…continued from the previous post
The great tragedy of our times lies in the fact that we live, speak, think, and even pray to God, outside our heart, outside our Father’s house. And truly our Father’s house is our heart, the place where ‘the spirit of glory and of God’ would find repose, that Christ may ‘be formed in us’. Indeed, only then can we be made whole, and become hypostases in the image of the true and perfect Hypostasis, the Son and Word of God, Who created and redeemed us by the precious Blood of His ineffable sacrifice.
Yet as long as we are held captive by our passions, which distract our mind from our heart and lure it into the ever-changing and vain world of natural and created things, thus depriving us of all spiritual strength, we will not know the new birth from on High that makes us children of God and gods by grace. In fact, in one way or another, we are all ‘prodigal sons’ of our Father in heaven, because as the Scriptures testify, ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ Sin has separated our mind from the life-giving contemplation of God and led it into a ‘far country’. In this ‘far country’ we have been deprived of the honour of our Father’s embrace and, in feeding swine, we have been made subject to demons. We gave ourselves over to dishonourable passions and the dreadful famine of sin, which then established itself by force, becoming the law of our members. But now we must come out of this godless hell and return to our Father’s house, so as to uproot the law of sin that is within us and allow the law of Christ’s commandments to dwell in our heart. For the only path leading out of the torment of hell to the everlasting joy of the Kingdom is that of the divine commandments: with our whole being we are to love God and our neighbours with a heart that is free of all sin.
The return journey from this remote and inhospitable land is not an easy one, and there is no hunger more fearful than that of a heart laid waste by sin. Those in whom the heart is full of the consolation of incorruptable grace can endure all external deprivations and afflictions, transforming them into a feast of spiritual joy; but the famine in a hardened heart lacking divine consolation is a comfortless torment. There is no greater misfortune than that of an insensible and petrified heart that is unable to distinguish between the luminous Way of God’s Providence and the gloomy confusion of the ways of this world. On the other hand, throughout history there have been men whose hearts were filled with grace. These chosen vessels were enlightened by the spirit of prophecy, and were therefore able to distinguish between Divine Light and the darkness of this world.
No matter how daunting and difficult the struggle of purifying the heart may be, nothing should deter us from this undertaking. We have on our side the ineffable goodness of a God Who has made man’s heart His personal concern and goal. In the Book of Job, we read the following astonishing words: ‘What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment… Why has thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?’ We sense God Who is incomprehensible, pursuing man’s heart: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ He knocks at the door of our heart, but He also encourages us to knock at the door of His mercy: ‘Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ When the two doors that are God’s goodness and man’s heart open, then the greatest miracle of our existence occurs: man’s heart is united with the Spirit of the Lord, God feasting with the sons of men.
Archimandrite Zacharias (Zacharou), The Hidden Man of the Heart (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2007) 12-15.