Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Heart: the Center of Human Personhood

We Orthodox Christians are engaged on a quest of eternal significance. We must search for and find the heart, which is at the center of our human personhood ( Fr Zacharias Zacharou, The Enlargement of the Heart). This is what the Apostle Peter refers to as; "the hidden person of the heart" I Peter 3:4 NKJV.

And what is the heart? "Thus, as the bodily heart is the center of the body's life, the spiritual heart is the center of our spiritual life. The heart governs the whole body and when Grace conquers the whole heart, then it reigns over all thoughts and parts."Arch. Spyridon Logothetis, The Heart, p.29-30. In Pauline terminology the spirit and the heart are one and the same. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God"
Rom.8:16. "To St Paul the heart is the place of man's spirit" Fr. John Romanides, Patristic Theology p.20. The heart, says Fr. Zacharias " the place where God's communion with man is cultivated, the Spirit of God is revealed, operates and prays" The Enlargement of the Heart, p.115. Consequently, the entire struggle in prayer has as its aim the discovery and conquest of the heart.ibid

We may also ask ourselves, where is the heart? Fr. Zacharias answers "The heart is within our chest. When we speak of the heart, we speak of our spiritual heart which coincides with the fleshly one; but when man receives illumination and sanctification, then his whole being becomes a heart." The Hidden Man of The Heart" p.12. "Our spiritual heart is not material..
it exists on top or inside the bodily heart" Fr. Spyridon Logothetis, The Heart, p.27.
On this point St. Kallistos, Patriarch of Constantinople says: "It is astonishingly great that God the Father, poured from His Spirit a noetic sensation( noera aesthisis) or breath to the bodily hearts of those who rightly believed in the incarnate Logos". ibid p.28

The darkness and desolation of a heart ravished by sin is indeed appalling. In a heart that has not been purified," there are dragons and there are lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil " St Macarius, Homily 43:7, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, p. 222. "Like a thick smoke in a one-room house, so is sin with its filthy thoughts. It settles down and creeps over the thoughts of the heart along with an infinite number of demons".Hom. 43:7

"For the person that truly believes in Christ, must be transported and changed from his present state of evil to another state, one that is good.." Hom. 44:5 p.224.
"He must be made anew by the power of the Holy Spirit. And in this way he can be fit for the heavenly kingdom" ibid.

Thus a heart that has been made alive by the waters of holy baptism and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, has the kingdom of God within, " the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21.
"Since the kingdom of God is within us, the heart is the battlefield of our salvation, and all ascetic effort is aimed at cleansing it of all filthiness, and preserving it pure before the Lord", Fr. Zacharias Zacharou, 'The Hidden Man of The Heart' p.1, Mount Thabor Publishing, 2008. St Cyril of Alexandria in his Commentary on the Gospel of St Luke, Trans. by R. Payne Smith, Studion Publishers, Inc. p.468 tells us that ""for it is within you, that is, it depends upon your own wills, and is in your own power, weather or not you receive it. For every man who has attained to justification by means of faith in Christ, and is adorned by all virtue, is counted worthy of the kingdom of heaven." And with the kingdom, we receive all the treasures of Grace. "But there is also God, also the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the treasures of Grace- there are all things." St. Macarius, Hom.43:7, Fifty Spiritual Homilies, p.222. "He (God) is the One Who has fashioned the heart of every man in a unique and unrepeatable way" The Hidden Man of The Heart' p.2, Fr. Zacharias Zacharou. Therefore let us, with fear and trembling, heed the sober warning of the Preacher, the son of David, King Solomon; " Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life" Proverbs 4:23.

The task ahead is not easy. King Solomon tells us that " Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out" Proverbs20:5. Ultimately, we must all descend into the depths of our hearts, there to do battle with Satan; there to meet our Lord and learn humility from Christ, who "humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" Phillipians 2:8

By David Robles

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