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 … 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“.
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“.
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“.