The heart is the inner essence, core, and center of our entire person.
Christ Our Pascha teaches:
“The spiritual and moral state of the whole person depends on the state of our heart.”
The heart is the seat of feelings, cognition, self-awareness, consciousness, and spiritual powers.
In Scripture, we read that the heart rejoices, sorrows, suffers anguish, rages, and envies.
God searches the depth of the heart, a power only he has.
We come to know ourselves through the contemplation of God’s commandments and our hearts.
Conscience and the Heart
Conscience is a manifestation of the heart. Conscience gives us “joint knowledge” with the Holy Trinity for “joint action” with the Holy Trinity.
The heart allows us “to distinguish between good and evil.”
Our Lord teaches that moral good and evil can come from the heart:
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
The importance of conscience to a person’s being is noted by the Church Fathers:
Abba Dorotheus teaches:
“When God created man, he breathed into him something divine, as it were, a hot and bright spark added to reason, which lit up the mind and showed him the difference between right and wrong. This is called conscience, which is the law of his nature ... it is something divinely implanted in us, as we have said, and it can never be destroyed. It always patiently reminds us of our duties.”
St. Clement of Alexandria teaches:
“One’s own conscience is best for choosing accurately or shunning. And its firm foundation is a right life.”
St. John Chrysostom teaches:
“God put within our mind a judge so ever-watchful and vigilant—I mean conscience. It is impossible that any judge among men and women should be so indefatigable as our conscience is.”
The heart is the source of our thoughts and decisions.
We are called to tend the heart the way a gardener tends soil and to prevent the bad seed of the devil from entering.
Tending the heart requires us to be watchful and attentive, to guard the heart. The Church Fathers teach us to guard the heart by dismissing evil thoughts:
Saint Macarius the Great teaches:
“... the heart itself is but a small vessel, yet there also are dragons and there are lions; there are poisonous beasts and all treasures of evil. And there are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices. But there is also God, also the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the treasures of grace—there are all things.”
We come to know ourselves through inner watchfulness.
Through inner watchfulness, we quiet the intellect and become freed from disordered intentions and thoughts.
We see ourselves through God’s light when we become internally watchful.
We come to know our strengths and weaknesses, our talents and abilities. This allows us to move toward our ultimate goal in life—union with the Holy Trinity in eternal life.
[Notes from our third catechetical talk based on Christ Our Pascha, pages 244-246.]