And Thus the Heart


All of these things of late: waiting, patience, the presence of God, our personhood, the Church and the Cross, all come back to the human heart. It is the place of all things of our existence. It is as St. Macarius said:

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there. (H.43.7

The heart contains all the treasures of heaven – God, the angels, life and the kingdom, light and the apostles, heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace. Everything. Of course it also contains things that haunt us and tear us down: dragons, lions, poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. Such an infinity dwells in our heart. Every fear we have outside ourselves has its home somewhere in the heart. Every joy we know outside ourselves has its proper home in the heart as well.

And thus as Christians, we rightly and correctly turn our attention to the heart. But we cannot simply turn our attention to the heart. We will be overwhelmed. Our attention is rightly turned towards God. When we find God in our heart, then we will not be overwhelmed by everything else we find there. God is the proper ruler, judge and king of all that we hold in our heart and when everything is brought in subjection to Him, then all will be well and nothing will frighten us.

The greatest danger in this age, as in every other, is our fleeing our heart and choosing to dwell somewhere else. There are many “safe” citadels of piety that will safeguard whatever piety we have erected and will protect us from knowing the truth of the heart. There we can “safely” judge the world – even judge God (I’ve seen it done more than once). But such citadels are themselves but the towers of hell, manned by demons who pose as friends. They do not guard against anything other than the truth and the abiding presence of God. Instead, we are called repeatedly back to the promises of our Baptism (or Chrismation). We “unite ourselves to Christ.” “We renounce Satan.” And with such a renouncement comes the renouncement of all the false places to stand other than the heart. The God Who saved us in Baptism is the same God who will safely lead us to this territory of the heart and there teach us what it is to serve Him in sincerity and truth. And quietly, and slowly, we will also begin to know the treasures that are hidden there: the life, the Kingdom, and God Himself. The Lord is in His Holy Temple! Let all the earth keep silence before Him!

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


2 responses to “And Thus the Heart”

  1. Ioannis Freeman Avatar
    Ioannis Freeman

    “There are many “safe” citadels of piety that will safeguard whatever piety we have erected and will protect us from knowing the truth of the heart. There we can “safely” judge ….”

    Looking at my life thus far, I can attest to how true this is. Namely, I look for safe places to hide out in presumed sanctity, such as social roles that I have linked to my identity, only to defile the same places with my menadering diversions. These diversions are fantasies.

    However, fantasies need not be distractions from Christ, but when diverting my attention from Christ as they often do, fantasies become selfish and banal. There is a balm for this suffering, and I am reminded again by Father Stephen that this salve of soul is the Balm of Gilead in baptism.

  2. Steve Shelton Avatar
    Steve Shelton


    Thank you telling us what we need to hear and not what is easy and “commercial”. It seems our culture wants us to find happiness and contentment in “things” as opposed to being thankful for what we have. When trouble does come our way, we often want to go to the dark side of our heart. Christ is there to tame the lions that want to shred us. Glory to God in the highest.

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