Luke: “And a sword will go through your heart; so that the secret thoughts of men may come to light”
A heart pierced by seven swords, which represent the “seven sorrows” of the Virgin, symbolize seven sorrowful events described in the New Testament. The seven swords are the emblem of Mater Dolorosa, or the Lady of Sorrows.