Introduction: 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 "..is 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
I will intent to explore some of the teaching about the heart in Orthodox holy tradition in the following posts. The general outline of my search will be;
A) Introduction ( already done in the present post)
B) The Heart according to Jewish Oral Tradition and the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
C) The Heart in the Teachings of Jesus and the Gospel.
D) The Heart in the Teaching of the Apostles and Their Successors.
E) The Heart According to the Church Fathers and The Ecumenical Councils.
F) The Heart in the Philokalia and the Ascetical, Hesychastic and Monastic Tradition.
G) The Cultivation of The Heart in the Teachings of St. Silouan, Archimandrite Sophrony and Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou.
H) Epilogue: What is the Human Person?
The image at the beggining of this post is from this source.
- A Commentary On The Divine Liturgy by St. Nicholas Cabasilas, ISBN: 0-913836-37-0
- A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos Trans. by Effie Mavromichali, ISBN: 960-7070-31-3
- A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections On God excerpted by St. Theophan the Recluse from the works of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Trans. by Antonina Janda, ISBN 0-912927-40-2
- Against False Union ( with a prologue by Photios Kontoglou) by Alexander Kalomiros, Trans. by George Gabriel, ISBN: 0-913026-49-2
- Akathist To Jesus Conqueror of Death, by St Nikolai Velimirovich, Trans. by Interklima, Copyright 2009, English Edition, by St Paisius Monastery, Safford, AZ
- An Athonite Gerontikon by Archimandrite Ioannikios, Holy Monastery of St Gregory Palamas Kouphalia, Greece 1991
- Byzantine Theology by John Meyendorff, ISBN: 0-8232-0967-9
- Christ Our Way and Our Life by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 1-878997-74-2
- Christ The Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene, ISBN 0-938635-85-9
- Commentary on The Gospel of St Luke by St Cyril of Alexandria Trans. by R.Payne Smith, Studion Publishers, Inc. ISBN:0-943670-01-2
- Concerning Frequent Communion by Nikodemos the Hagiorite, Trans. by George Dokos, ISBN: 960-86778-5-8
- Confronting Controlling Thoughts by Antony M. Coniaris, ISBN: ISBN: 1-880971-88-7
- Conversations with Children by Sister Magdalen, ISBN: 1-874679-21-5
- Counsels from the Holy Mountain by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, ISBN: 0-9667000-2-3
- Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria, Trans. by Sebastian Brock, ISBM: 0-87243-173-8
- Dance, O Isaiah by Constantine Platis, unknown printing 2000
- Diary Of A Pilgrimage from the Ancient Christian Writers series, by Egeria, Trans. by George E. Gingras, ISBN: 0-8091-0029-0
- Drinking from the Hidden Fountain by Thomas Spidlik, ISBN: 0-87907-348-9
- Elder Ephraim of Katounakia Trans by Tessy Vassiliaou-Christodoulou, ISBN: 960-7407-33-4
- Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels, Spiritual Awakening vol 2, Trans by Fr. Peter Chamberas, Holy Monastery 'Evangelist John The Theologian' Souroti, Greece 2007
- Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels, With Pain And Love for Contemporay Man vol1, Trans by Cornelia A. Tsakiridou & Maria Spanou, Holy Monastery 'Evangelist John The Theologian' Souroti, Greece 2006
- Epistles by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Holy Monastery of the Evangelist John the Theologian, Souroti, Greece 2002
- Father Arseny Trans. by Vera Bouteneff, ISBN 0-88141-180-9
- Flame in the Snow, A Life of St Seraphim of Sarov by Julia de Beausobre, ISBN: 0-87243-223-8
- From St. Isaac The Syrian to Dostoyevsky by Archimandrite Vasileios, Trans. by Dr.Elizabeth Theokritoff, ISBN: 1-896800-34-3
- Grace For Grace: The Psalter And The Holy FathersCompiled and Edited by Johanna Manley, ISBN: 0-9622536-1-8
- Hesychia and Theology by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Sister Pelagia Selfe, ISBN: 978-960-7070-60-9
- His Life is Mine by Archimandrite Sophrony, ISBN: 0-913836-33-8
- I Love Therefore I Am by Fr. Nicholas V. Sakharov, ISBN: 0-88141-236-8
- In The Light of Christ, St Symeon The New Theologian by Archbishop Basil Krivocheine Trans. by Anthony P. Gythiel, ISBN 0-913836-91-5
- Isaac of Ninaveh ( Isaac The Syrian) The Second Part, chapters IV-XLV, Trans. by Sebastian Brock, ISBN: 90-6831-709-1
- Missionary Lettersof Saint Nikolai Velimirovich vol 1, Trans. by Hierodeacon Serafim, New Gracanica Monastery, Grayslake, IL
- Monastic Wisdom, The Letters of Elder Joseph The Hesychast, ISBN: 0-9667000-0-7
- Mount Athos Renewal in Paradise by Graham Speake, ISBN: 0-300-093535
- Nil SorskyTrans. and Edited by George A. Maloney, ISBN: 0-8091-9810-7
- Not of This World,Compiled and Edited by James S. Cutsinger, ISBN: 0-941532-41-0
- On Prayer by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov Trans.by Rosemar Edmonds, ISBN 0-88141-194-9
- On The Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Trans. by John Behr, ISBN: 0-88141-174-4
- On The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ by St Maximus The Confessor, Trans. by Paul M. Blowers & Robert Louis Wilken, ISBN: 0-88141-249-x
- On The Human Condition by St Basil The GreatTrans. by Nonna Verna Harrison, ISBN: 0-88141-294-5
- On The Incarnation by St. Athanasius, ISBN: 0-913836-40-0
- On The Mother of God by Jacob of Serug, ISBN: 0-88141-184-1
- Once Delivered to The Saints by Fr. Michael Azkoul, ISBN: 0-913026-84-0
- Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ by Father Justin Popovich Trans. by Asterios Gerosterios, ISBN: 1-884729-02-9
- Orthodox Psychotherapy by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Esther Williams, ISBN: 960-7070-27-5
- Orthodox Spiritual Life According to Saint Silouan The Athonite by Harry Boosalis, ISBN: 1-878997-60-2
- Orthodox Spirituality and The Philokalia by Placide Deseille Trans. by Anthon P. Gythiel, ISBN 978-0-9717483-7-8
- Orthodox Spirituality by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, ISBN 960-7070-20-8
- Passions and Virtues According to Saint Gregory Palamas by Anestis Keselopulos, ISBN: 1-878997-75-0
- Patristic Theology by John S. Romanides, ISBN 978-960-86778-8-3
- Prayers by the Lake by St Nikolai Velimirovich, The Serbian Orthodox Metropolinate of New Gracanica, Grayslake, IL 1999
- Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy by John McGuckin, ISBN: 0-88141-259-7
- Santa Biblia Antigua Version de Casiodoro De Reina Revisada por Cipriano de Valera(1602) Revision de 1960, Holman Publishers 2008
- St John of Damascus, The Fathers of the Church series, Trans. by Frederic H. Chase, Jr., ISBN: 0-8132-0968-4
- St Seraphim of Sarov, A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, ISBN: 1-880364-13-1
- St Silouan The Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony, ISBN 0-88141-195-7
- St. Symeon The New Theologian, On The Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses, Trans. by Alexander Golitzin 3 vols. ISBN: 0-88141-142-6 and - 143-4, and 144-2
- Standing In God's Holy Fire by John A. McGuckin, ISBN: 1-57075-382-2
- Symeon The New Theologian, The Discourses, Classics of Western Spirituality, ISBN: 0-8091-2230-8
- Symeon The New Theologian, The Practical and Theological Discourses and The Three Theological Chapters, Trans. by Dr. Paul McGuckin, Cistercian Publications Inc. 1982
- The Acquisition of The Holy Spirit by I.M. Kontzevitch, ISBN: 0-938635-73-5
- The Adam Complex by Dee Pennock, ISBN: 1-880971-89-5
- The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac The Syrian, Trans. by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, ISBN: 0-913026-55-7
- The Authentic Seal by Archimandrite Aimilianos, ISBN: 960-85603-3-0
- The Book of Mystical Chapters, Trans. and introduced by John A. McGuckin, ISBN: 1-59030-007-6
- The Boundless Garden by Alexandros Papadiamantis Edited by Lambros Kamperidis and Denise Harvey, ISBN 978-960-7120-23-6
- The Church Fathers ( Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, published by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 37 vol. set
- The Enlargement of The Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 0-9774983-2-8
- The Faith of Chosen People by St Nikolai Velimirovich, The Free Serbian Diocese of America and Canada, Grayslake, IL 1988
- The Faith of The Saints , A Catechism by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, ISBN:1-932965-06-8
- The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Pseudo-Macarius, ISBN: 0-8091-0455-5
- The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis, ISBN: 978-1-887904-16-2
- The Heart by Archimandrite Spyridon Logothetis, ISBN 960-86639-4-6
- The Hidden Man of The Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 978-0-9800207-1-7
- The Holy Bible NKJV, Thomas Nelson, 1992
- The Homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas by Christopher Veniamin, 2 vols. ISBN: 1-878997-67-X; ISBN: 1-878997-68-X
- The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus Edited by Holy Transfifuration Monastery 1979, ISBN 0-943405-03-3
- The Life of St. Anthony by St. Athanasius the Great, Eastern Orthodox Books, Willits, CA
- The Lives of The Holy Prophets by Holy Apostles Convent, ISBN: 0944359-12-4
- The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain by Hieromonk Alexander Golitzin, ISBN: 1-878997-48-3
- The Luminus Eye by Sebastian Brock, ISBN: 0-87907-524-4
- The Mind of the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Esther Williams, ISBN: 960-7070-39-9
- The One Thing Needful by Archbishop Andrei of Novo- Diveevo, ISBN: 91-2927-29-1
- The Orthodox Ethos, Studies in Orthodoxy Edited by A.J. Philippou, Hollywell Press Oxford 1964
- The Orthodox New Testament 2 vols., Published by The Holy Apostles Convent 1999, ISBN: 0-944359-17-5 & 0-944359-14-0
- The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware Vol 4 ISBN: 0-571-11727-9
- The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware Vol2 ISBN: 0-571-15466-2
- The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos WareVol 3 ISBN: 0-571-17525-2
- The Philokalia, The Complete Textcompiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware, Vol 1 ISBN: 0-571-13013-5
- The Philokalia: Master Reference Guide Compiled by Basileios S. Stapakis, Trans by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, ISBN: 1-880971-87-9
- The Prologue of Ohrid, Trans. by Fr. Timothy Tepsic, vol 1 ISBN: 978-0-9719505-0-4; vol 2 ISBN: 978-0-9719505-1-1
- The Psalter Trans. by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, ISBN: 0-943405-00-9
- The Spiritual World of St Isaac the Syrian by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, Michigan 2000
- The Way of A Pilgrim trans.by R.M. French, ISBN 345-24254-8-150
- We Shall See Him As He Is by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov, ISBN 0-9512786-4-9
- Wisdom. Let Us Attend: Job, The Fathers, and The Old Testament by Johanna Manley, ISBN: 0-9622536-4-2
- Words of Life by Archimandrite Sophrony, Trans. by Sister Magdalen, ISBN1-874679-11-8
- Writings from The Philokalia On Prayer of The Heart, Trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, ISBN: 0-571-16393-9