Thursday, October 29, 2009

Living Out of the Heart


Those who are  new to Orthodoxy often spend much time reading and studying the Fathers of the Church, its traditions and practices, reconciling doctrine to Scripture, all to help develop a new Orthodox worldview.  There is much to learn when we are making a change in our way of thinking about religion and salvation.  For some, this effort can be very intense and demanding. But, this effort is only the beginning. At some point it is necessary to make a transition––to shift one's effort towards more inner development.  Our love for Christ must move from the head to the heart.  This requires more than following the guidelines for daily prayer, following the fasting guidelines, and attending the services of the Church.  This too, can be done through mental effort, and often is in the beginning.  The move from the head to the heart requires a surrender to the Church, a giving up of filtering everything through the mind.  What we seek is the active work of the Holy Spirit that was planted in us at Baptism and sealed with our Chrismation.  The aim is a union with God, not fulfilling some external rules.

Saint Tikhon (of Zdonsk)  puts it this way
If someone should say that true faith is the correct holding and confession of correct dogmas, he would be telling the truth, for a believer absolutely needs the Orthodox holding and confession of dogmas.  But this knowledge and confession by itself does not make a man a faithful and true Christian. ... The knowledge of correct dogmas is in the mind, and it is often fruitless, arrogant, and proud....  The true faith in Christ is in the heart, and it is fruitful, humble, patient, loving, merciful, compassionate, hungering and thirsting for righteousness..
Fr Saraphim Rose says,
Do we perhaps boast that we keep fasts and the Church calendar, have good icons and congregational singing, give to the poor and maybe even tithe to the Church? Do we delight in exalted Patristic teachings and theological discussions without having in our hearts the duplicity of Christ and true compassion for the suffering?––then ours is a spirituality of comfort, and we will not have the spiritual fruits that will be exhibited by those without all these comforts who deeply suffer and struggle for Christ.
When we are able to make this transition from the head to the heart, we discover an intense heartfelt desire, a burning from within, for the love of God and to be united with Him.  We leave our earthly passions behind and have only one, to be in the loving embrace of God. We experience a sense of willingness to sacrifice all we have for Him.  When we speak we no longer search our memory for the proper thing to say based on what we have learned from out readings or studies. Instead the Holy Spirit moves us to say the proper words and do the proper deeds.  It comes naturally and in a loving way. We come alive with an inner fire of love.  We find an inner peace no matter what difficulties we face.

Elder Porphyrios says,
When you find Christ [in the heart], you are satisfied, you desire nothing else, you find peace.  You become a different person.  You live everywhere, wherever Christ is.  You live in the stars, in infinity, in heaven with the angels, with the saints, on earth with people, with plants, with animals, with everyone and everything.  When there is love for Christ, loneliness disappears.  You are peaceable, joyous, full. Neither melancholy, not illness, nor pressure, nor anxiety, nor depression nor hell.
When Christ enters your heart, your life changes.  Christ is everything.  Whoever experiences Christ within himself, experiences ineffable things––holy and sacred things.  He lives in exultation...
Fr Seraphim writes,
"When those who are rich in the Holy Spirit, really having the heavenly wealth and the fellowship of the Spirit in themselves, speak to any the word of truth...it is out of their own wealth and out of their own treasure, which they possess within themselves when they speak, and out of this that they gladden the souls of the hearers of the spiritual discourse...."
But one who is poor, and does not possess the wealth of Christ in his soul ... even if he wishes to speak a word of truth and to gladden others ... but after he has gone through it, each word goes back to the source from which is was taken, and he himself remains once more naked and poor.... 
For this reason we should seek first from God with pain of heart and in faith, that He would grant us to find this wealth, the true treasure of Christ in our hearts, in the power and effectual working of the spirit.  In this way, first finding in ourselves the Lord to be our profit and salvation and eternal life, we may then profit others also, according to our strength and opportunity, drawing upon Christ, the measure within."
It is helpful to seek out a spiritual father who can guide you.  He will be able to help you to make this transition.  He can help you avoid becoming too intense in your effort to learn doctrine and practice guidelines for this and that.  It is God's love we seek and this only comes from the heart.

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