The Journey of Life

The Heart

It’s strange how an unexpected subject can present itself from unrelated places. In such a scenario we often ask the question – ‘Is someone trying to tell me something?’ This happened to me between last night and this morning (4th June 2024). First of all, last night, I listened to a presentation regarding the mistranslation of a very well-known biblical text – ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9). Not only is this text usually quoted out of context but the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) actually says – not the heart ‘deceitful’, but the heart is ‘batheia’ meaning ‘deep’ or ‘complex.’ And it is in this context that God says through the prophet, ‘ I the LORD search the mind and try the heart’.

So what is God looking for looking for? ‘The man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.’ (Jeremiah 17:7) That man (or woman) says God – ‘Shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.’ (Jeremiah 17:8)

The second appearance of the subject of ‘The Heart’ came earlier this morning from a ‘Daily Wisdom’ and photo calendar kindly given to me by Romanian friends on a recent visit. It’s not a religious calendar as such – but the quote today was from a man called Vladimir Ghika of whom I had never heard. However Ghika – asked this question –

‘Does it take our whole life to discover our heart?

On checking I discovered that Vladimir Ghika (1873 – 1954) was a Romanian diplomat and essayist who, after his conversion became a priest of the Catholic Church. Ghika dedicated his life to works of charity going on to become founder of the first Catholic charity in Romania. In November 1952, with a Communist regime in power, Ghika was charged with ‘high treason’ thereafter being beaten, tortured and imprisoned. He died in 1954 due to the treatment to which he was subjected.

The third appearance of ‘The Heart’ today came from the latest post of Fr. Stephen Freeman whom I follow online. He asks this question –

‘What part of the heart is engaged by critical thought and argumentation? In most cases, it is quite possible that no part of the heart is engaged – the exercise can consist in nothing more than rational argumentation and limbic impulses (anger, fear, envy, etc.). This is to say that the “accuracy” of an apologetic article or video can be equally deadly (and sinful) in its effect.’

Stephen Freedman goes on –

‘As years have gone by, the phrase, “Guard your heart,” has come to have increasing importance for me. In the course of any given day, I do not find myself struggling to believe “right things.” I am not tempted by heresies. The great struggle is to maintain the most fundamental meaning of the word, “Orthodoxia,” which is “right worship.” Right worship describes the fullness of the heart’s right disposition towards God. The heart is the true battleground of the spiritual life …’

The heart then truly is – ‘deep’ and ‘complex.’ It is God who asks in Jeremiah – ‘Who can know it?’ and replies – ‘I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.’ No wonder Vladimir Ghika asks ‘Does it take our whole life to discover our heart?’ – I suspect the answer to that is a resounding ‘Yes’ and, I strongly suspect, we never fully do. But God does! As Stephen Freedman also suggests – the guarding of the heart is something we all need to pay attention to so that we are fully aware that the true battles of life will be fought, won or lost here. And in all that to remember that the heart cry and prayer of another – ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ (Psalm 51) is a prayer that should never be far from our lips.

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