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What is the 'Heart'?

Archimandrite Zacharias answers this important question.

Archmandrite Zacharias of Essex, UK, will be at the monastery at the end of October.  He will give a public talk on Friday, Ctober 27 at 7pm in the monastery dining hall and everyone in the area is invited.  In the excerpt below he discusses the 'heart' which features prominently in Orthodox spiritual writings but which can be difficult to define.  Also included are some links to more of his teachings.

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 heart is synonymous with the soul, with the spirit; it is a spiritual place where man finds his unity, where his nous is enthroned when it has been healed of the passions. Not only his nous, but his whole body too is concentrated there. St. Gregory Palamas says that the heart is the very body of our body, a place where man’s whole being becomes like a knot. When mind [rational faculty] and heart [noetic faculty] unite, man possesses his [whole] nature and there is no dispersion and division in him any more. That is the sanctified state of the man who is healed.

On the contrary, in our natural and fallen state, we are divided: we think one thing with our mind, we feel another with our senses, we desire yet another with our heart. However, when mind and heart are united by the grace of God, then man has only one thought — the thought of God; he has only one desire — the desire for God; and only one sensation — the noetic sensation of God. That is why repentance and tears are so much appreciated: they help us to find that healing, that state of integrity, because no human being can weep having two thoughts; we weep because of one thought that hurts us. If we are hurt by the thought that we are separated from God, that ‘salvation is far from the sinner’ (cf. 118:155 LXX) and all those things that inspire this pain in our heart, then, of course, we can cry; but if we have two thoughts, we cannot cry The saints do not have many thoughts; they may have only one thought, but through that thought, they see the whole of cosmic being, heaven and earth. That thought becomes a pair of binoculars through which they see and discern everything. Tears are much appreciated in the spiritual life because, sooner or later, they make the heart surface. If we have tears because we desire God and we want to be reconciled with Him, surely the heart will be found and the mind will descend into it and God will reign there with grace.
*** We will feature additional questions/answers on our Facebook page in the coming weeks.

 ~ Books by Archmandrite Zacharias

~ Podcast on 'Domestic Theology'

~ A collection of recorded presentations

 

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