March 25th – Annunciation, Christ’s Birth announced to the Theotokos

Christ expounded unto the Disciples,
walking to Emmaus
in all the Historical Scriptures
the things concerning Himself“.
cf. Luc.24: 26-28

Man would never come to know the True God unless God Himself first became man,
thus the Coming of Christ has been foretold.

The promise that Christ would come can be read in:
Gen. 3: 15, 22: 18, 26: 4, 49: 10;
Num. 21: 6-9, 24: 17, Deut. 18:15;
Psalm 15: 8-10, 21: all, specifically: 21: 14-16-18, 131: 11;
Isaiah 7: 14, 9: 6-7, 40: 10-11, 50: 6, 52: 13-15, 53: all, 60: 21;
Jer 23: 5, Jer 33: 14-15, Ezek 34: 23, Ezek 37: 25;
Dan. 9: 25, Mic.5: 2 & 7: 20;
Zach.6: 12, 9: 9, 9: 10, 12: 8-10, 13: 7;
Mal.3: 1-4 & 4: 2-6.
This list is not complete by any means and if one were to take into account
the more complicated Scriptures, the compound Scriptures,
one would be able to enlarge this list geometrically, for the Old Testament
was a promise of that which was to come.
Jesus was that Promise Which did in fact come,
and the New Testament is the record of the Promise fulfilled
and the future Promises yet to come,
but they all revolve around Almighty God’s plan, purpose
and consummation of the eternal Union
between His children and Himself
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today’s Feast is indeed the Feast of
the True knowledge of God,
as foreseen by the Fore-fathers.
This is the Feast of the Formation of Christ in the flesh, announced by the Archangel Gabriel
and accepted by the Virgin,
and it occurs therefore nine months
before the Birth of Christ at Christmas.
It is, as the hymns of the Church tell us,
the Crown of our Salvation,
the beginning of everything.
This is why its Greek name is ‘Ευαγγελισμος’ [Evangelismos],
which comes from the word ‘Ευαγγελίων’ meaning ‘Good News’.
This is the feast of the Good News, the Feast of the Gospel.
Without this Feast, there would have been
no Good News, no Gospel.

Its usual English name is the Annunciation.
For it is the Feast not of an announcement,
but of the Announcement.
It is the ultimate Announcement, for it is the Announcement that God has become man,
the Announcement of the Presence of
the Wisdom of God amongst us,
not of the wisdom of man as before Christ,
but of the Wisdom of God.
It changes everything in World’s History,
overshadowing and surpassing all
that old human wisdom
of Ancient Greece, Egypt, India and China.

But however Divine this Highfeast is, it is also human.
The humanity of this Feast is not only in that today God becomes an embryo,
it is also in that today the Virgin becomes a Mother.
This is why today the Church is in blue,
the colour of the Virgin-Mother
and why this Feast is also known as ‘Lady Day’ in England.
Today, in accepting the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel, in accepting the Will of God, the Virgin becomes the most high of all mankind,
‘More honourable than the Cherubim
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim’
.
Mp3: Megalynarion of Orthros [Greek & English]
She exceeds in her sacrifice all other men and women in human History,
past, present and future.
She becomes linked with all eternity
and surpasses humanity while remaining human.
In a word,
this earthly being becomes through her sacrifice the Mother of God,
which is why we, though still on earth,
commemorate her in Heavenly blue.

In accepting this cross of sacrifice,
the Mother of God also accepts
the approaching Cross of Victory of Her Son.
This is a very significant fact
and indeed this is a spiritual law.
For every sacrifice, for every cross
that we take on ourselves according to God’s Will,
we receive a spiritual reward.
It may not come at once, but it will inevitably come.
This is a spiritual law, just as, in the same way,
if we fail to make a sacrifice and take up our cross
when God calls us to do that,
there is also a price to pay,
the price of spiritual defeat.
Mp4: Anaphora – Divine Liturgy [English]

For example, at this moment,
and in more than one part of the world,
men are fighting, men are slaughtering one another.
This is because they are blind to Christ.
For when we are blind to Christ,
then we are also blind
to the meaning of Christ’s Cross.
Thus people make war, instead of making Peace.
For people cannot make Peace because
that involves a sacrifice,
the sacrifice of sharing.
If there is no Cross of Sacrifice,
then there is
– no Cross of Victory,
– no Cross of Resurrection,
just the constant cycle of wars.

The sacrifice of the Mother of God
in accepting to bear and nourish God,
giving Him her blood, bones and flesh,
and raise Him as a man is such
that she alone among all mankind
can take us outside the cycle of wars
and can lead us,
if we wish to follow her,
into Eternity,
to the Resurrection of Christ.

“Most Holy Mother of God, save us!”

And the Scripture is fulfilled which said,
Abraham [man] believed God,
and it was imputed unto him [us] for righteousness:
and he [we] is [are] called the friend[s] of God“.
cf. James 2: 23

Wishful to be a saint, by Saint Silouan, the Athonite

Saints were just people like all of us.
Many of them started with grievous sins
but through repentance they attained to the Kingdom of Heaven.
And everyone who reaches the Kingdom of Heaven does so through repentance,
which the Merciful Lord granted us by His sufferings.

In the Kingdom of Heaven where dwell the Lord
and His most pure Mother, abide all the Saints.
There live our Forefathers and Patriarchs
who valiantly carried their faith before them.
There dwell the Prophets who received the Holy Spirit,
and by their exhortations called the people to God.
There dwell the Apostles who died
that the Gospel might be preached.
There dwell the Martyrs
who gladly gave their lives for love of Christ.
There dwell the holy Prelates
who followed the Lord’s example
and took upon themselves the burden of their spiritual flock.
There dwell the holy Fathers
who lived lives of prayer and fasting,
and those who assumed folly for Christ’s sake,
all of whom fought the good fight
and thereby overcame the world.
There dwell all the Righteous
who kept God’s commandments
and vanquished their passions.

That place aspires my soul
– to that wondrous holy assembly
which the Holy Spirit has gathered together.
But woe is me!
Inasmuch as I lack humility,
the Lord does not grant me the strength to fight,
and my feeble spirit flickers out like a tiny candle,
whereas the spirit of the Saints burned with a bright flame,
which the wind of temptation not only failed to extinguish
but set burning more fiercely than ever.
They trod the earth and worked with their hands
but their spirits continued with God,
of Whom they were ever mindful.
For the love of Christ they endured
every affliction on earth and feared no suffering,
and thus glorified the Lord.
Wherefore the Lord loved them and glorified them,
and granted them the eternal Kingdom with Him.
Saint Silouan, the Athonite‘,
published by Archimandrite Sofronios

Orthodoxy, Lent & The Akathist Hymn to Theotokos

 

The Akathist Hymn is a profound, devotional poem or chant,which sings the praises of
the Holy Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary [Theotokos].
It is chanted in all Orthodox Churches
throughout the world during the five Fridays
in the Great Lent,
and constitutes a very concrete spiritual preparation
for the Holy Week and Easter Services.

Devotional Hymns to the Theotokos
are as ancient as the original Christian Church.
The Byzantine Empire from its very inception
at Constantinople during the fourth century,
closely allied itself to the Virgin Mary
and always sort Her protection or intercessions.
This we see from the Prayer Services to the Theotokos
between the fifth and eighth centuries,
and the reference to Constantinople as the ‘Queen City’.

The Akathist Hymn, which in its present form was added to
by many Ecclesiastical Hymnographers,
existed for most part even before it was formally accepted
by the Church in 626 AD.
The Kontakion
To the Invincible Champion… we ascribe the Victory
was added then, and came to be recognized as the Akathist Hymn,
because of the following described miracle attributed
to the intercession of the Theotokos.

While the Emperor of Byzantium Heracleios was on an expedition to fight the aggression of the Persians on their own grounds,
there appeared outside the walls of Constantinople barbaric hordes, mostly Avars.
The siege lasted a few months,
and it was apparent that the outnumbered troops of the Queen City were reaching desperation.
However as history records,
the Faith of the people worked
the impossible.
The Venerable Patriarch Sergius with the Clergy and
the Official of Byzantium Vonos, endlessly marched along
the great walls of Constantinople with an Icon of the Theotokos in hand,
and bolstered the faith of the defenders of freedom.
The miracle came soon after.
Unexpectedly, as the chronicler narrates,
a great storm with huge tidal waves destroyed most of the fleet of the enemy,
and full retreat ensued.

The faithful of Constantinople
spontaneously filled the Church of the Theotokos
at Vlachernae on the Golden Horn,
and with the Patriarch Sergius officiating,
they prayed all night singing praises to the Virgin Mary without sitting.
Hence the title of the Hymn “Akathistos“,
in Greek meaning not seated.

The Akathist Hymn is a very important
and indeed an integral part of our religious and ecclesiastical life.
When we are present during the first Friday Service,
we firmly realize that we commence to ascend
the spiritual steps of the lengthy Lenten period,
to finally reach the peak with our Lord’s Glorious Resurrection.

The Akathist Hymn was not strange to the Latin West
even though apart from the Eastern Church.
Pope Benedict XIV granted on May 4, 1746
an indulgence of 50 days to the Latin and Eastern Rite Roman Catholics,
for each recitation of the Hymn.

Father Vincent McNabb, a Roman Catholic Priest in London,
translated the Hymn into English in 1934.
In his forward remarks he stated
“No apology is needed for introducing the Akathistos to the Christian West. Indeed the West might well be apologetic
about its neglect, or ignorance of such a liturgical
and literary masterpiece”.

In any of our Service Books we can readily see
that our glorious and Ever-Virgin Theotokos
is the center of many of our Orthodox Services
in which prayers abound for Her interceding
to Her Son, and our God, for our Salvation.
The Virgin Mary is the most exalted
and most honoured person by God.
She is the most revered and most loved by humans.
She is a binding force for all Christians.
She is the Unique Personality of the world,
because of the unique fact of the Lord’s Incarnation.
She is the daughter of Grace and the Crystal Vessel
of the Grace of the Holy Spirit [see Luc.1: 26-56].

Faith in the Almighty God is primary and all important
to the Holy Orthodox Church.
Our dependence on God is always beyond question,
and from this faith we should strive not to stray.
Therefore, Services, like the Akathist Hymn,
should be a must and attended by all.
Moreover, this particular Service links us
so beautifully with a great and glorious period of our Christian history;
it is also a very live tradition,
which has never ceased in the Orthodox Church
since its official acceptance in 626 AD.

Living in these trying times,
when we are besieged by many forces of evil,
it is hoped that the Akathist Hymn
as well as our other Services may become
the bulwark to withstand,
and indeed to overcome these forces.

The Akathist Hymn is divided into 4 main parts, and briefly the content is as follows:

1 Stanzas 1 – 6
recount:
a. The Annunciation to the Virgin Mary.
b. The Virgin Mary’s purity.
c. The Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.
d. The doubts of Joseph the protector, and his joy upon learning of the supernatural Conception.
2 Stanzas 7 – 12
tell us of:
a. The shepherds hearing the Angels praising the birth of the Lord and their visit to the manger.
b. The adoration of the Magi.
c. The flight of the Holy Family to Egypt and the falling of the idols.
3 Stanzas 13 – 18
relate:
a. The new Creation which was wrought by the Incarnate Lord through the Theotokos.
b. The call for the uplifting of our minds to Heaven from where God descended.
c. The Lord’s Omnipresence, that while He came to earth, He was no less in Heaven.
d. The confounding of the philosophers and orators, who were at a loss to explain God’s condescension.
4 Stanzas 19 – 24
speak of:
a. The Theotokos as a protector of all the devout, and those who choose to flee unto Her.
b. God coming as one of us, amongst us, to draw us near to Him.
c. Our inability to adequately sing the praises of God, whose mercies are countless.
d. The Lord cancelling all the ancient spiritual debts, and the granting of His Grace to all. Our prayers and petitions to the Holy Mother to protect us from misfortunes and save us from the future condemnation.

pdf: Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos
[English tekst]

Orthodoxy & the period of Great Lent

The period of Great Lent is a period
to prepare for the Feast of feast – Pascha,
in which we re-clothe ourselves like
at the moment of our Baptism in Christ.
That’s why the Church calls us
to prepare ourselves by prayer and fasting.

The teaching of fasting and prayer seems
strangely out of place in our time.
Fasting is connected to sports, to get a restored body good-looking to others, instead of a method
to come near to our [inner Christian] principles.
Even most Christians have lost the habit of prayer and fasting
and most of our young believers are never well-educated to fast.
This is a catastrophe that saddens our Lord, Who is always waiting
for our coming-home.

For when we were in the flesh,
the motions of sins, which were by the law,
did work in our members
to bring forth fruit unto death
“.
Rom.7: 5

For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting,
you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself ?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58: 1-5

Fasting helps us reduce and conquer
the longings and requests of the flesh.
The body makes a wonderful servant, but a very poor master.
Fasting brings the carnal nature into
subjection so that the body becomes the servant
and the Spirit becomes the master.
We have to fast to control the flesh.

For I know that in me [that is, in my flesh]
dwells no good thing:
for to will is present with me;
but how to perform that
which is good I find not
“.
Rom.7: 18

God is disappointed because He knows that prayer and fasting
make us powerful in the spirit; the adversary delights
because without the Power of the Holy Spirit [Grace]
we are unable to offer him resistance.
Why have the mainstream of believers have abandoned
the practice of prayer and fasting?
Some of the believers have abandoned prayer and fasting
because they didn’t seem to be getting
the domino effects they were looking for.
They expected cash on the nail [dutch: butter with the fish] as real commercials;
They positioned the problem to God.
It’s not our attitude that we first look to ourselves,
it’s more easy to empty the blame on the other side.
When we pray and fast and do not experience a breakthrough, we are not used to blame ourselves.
We don’t ask ourselves:
Is there something in your life that needs to be dealt with?
Maybe our motives for fasting are wrong!

As children of God, we have to know the will of God for our lives.
Many countries in East & West are founded upon Godly principles.
Despite the infiltration of immorality and debauchery into the very heart of modern culture, a majority of people is still very religious.
We want to see positive changes in our society,
but we seem to do it in the wrong way.

“They ask me for just decisions
and seem ready for God to come near them
“.
Isaiah 58: 2
The people in the time of Isaiah also asked
– why God was not hearing their prayers;
– why God was producing no visible results
after their prayers and fasting.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

Isaiah 58: 3

These people thought they were serving God.
They thought they were believing His Word.
They were continuing their religious traditions
and working for social justice in their days.
Yet, when they quoted the promises and exercises their Faith, nothing happened.

The answer God gave them may surprise even our Russian or Greek Christians:
Yet on the day of your fasting,
you do as you please
and exploit all your workers“.
Isaiah 58: 3

If the people of Isaiah’s days were getting nowhere spiritually
because they were pleasure seekers, we are really in trouble in our times.
A great percentage of our time, our effort and our money
are now spent for things that bring us pleasure.
To most of us nothing is more important than our jobs
– nothing else than related to our jobs and the gathering of
over-luxury-income, more, more, and more only to consume.
We have more important things to do than prayer and fasting;
fasting is simply not in the schedule.
There is no time for it.

If God is not answering our prayers, something is wrong.
Our approach is wrong; our perception of God is wrong.
If we really put God first, He will never fail to put us first.
But if we put Him third, He is not owing a favour to us first;
he is not obligated to answer our very impulse and fancy.
If having fun is more important to us than having God’s favour on our lives,
there is not much hope for our spiritual future.
If our jobs and the results of it are more important to us than doing the will of God,
we are serious in trouble.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
“.
Isaiah 58: 4
Those who fasted actually had an evil purpose in doing so;
[collecting money or an admired dignified look of the bystanders].
God declared that this was not the fast He had chosen.
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58: 5

Prayer and fasting is not for the purpose of showing off.
It’s very a very personal act performed unto God, not to men.
The fast which God has chosen is very different.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter . . . . .
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Isaiah 58: 6-7

What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You want something but don’t get it.
You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.
You quarrel and fight.
You do not have, because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive,
because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get
on your pleasures.
James 4: 1-3

Fasting is not a tool to twist the arm of God
so that He will give you exactly what you want.
Fasting has a spiritual resolve, and that resolution is
to get your flesh out of the way
so that the Spirit of God [Grace] can enter into your life.
Fasting removes the barriers to communication with God
and allows the spirit man to commune directly
with the Heavenly Father – without any disruption.
When a person makes a determination to fast,
he is making a determination to remove obstacles in his life
to total submission to the Will of God.
No wonder that the adversary [the Satan]
is strong-minded to destroy this practice!
The adversary [the Satan] wants you to be poor,
to give free rein to your appetites . . . . .
until he consumes you.
The food-industry, the illegal drug industry
and the entertainment industry have much in common. They are all connected to the run-away appetites of our society.
Much of the poverty of our backlog neighbourhoods [ghettos] and their social projects are a direct result of this almost total loss of control.
Most of us who live comfortable in the prosperous nations have problems
with prayer and fasting because everything around us is designed
to charm to our flesh and its carnal desires.

But when we seek the Face of God through prayer and fasting, we push the flesh aside, denying the appetites the control they seek over us,
and allow our spirit man, who desires God,
to develop a strong relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Man is a triune being made up of body, soul and spirit.
It’s the spirit that came from God and longs to be
re-united with Him, as our Father.
When we give our spirit the opportunity he will reach out to God.
God will say: “reach out, I will be there” [a popular hit in my youth from the Bee Gees];
and we will communicate with Him.
These three parts of a person, however, strive [play progress] for influence.
Your spirit can influence your soul and your soul can influence your flesh.
If you are accustomed spiritually with God, your soul has no choice but to delight in the decisions of
your spiritual life.
Your flesh submits to the authority of your soul.
When the angel Gabriël appeared to the Theotokos, she reoonded immediately:
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
Luc.1: 46-47
               If your soul is magnifying the Lord, your flesh will bow in submission.
If your flesh has risen to authority in your life, however,
it will struggle with your spirit for dominance,
and the soul will obey the lusts of the flesh.
Fasting sets your spirit free to worship and serve God.
Fasting enables you to break the hold of the flesh
and brings your appetites into control.
It places you in submission to the Holy Spirit of God.
When this happens, you get answers to your prayers.

February 15th – Saint Anthimos of Chios [† 1960]

Saint Anthimos, who in the world was
known as Argyrios K. Vagianos, was born on July 1, 1869
to devout peasants, Konstantinos and Argyra, in
Chios in the region of Saint Lucas Leivadion.
He left elementary school early to become a shoe mender.
At the age of nineteen he visited the Skete of the Holy Fathers founded by the monk Pachomios, who
had been the spiritual counselor of Saint Nektarios.
With the blessing of the elder, Anthimos returned home and
built himself a small hut and dwelt in it.
His only help in his spiritual contests was  an icon of
the Mother of God given to him by his mother later
known as Panagia Voithia [the Helper], which soon
began to work miracles, drawing many to his hermitage.

He had returned home to relieve the suffering of
his parents and help the poor of his village as well.
After a time he retired to the Skete, and
it was here that he became a monk and
took the name Anthimos given by Elder Pachomios.
He fell ill there and his abbot sent him home to
his parents for the sake of his health.
At home, despite the fact that he was caring for his aged parents and practicing his shoe mender’s trade,
he continued to live as a monk, spending nights on end in prayer and sometimes living only on bread and water for extended periods.
He took his inspiration reading about the lives of the great ascetics, and in this way he was able to conquer every assault of the devil.

Increasing numbers of visitors came to his hermitage and wonder-working icon of the Theotokos, and
in 1909, at the age of forty, he received the Great Schema by the successor of Pachomios,
Hieromonk Andronikos.
The people of Chios wanted him to be ordained to the priesthood, but his bishop refused due to
the Saint’s lack of education.
At the prompting of Anthimos’ godfather,
the Bishop of Smyrna ordained him instead in 1910.
After a pilgrimage to Mount Athos in 1911, he returned to Chios, where he became chaplain to a leper hospital.
Soon the hospital, which had fallen into corruption,
became a spiritual center, as much like a monastery as                                                                a hospital.
Saint Anthimos tended many of the sickest with his own hands,
working many miracles of healing;
some of his recovered patients became monks or nuns
– such as Venerable Nikephoros the Blind.

With the notorious ‘Exchange of Populations’ of 1922-1924, refugees poured into Chios, many of them destitute nuns and girls.
In response to a vision of the Mother of God,
Saint Anthimos built a monastery in 1930, which opened with thirty nuns and grew rapidly, despite the opposition of many who
said that setting up such a community was out of date.
The Monastery of Panagia Voithia, as it came to be known, soon
housed eighty nuns and was known throughout Greece as
a model of monastic life.
Father Anthimos served as priest to the nuns, and
continued to receive the many faithful — often sixty or seventy per day — who
came to him for prayer or counsel.
He carried on this ministry for more than thirty years,
working many miracles of healing.
When he was too old to work with his hands,
he retired to his cell and prayed that
he be enabled to serve his neighbour until his last breath.

On January 27, 1960 Saint Anthimos celebrated his final Divine Liturgy.
He reposed in peace at the age of ninety-one on February 15th,
mourned and revered by the whole island of Chios.
The remains of Saint Anthimos are in the church inside of
the monastery he founded and still work miracles along with
the holy icon of Panagia Voithia.
He was canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on August 13, 1992.

Orthodoxy & the inner interchanges

Heavenly King,
the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere and fills all things;
Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life
– come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity,
and save our souls, O Good One“.
Prayer to Holy Spirit

Prayer
“… prayer … actualizes our ascent to and
union with the Deity…
when our prayer, through its fervent compunction, transcends the passions and conceptual thoughts; for the intellect,
while still passion-dominated, cannot be united to God.
Thus so long as the intellect when praying remains in a passion-charged state,
it will not obtain mercy; but to the extent that it can dispel distractive thoughts it will experience inward grief, and in so far as it experiences such grief
it will partake of God’s mercy.
And if with humility it continues to savour this mercy
it will transform entirely the aspect of the soul that it accessible to passion

Saint Gregory Palamas – On Prayer and Purity of Heart

Keep your heart with all vigilance;
for from it flow the spring of life
“[Prov. 4: 23].

For from within, out of the heart of man,
come evil thoughts
“[Marc.7: 21].

So shun youthful passions and aim at
righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along
with those who call upon the Lord
from a pure heart
“[2Tim. 2:22].

In its biblical concept, the heart is the source of all the potentiality of the spiritual and physical life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the spring of life“. Prov. 4: 23
This applies not only to good potentialities but to evil ones as well: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander“. Matth.15: 19
So the heart has become the expression of the final condition of man, whether he be good or evil: “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil“[Luc.6:45].
This means that the inclinations of the inmost heart set the tone of the whole man – they colour his thoughts, his words, and his deeds.
Man’s speech thus inevitably betrays the nature of his heart: “For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks“[Luc.6: 45].
So man’s words usually testify to the state
of his heart.
They can justify him or condemn him:
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned“. [Matth.12: 37]
The relationship between one’s heart
and one’s lips is defined by the Apostle Paul as follows: “For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved“[Rom.10: 10]. So when the heart believes, the lips must confess what kind of faith is in the heart.

However, the Bible tells us that it is possible for
two kinds of hearts to exist side by side in man,
one expressing his true nature and another falsifying his thoughts, words and deeds.
In the latter case, a person talks of good deeds and actually does them to give people the false impression that he is virtuous, while in fact he is wicked:
You brood of vipers! How can you speak of good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks“.
Matth.12: 34
From the words of the Lord, we learn that it is impossible for man to speak good words out of himself while being wicked. Good words coming from an evil source could only occur with the help of an auxiliary power – or of another heart implanted by the devil to mimic good deeds. We can infer this from the way our Lord describes those who counterfeit good deeds as a “brood of vipers“.
The viper is a symbolical expression of the devil. Here the intention behind showing off virtue is to safeguard evil and guarantee its lasting effect – which is the very work of the devil. The devil’s work, with regard of the heart, is not merely confined to contaminating it with evil desires. It is not just that he makes the devil 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 and make sure that it is carried out.
As for God’s work concerning the heart, it is the complete removal of the evil heart and the creation of a new one that he implants into man. Thus, when man’s heart is transformed into a new heart, man of necessity is turned into another man:
Then the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall prophesy with them and be turned into another man . . .  When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart“.
1Sam.10: 6,9
In the Bible, the good News, the reality of creating a new heart for man goes hand in hand with three basic actions:
1.] contrition of the sinner’s heart;
2.] man’s complete cleansing or purging from within; and
3.] the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
These three actions we find most clearly expressed in Psalm 50 of the Prophet David:

Have mercy upon me, o God, according to Your steadfast Love;
According to Your abundance Mercy blot out my transgressions.
wash me thoroughly from my iniquity . . .

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,
and I shall be whiter than snow . . .
Create in me a clean heart. O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence, and
take not Your Holy Spirit from me . . .
A broken and contrite heart, o God, You will not despise”.

However, the creation of a new heart for a person in the Old Commitment [O.T.] was an exceptional and individual case. In the New Commitment [N.T.], the act became universal, not merely to create a new heart, but for creating a whole new man.
We find these three actions implied in the Mystery of Baptism. We find within it the image of cleansing and inward purging: “[He] cleaned their hearts by Faith“[Acts 15: 9]. This takes place during the burial in water in the Name of Christ. However, cleansing and purging cannot happen except through contrition of heart. It calls for genuine repentance a complete ˂-turn from sin. It is on account of this that forgiveness is granted; “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit“[Acts 2: 38]. That is, by thorough cleansing and purging through Faith and Repentance, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. It has thus become possible for every man to obtain the new creation and the new heart – by water and the Spirit, through Faith and Repentance.

However, purification of the heart through faith and repentance is one thing, but the acceptance of a heart newly created and purified by the Holy Spirit is another.
There is a crucial distinction between the two.
Purification of the heart is a necessary and vital activity in which we should be intimately involved.
But the creation of a new and a pure heart is an action that transcends our nature and belongs to God alone. 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 other words, insofar 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.
This power dwells in us as a new nature, with the activity of divine love and the promptings, or intimations, of righteousness. Not only that, but as we strive to purify our hearts from the darkness of sin, which blinds our spiritual sight, we become able to face the truth, letting it live within us and penetrate to the very roots of our being. In other words, the more we can emerge in the power of the new, divine man: “Seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after te image of the creator“[Col.3: 9,10].
We thus enter the sphere of ascetical theology.
Ascetical theology makes out man’s labor and struggle, which are sustained by Grace, an essential basis for the gifts of God.
Such gifts, however, transcend human action and nature.
The ascetic fathers in general set purification of the heart as a vital basis for Salvation.
It qualifies us for the revealing of the new man, that we may live in the newness of live as spiritual men in Christ.

In its patristic concept, the heart, [η χαρδια], is identical with its biblical concept.
The fathers of the Church consider the “heart” in its spiritual and patristic sense corresponds to what medical jargon calls the brain.
This is true both of its characteristics
and its activity.
It may even be more than that.
It is the centre of faculties, talents, intelligence, insight, volition, wisdom, vision – all of which emanate from it and pour into it:
In the same way the heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which tests the thoughts that accuse and defend
Saint Macarios, the Great [In the fifty Homilies; 43-7] – Intoxicated with God.
In the same homily, Saint Macarios describes the heart as a “workshop of justice, righteousness, unrighteousness“. He also says that though the heart may be the meeting place of all evils,
it may be a meeting place for God and His Angels:
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 all the thoughts of the soul and all its hopes.
This is how Grace penetrates throughout
all parts of the body [Spiritual Homily 15-20].

From this, we infer that the Fathers of the Church
see Grace pervading all our faculties: the mind, the will, the conscience, and the physical members of the body.
But all this depends on Grace
reigning first and foremost over the heart.
In other words, if Grace reigns over a person’s heart,
it changes its very nature
the result is a new spiritual nature.
This is where the value of the purification of the heart [received by Baptism]
is clearly shown; it is a preparation
for the indwelling of Grace.
Saint Macarios the Great insists that the evil heart contaminates the will.
It corrupts the natural inclinations and instincts of a man. Without his knowing of, everything that such a person sees and touches becomes impure for him:
So, on the contray, as many as a sons of darkness, sin has control over their heart and infiltrates into all his members.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts“[Matth.15: 19].
And thus diffused throughout sin covers man with darkness . . . Just as water runs through a pipe, so also sin runs through the heart and the thoughts.
All those who deny these statements are refuted end ridiculed by sin itself, which is always intent on victory.
For evil tries to hide itself end remain undetected in man’s mind [Macarios the great Homily 15-21].

Hence, first among man’s struggles and concerns is to purify his heart.
His endeavour is to overcome the deviations of the will and to correct the inclinations and instincs that have been subjected to the rule of evil.
This means that he has to confront the tendency of his heart toward evil activity.
He has to bridle it, curb it and finally destroy this tendency.
In his fifteenth homily, Saint Macarios describes the heart as “The place of Christ in which He retires” . He also describes it as “the Captain [who] rules and directs all the sailors“. Also, “it is like a chariot.
The reins, horses, and the whole apparatus are under one driver. When he wishes, he drives the chariot at high speed. When he wants, he stops it. Wherever he wishes to steer the chariot, there it goed. For the whole chariot is under the power of the driver. So also the heart
“.
Saint Macarios thus expresses the crucial rule of the heart as a captain of the ship of our life. It is the driver of the chariot that our bodies pull. If the captain is ignorant or foolish, what will become of the ship?  Or, if the driver is careless or crazy, what will the end of the chariot and its horses be?
If the house is impure how can the King dwell or rest in it?

Mattá al-Miskīn – Orthodox Prayer Life: “The Inner Way“.