Tag Archives: the heart

What can be lacking to them?

I became very gl IMG_2996 lily origfamiliar with these lily plants today, without finding out what their name is. I was at church helping to spruce up the large property. These might have waited to be cut back except that their irrigation lines are going to be re-done. So I bent over each of two or three dozen clumps, grabbed the leaves in my fist as though they were a hank of hair, and snip-snip-snipped, and on to the next.

All the while, I could not keep from humming the tune commonly used to sing St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  A few days ago I thought to memorize the words, and as I’ve never been part of a church that sang it I listened on YouTube and wrote the words on 3×5 cards, and sang along quite a bit one afternoon and evening.

Since then I have only managed to look at my cards enough to memorize the first stanza (below), but those lines have filled my heart to overflowing, as the melody plays night and day in my mind, never without those powerful reminders of the fullness of our faith, and the presence of Christ himself in my song.

St Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

gl IMG_2993 church

So, I’ve been humming along with my Companion, as I wash the dishes or take a shower, or dig weeds. I glanced up this afternoon to see a side of the church that I don’t often look at, framed with olive branches and roses, and I had to scrunch down close to the dirt to get a strangely angled picture that takes it all in.

gl IMG_3005 weed

I didn’t have too many weeds to dig – I took this one’s picture because we have them all over the county this year, and I want to see if I can find it in Weeds of the West to learn its name.

The seed pods of the lilies were intriguing to me, with their shiny black and bumpy contents, about to pop out on to the ground. I brought a few home, wondering how hard it would be to get them to sprout…. gl IMG_3001 seeds

gl IMG_2995

So many people were helping out, pruning olives and wisteria, laying irrigation lines, trimming roses. We seemed to be finished by noon, except: the head gardener wanted four more big rosebushes on the other side of the property to be cut back. I had time, so I did them as the last thing. I had to stand in the middle, surrounded by floribundas, and toss the clippings over their heads into a bin outside of the thicket. This was oddly the best time of the whole day, maybe because I knew it was my last task, or maybe because they were such pure and lovely flowers.

Before I got in my car I took pictures of the Japanese Windflowers (or Japanese Anemones), of which we have two colors at church. I am excited to have some in my own new garden at home, but mine haven’t opened quite yet.

gl IMG_3013 windflower

I had planned to post the quote below tonight, and then the flowers and seeds and St. Patrick crowded in, but I think everything goes together pretty well.

How mistaken are those people who seek happiness outside of themselves, in foreign lands and journeys, in riches and glory, in great possessions and pleasures, in diversions and vain things which have a bitter end! It is the same thing to construct the tower of happiness outside of ourselves as it is to build a house in a place that is consistently shaken by earthquakes.

Happiness is found within ourselves, and blessed is the man who has understood this. Happiness is a pure heart, for such a heart becomes the throne of God. Thus says Christ of those who have pure hearts, “I will visit in them, and walk in them, and I will be a God to them, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16) What can be lacking to them? Nothing, nothing at all! For they have the greatest good in their hearts: God Himself!

~Saint Nektarios of Aegina

Do the spooky thing.

My late husband many times told me that I thought too much. He would like to have read this recent article by Fr. Stephen who tells me the same thing, and I commend it to your reading, even though, as Fr. Stephen admits, “…our thinking about thought is decidedly spooky.” We do need to think in order to learn the proper place of thinking, and the difference between thinking about God and being with God.

It is the latest in a series in which the author tries to get through our modern noggins the reality that we are more than our thoughts and feelings, and that the Christian faith is not essentially an idea. How could it be, when God is not an idea?

I think I get this, and I have written about it and quoted others about it for my own edification many times. It remains that I was born in this modern era and I’ve soaked up its ways as regularly as I’ve eaten my breakfast. It’s hard to live in the truth that I am learning, but each point that Fr. Stephen makes in each successive article helps a little more. This last one is full of concrete illustrations, such as:

1) eating your saIMG_1452 chunkndwich
2) burying your dead
3) being bored in church
4) the mythology of Star Trek
5) what Christ’s blood is
6) taking antidepressants

To contrast the secular mind with the spiritual or the Christian mind would be to perpetuate the misconception of our selves, and the article is fittingly titled “The Secular Mind Versus the Whole Heart.” In the comments section the author often elaborates on and clarifies statements in response to commenters, so don’t miss that part. Read it here.

The clear eye on the map.

The Poem-a-Day selection for yesterday was about maps, by Carl Sandburg. I read it when I came home from church this afternoon, after hearing a homily about a map. In Liturgy we learned that the map to the Kingdom is in our heart — but many other things are in the heart, as is obvious from our own lives and from the daily news. One consequence that can result from contemplating the news of the world is an increase of fear and anxiety in our hearts.

The experience related in Sandburg’s poem seems to echo what St. Macarius describes, following the Prophet Jeremiah,  who said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

St. Macarius: “Within the heart is an unfathomable depth. There are reception rooms and bedchambers in it, doors and porches, and many offices and passages. In it is the workshop of righteousness and of wickedness. In it is death, in it is life….The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there, and there likewise are poisonous creatures….rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms.”

EXPERIENCE

This morning I looked at the map of the day
And said to myself, “This is the way! This is the way I will go;
Thus shall I range on the roads of achievement,
The way is so clear—it shall all be a joy on the lines marked out.”
And then as I went came a place that was strange,—
’Twas a place not down on the map!
And I stumbled and fell and lay in the weeds,
And looked on the day with rue.

I am learning a little—never to be sure—
To be positive only with what is past,
And to peer sometimes at the things to come
As a wanderer treading the night
When the mazy stars neither point nor beckon,
And of all the roads, no road is sure.

I see those men with maps and talk
Who tell how to go and where and why;
I hear with my ears the words of their mouths,
As they finger with ease the marks on the maps;
And only as one looks robust, lonely, and querulous,
As if he had gone to a country far
And made for himself a map,
Do I cry to him, “I would see your map!
I would heed that map you have!”

-Carl Sandburg

Our pastor was preaching on Matthew 6, where Christ teaches us:

The light of the body is the eye. If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

It’s interesting to look at several translations of the words describing the healthy or unhealthy eye: cloudy or clear, evil or single, diseased or unclouded. Of course, Christ is our Light, He said so Himself, and if we keep our eye on Him, He will light the path, He will be the map in our heart, so that we find the best things that St. Macarius tells about:

“The heart is Christ’s palace…There Christ the King comes to take His rest, with the angels and the spirits of the saints, and He dwells there, walking within it and placing His kingdom there….the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace: all things are there.”

When Christ places His kingdom there, we understand that our heavenly Father is obligated to take care of us — He loves us and is, after all, our Father. Much more than any earthly father He loves us and wants to provide for our needs.

Today I also read a poem by Wendell Berry, on this blog, and he expresses and heeds the exhortation in today’s Gospel:

THE PEACE of WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-Wendell Berry

What a contrast Berry’s focus is to Sandburg’s narrator who wanders where “no road is sure,” and who longs for a good map. “We have been given the map!” I want to tell him. Keep your eyes on Christ, and walk on past the dragons and gaping chasms. Cling to Him, keep bringing your focus back to Him as a light that is far brighter than your “mazy stars,” and you will find your way to Christ’s palace, and take your rest, too, with the saints and angels, amid the treasures of grace.

It’s not about feeling balanced.


From another site:No frail human morality can ever hope to contain the overflowing fullness of life with which Christ desires to rejuvenate the faithful.

…The world will not be saved by optimistic humanism that believes human progress and morality will eventually save the world. For Dostoevsky and the church fathers, man’s deepest problems are not moral, nor even psychological, but ultimately existential and ontological. It’s not about following the rules or feeling balanced. It is a matter of choice and it is a matter of human nature being touched by the hand of God Himself.

Only by daring to leap towards God in spite of the good and evil that exist in the heart can the believer hope to get beyond the contradiction of the human condition. In order to avoid descending into nihilism, Dostoevsky offers his readers another path: the acceptance of suffering and affliction in the context of a relationship with God. It is only in this context that man is able to recognize a path out of his fallen condition. It is only this Love that is able to transform suffering into salvific joy.

Read more here: Ancient Christian Wisdom blog