The role of the "heart" in Spiritual Life

The role of the heart in the spiritual life

The Treasury of the Heart
Study # 2

"Create in me a clean heart O God and put a new and right spirit within me" (Psalm 50)


I. What is the heart?
"In its biblical concept, the heart is the source of all potentiality of the spiritual and physical life: "Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flows the springs of life" (Prov 4:23). This applies not only to good potential but to evil one's as well: "For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander" (Mt 15:19). . . This means that the inclinations of the inmost heart set the tone for the whole man- they color his thoughts, his words, and his deeds. . .So mans' words usually testify to the state of his heart. They can justify him or condemn him..." (Matthew the Poor, Orthodox Prayer life: The Interior Way, SVS Press, 2003, p. 133)

"The Fathers consider the heart the ...real basis of human nature in general. . . It is the center of the faculties, talents, intelligence, insight, volition, wisdom, vision- all of which emanates from it and pours into it:
• The heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which tests the thoughts that accuse and defend. (Macarius)
• There (the heart) likewise is God; there also the angels; there the life and the kingdom; there the treasures of grace; there all things. (Macarius)

A.) The devil can plant another heart

"The devil's work, with regard to the heart, is not merely confined to contaminating it with evil desires. It is not just that he makes the evil treasured up in the heart produce evil. He even adds to this the possibility of giving man another heart from which he can speak gilded words. This he does to keep the evil intent secret and make sure that it's carried out." (Matthew the Poor, p. 134).

B.) Conditions which allow for the creation of a new Heart
a.) Contrition of the sinner's heart (Our work)
b.) Man's complete cleansing or purging from within (Our work)
c.) The indwelling of the Holy Spirit (God's gift of creating a new heart within)

Repentance and Baptism Leads to a life of Faith and Repentance
"God's work should be adjoined to our own. To the extent that we purify our own hearts from evil by faith and repentance, we become able to embrace the new heart created within us in God's image. . . in so far as we hate wickedness, are distressed by evil passions and thoughts, and abhor acts of sin, we become able to embrace the power of holiness. (Matthew the Poor, p. 135)."

• And when grace gives pasture to the heart, it rules over all the members and the thoughts. For there in the heart, the mind abides as well as all the thoughts of the soul and all its hopes. This is how grace penetrates throughout all parts of the body. (Macarius)

• The heart is man's holy of holies. It is exclusively this feature that makes it fit for the indwelling of God. For if a man loves God with all his heart, it means that he loves him with his being. He has given himself unreservedly to God. (Matthew The Poor, P. 138)


II. The Heart & The Passions

"Once we enter the heart, what do we then discover? ...What we discover is that we are not in control of ourselves, that we are wounded. We discover our passions, which are sometime naively identified with sins or vices, but which are much more than this. "Passions are our inner wounds, those deep marks in the space of our heart that require healing. . .our passions indicate not so much that we are doing something wrong, but that we are not in control. . .in the state of passion, more is being done to us than we are actually doing to others or to ourselves." (Fr. John Chryssavgis, In The Heart of The Desert, World Wisdom Press, 2003, p. 53).

"It is well said once by a wise person, that the soul has as many masters as it has passions. And again, the Apostles says: "People are slaves to whatever masters them" (2 Peter 2:19).

A. An evil heart contaminates the will

"It (an evil heart) corrupts the natural inclinations of instincts of a man. Without his knowing it, everything that such a person sees and touches becomes impure for him." (Matthew the Poor, p. 137).