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The Spiritual Man, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

14- His heart is with God

 

The life of the spiritual man is not an external appearance, or mere practices or obligations or mere laws (i.e.. commandments to be carried out literally). But his spiritual life -before anything else- is “The life of the heart with God” as the Lord says:

“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (Prov 23:26).

The important thing is to give Me your heart. If you do ,your eyes will observe My ways. The Divine inspiration in the Book of Proverbs says too: “Keep your heart with diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov 4:23)... Man’s spiritual life comes out of this heart. So, man ought to care about his heart and its purity. The Lord said in his beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8).

Indeed, how great is the reward for the pure heart... It sees God! The spiritual life is not words or an external appearance. The chanter says in the Psalm: “The royal daughter is all glorious within “despite” her clothing is woven with gold, in robes of many colours” (Ps 45:13).

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Concerning His commandments, the Lord said:

“And these words, which I command you today shall be in your heart” (Deut. 6:6).

St-Takla.org Image: Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount painting, by James J. J. Tissot صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: السيد المسيح في الموعظة على الجبل، رسم الفنان جيمز جي. ج. تيسوت

St-Takla.org Image: Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount painting, by James J. J. Tissot

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: السيد المسيح في الموعظة على الجبل، رسم الفنان جيمز جي. ج. تيسوت

And the Psalmist said: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11) When God’s commandment is inside the heart, it is also linked to the love in the heart, as David said in the Psalm: “I love your commandments more than gold”. “Your word is very pure; therefore your servant loves it” (Ps 119:127-140). The heart is the centre of feelings, and God wants the feelings of your heart, wants your love, and so He said:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37).

Also: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. The Lord said about this love, that by it “hang all the law and the Prophets” (Mt 22:40). The phrase (with all your heart) means that there is no one or any thing in the heart to compete with God in the love of the heart for Him.. So, He said: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:37). All the heart to God, and God asks for it.

He says in The Song of Solomon:

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm” (Song 8:6).

As a seal upon your heart with regard to love, and upon your arm with regard to work. The work which the spiritual man does is a natural result of his love for God and mankind... And the more his heart is deep in its love; his work for God becomes stronger...

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The words of the pure heart are pure and its thought is also pure, because the thought comes from the heart as well as the words. In this, the Lord said:

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil” (Lk 6:45).

So, the heart is important because “Out of it spring the issues of life”. It is the spring out of which comes the thought, the words and emotions, even it affects the senses too. Some may defend an angry person who proceeds harsh words out of his mouth, and say: “despite his anger, his heart is white!” No, because the white heart gives out white words. The Lord said:

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34).

And so, the sin of tongue is a second or a following sin, but the first sin, which precedes it, is in the heart. If the heart holds hypocrisy, hypocritical words come out of it, and if it holds anger, angry words will come out of it. If the heart holds kindness and sympathy... and so on. The Psalmist says:

“My heart is over flowing with a good theme” (Ps 45:1).

That is with those who are good and whose hearts and tongues are in one stream, as we say in the Praise “Eltasbeha” (my heart and tongue praise the holy). Contrary to this are the hypocrites, whose hearts are unlike their tongues! Those whom the Lord rebuked, saying: “..How can you, being evil, speak good things? (Mt 12:34).

This hypocrite who speaks different from what is in his heart, his looks reveal him, as the eye is often the mirror of the heart which shows all his feelings... The features of his face or the tones of his voice could disclose him.

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The spiritual man is simple hearted and does not conceal other than he shows!

He is an open man, what he says is what is in his heart. If he praises someone, he trusts in him in his heart. If he apologizes, his apology truly comes out of his heart. While another may apologize but his apology is not accepted because it does not come out of the heart. He may say to someone “May God forgive you” and he means “May God repay you according to your work!”

God knows what is in the heart because “the Lord weighs the hearts” (Prov 21:2).

The Holy Bible said about God that He is, “...Testing the mind and the heart” (Jer 11:20) “For he knows the secrets of the heart” (Ps 44:21). “The Lord knows the thoughts of man” (Ps 94:11). It is also said: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways... (Jer 17:9-10).

But the spiritual man has an upright heart before God.

The Lord knows the upright and the perverse hearts.

The Holy Bible says: “Light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart”. (Ps 97:11) and “Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to thee Lord” (Prov 11:20). The Holy Bible says about those who are of an upright heart, they “call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2Tim 2:22). David the Prophet in his Psalm of repentance says about this heart:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:10).

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This point brings us to repentance and its relation with the heart...

True repentance is not just leaving sin in effect, but leaving sin from the heart, the heart no longer loves it, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. The perfection of repentance is hatred of sin. If man disliked sin, he will not return to it again, so his repentance becomes a dividing line between a life away from God and a new life that longs for God. One of the saints said, “Repentance is to exchange a desire for a desire, which means leaving the lust of the world and man’s whole desire becomes living with the Lord. The Lord said about repentance:

“Turn to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12).

“So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13). Repentance is a longing to return to God, hearing His voice, and the work of His grace in the heart. On the other hand, he who does not respond to His voice, is a hard hearted person. The Apostle says:

“If you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb 3:8-15).

And he repeats it in (Heb 4:7). It is the same as said in the Psalm: “Today, if you will hear his voice; do not harden your hearts” (Ps 95:7-8).

Then God looks at non-repentance through the rejecting heart, before the insurgent work. Therefore, when He leads us to repentance He promises us the change of this heart. And if changed, the behaviour changes accordingly. The Lord says:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezek 36:26).

“...And take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezek 11:19).. He considers that repentance begins from the heart, and the non-contrite heart is a stony heart, a rocky heart, a hard heart, as Pharaoh’s heart.

The Lord repeats the same in the Book of Jeremiah the Prophet, and says: “Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:7).

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The return of man means that the will of his heart unites with the will of God.

God works in his heart, and he returns with his heart to God. God says in the Book of Joel the Prophet: “Turn to Me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). And in the Book of Ezekiel: “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezek 18:31). And about the outcome of this new heart, St Paul the Apostle says: “...but by the renewing of your mind:.” (Rom 12:2). If the heart changes from the inside, his thoughts change too. “For out of the heart proceed evil thought” (Mt 15:19). Thus, the heart must change.

The fault of many is that they assume repentance is just confessing the sins, and they keep a desirable sin in the heart.

Because of this sin that they love, they back away from their repentance and fall many times, as the heart is not wholly for God and they did not return to God with their whole hearts... and their minds have not been renewed as the thought is still clinging to sin, and so is the heart...Their repentance is from the outside and not from the inside. God looks inside and says: “My son, give Me your heart”. Ananias and Sapphira laid the money at the apostles feet but they did not put God in their hearts.... The love of money -even a part of it- was in their hearts (Acts 5:1-4).

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Often we ask children to be modest in their clothes without planting modesty into their hearts!

Although, if God enters their hearts they will be entirely convinced by it, and then modesty in apparel and make up will automatically become natural without any outside pressure.

We ought to rise above the level of visible works, to the heart feelings within.

There is a son who might obey his father because of fear or submission, while his heart is rebellious over his father’s orders.. A man might pay his tithes with uncomfortable heart; he paid from his pocket and not his heart...

But the spiritual man, when he gives, he gives from his heart, with content and cheer, according to the saying of the Bible: “For God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).

A man might fast by his mouth but his heart is not turning away from such food, so he resorts to tricky means and ways to find vegetarian butter, cheese and chocolate. He also looks for the cooking method which makes the vegetarian food more appetizing!!. Where is the core of fasting here? And what is its relation to the heart?

A man might prostrate (give a metanya) with his body while his heart did not bow like his head.

In his prostration, there is no essence of contrition, submission or repentance. Accordingly, when he apologizes to another with prostration, it is not acceptable...

A man might confess his sins but his heart is not remorseful!.

A man might stop talking by his tongue, but has much talk in his mind!

“A man might speak with humble words, but his heart is not modest. His words could be softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Ps 55:21). In all this, the Lord says: “My son, give Me your heart”.

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The spiritual man gives the heart to God as the heart contains all feelings and spiritualities.

Take faith, for example: There is a big difference between the faithful by name, and the faithful from the depth of the heart, who shows his faith by all his works. (Jas 2:18)... The faithful who sees God before him all the time, and to him the existence of God is not a mere belief. It is a life which he lives and feels...

The holy zeal is not just works or words but it comes out of the heart.

Meekness, humbleness and other virtues are not mere external works. There is a big difference between the humble by tongue and the humble in heart ,who is convinced within that he is a sinner and weak and if it was not for the grace of God which supports him, he could have fallen down like others...

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Also, the heart is the source of dreams, suspicions, thoughts and doubts.... as well as the source of the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22).

For example: Love, joy and peace... They all come out of the heart... And long-suffering, kindness goodness and self-control... They also come out of the heart. Otherwise it will lose its meaning and the righteousness that is in it...

Goodness is not whitewashed tombs (Mt 23:27). But it is the goodness of the heart. Purity is not just escaping from sin, but it is the purity of the heart...

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The spiritual man, in all the work he does, knows that God is looking at his heart, his intention and his objective.

Out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). His only treasure is God.. All the time, he says to the Lord: “ My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast” (Ps 57:7). Even if he fell asleep, his soul says to God: “I sleep, but my heart is awake” (Song 5:2).

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The spiritual man, his prayers come out of his heart.

And not like those about whom the Lord said: “These people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Is 29:13) (Mt 15:8)...

But his heart is in contact with God completely. He speaks and feels his being in the presence of God, and that he talks to God and says: “My heart and tongue praise the Holy” and repeats with David his saying:

 

"With my whole heart I have sought you'' (Ps 119:10).

Even during Mass or Praise, "Tasbeha", his prayer is not just a tune or words to repeat, but the feelings of a heart poured before God in contrition, in submission, in faith, in love, in understanding, in contemplation and in warmth.

One of the twenty four elders would advance and take his prayers in his golden censor and ascends up.


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