Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spiritual Exercises For the Heart

The challenge for developing the heart is to gain an orientation towards holy, divine and spiritual things.  This is important because the heart is the center of our spiritual activities.
Saint Theophan says,
"All of man's spiritual activity centers in the heart.  The truths are impressed in it, and good dispositions are rooted into it.  But its main work is developing a taste for the spiritual..."


Here are the main exercises for the heart:
   1. Attending holy Church services
   2. Prayer, as specified by the Church; home prayer rule
   3. Using holy crosses, icons and other sacred substances and objects
   4. Observing holy customs established by the Church.


One of the major exercises is attending church services.
Saint Theophan says,
"Church services, that is, all the daily services, together with the entire arrangement of the church's icons, candles, censing, singing, chanting, movements of the clergy, as well as the service for various needs; then services in the home, also using ecclesiastical objects such as sanctified icons, holy oil, candles, holy water, the Cross, and incense––all of these holy things together acting upon all the senses––sight, smell, touch, and taste––are the clots that wipe clean the sense of a deadened soul."


But prayer is at the heart of our effort, he tells us.  Prayer is the "Yearning of the mind and heart towards God."


Saint Theophan says,
"Prayer is an all-encompassiong obligation, as well as an all-effective means.  through it the truths of the faith are impressed in the mind and good morals into the will.  But most of all it enlivens the heart in its feelings....Therefore prayer should begin to be developed before anything else, and continued steadily and tirelessly until the Lord grants prayer to the on who prays."


Next : A prayer rule
More on Orthodox Prayer


Reference: Path to Salvation, pp 253-255

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