When we read the Bible, we realize that the heart is much more than the a physical organ that allows a human being to live. The heart is the space where God speaks in prayer. It is an inner place from which feelings, memories, ideas and decisions spring. Those who pray find God in their hearts. In this sense, the people of Israel understood that they had to “love God with all their heart” (Dt 6:5), trying to fulfill his commandments. But the heart is also the place from which sin springs, from where “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies and blasphemies proceed” (cf. Mt 15:19).
In the light of the Resurrection, the early Christian community realized that God offers salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29) and who guards the hearts of his faithful (cf. Phil 4:7). Whoever is “pure in heart” is blessed and receives the vision of God as a promise (cf. Mt 5:8).
For the Fathers of the Church, spiritual life takes place in the heart, the place of contemplation. St. Clement of Rome says that when we pray, the “eyes of the heart” are opened to see life from Jesus’ perspective. St. Cyprian of Carthage does not forget that, when we pray, “God listens to the heart, not the voice,” since prayer is not mere external words, but the interior heart that utters them. St. Augustine, based on his experience of prayer, states that “everything I talk about is like a tree, it has its roots in the heart, because the actions carried out proceed from the root of the heart; if you plant passion there, thorns will sprout; if you plant charity there, flowers and fruits will sprout.” To conclude these examples, St. John Cassian writes that, “whoever meditates on the Word and entrusts his whole life to God makes his heart serene and tranquil.”
The “Way of the Heart” that the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network offers us is just that, a journey into the interior of the heart, in prayer, listening and dialogue, which propels us on a mission of compassion for the world.
Fr. Antonio S’Antana, SJ
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Portugal)