The Language of the Heart

The Language of the Heart

In the midst of his solidarity with the poor, St. Francis of Assisi made time for solitude in order to pay attention to his inner life. The health of our interior life rests upon our attentiveness. We need to be able to truly pay attention in order to hear the wordless voice of God that is continually drawing us into Oneness. To be attentive, we need to be awake and alert to the boundless grace of the present moment, the eternal now. Our lives have become so splintered, divided among so many responsibilities, so many demands upon our time, that most of us feel frazzled and fatigued. So much of modern technology, designed to make things easier for us, has in fact increased the things that tug for our attention. The internet, cell phones, lap-top computers, Blackberries, i-Pods and the ever-expanding world of cable television all squeeze every once of stillness and silence out of life. Life has become a blur, a whirling dervish of enticements and anxieties. Entering into our interior life, where we can encounter the love and mercy of God, is becoming increasingly more difficult.

For me, writing has become a sacramental avenue into that interior empty space where the fullness of God resides. The very act of writing demands attentiveness. Simone Weil claimed that all study and serious reading, with its required concentrated focus, was in essence an excellent preparation for prayer.

The Buddhist road to enlightenment is paved with attentiveness. Thomas Merton’s dance with Buddhism helped him embrace a freer, more experimental form of writing. His thoughts flowed out onto the page in clear, simple words that expressed the openness of his heart and spirit. It also helped him see the entire world in a more positive light. It seems that Buddhist meditation practices drew him into a deeper silence, which helped him to be more aware of his true self. Merton’s interior journey helped him affirm and deepen his Christian understanding that (as he wrote), “Christ alone is the way.” And the way of Christ is all-embracing love and peace.

The human heart is drawn to God. The language of the heart is love. Not soft, wimpy, fleeting Hollywood-style love, but a bold, deep, penetrating love that requires openness and transformation, a love that perpetually gives itself away. We live in a world of hearts. Sadly, most hearts are broken, unloved and unable to love. God wants to give us new hearts, mystical hearts throbbing to love and to be loved. If you can imagine a world of divinely transformed hearts, you will see a world a peace, a world of plenty where no one goes hungry. Such a world begins within each of us, if we are able to shake off the countless distractions of modern life and pay attention to the silent voice of God.

Prayer is the only weapon we need. Prayer helps us flee from the storm of inner thoughts and the noise that engulfs modern life. Prayer slows down the frenzied pace of life. Prayer quiets negative passions. Prayer helps restore our awareness of God. Prayer is an act of humility, stemming from a mindfulness of our inadequacy. Prayer and humility go hand-in-hand: prayer deepens humility and humility deepens prayer. Prayer creates the unruffled calmness required to encounter God. To neglect prayer is to neglect God. Prayer helps you see the extraordinary hidden in the ordinary. Prayer should lead us to wholeness and simplicity. Prayer prompts us to reach out in compassion to the suffering and weak, and helps us embrace all of humanity. Prayer is the breath of life, the sunrise of the soul.

“Man needs to enclose himself in the inner closet of his heart more often than he needs to go to church: and collecting all his thoughts there, he must place his mind before God, praying to Him in secret with all the warmth of spirit and with living faith. At the same time he must also learn to turn his thoughts to God in such a manner as to be able to grow into a perfect man.”

-St. Dimitri of Rostov

The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology


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