On Peace of Heart

Brothers and sisters, unfortunately, in the modern world the gap between rich and poor countries is increasing, and the folly into which contemporary man is falling because of money is beyond limits. That is why the number of conflicts of all kinds is growing all over the world and armed attacks are often committed in the name of religion. From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (Jas. 4:1–3). Thus, man, maddened by his pleasures, destroys God's Creation, mercilessly exploiting his fellow human beings and ruining himself as well.


When someone forgets God and no longer lives according to His commandments, which were given to mankind in order to cultivate life and protect it, and, even worse, puts himself (in his extreme madness) in God's place, he already lives and acts against his own nature, against his own kind and against all Creation. He is guided by the motto: “If there is no God, everything is permitted.”1 But another, no less terrible extreme is the instrumentalization of faith, turning it into an ideology—when a person condemns his neighbors, excludes them from his social circle and even kills others in the name of his faith. Without realizing it he thereby denies both faith and God Himself. Unfortunately, all religions and denominations face such a fundamentalist and violent environment. We Orthodox Christians cannot act by force or by prohibitions against all these deviations. Because our weapon is spiritual and, above all, it is in the power of a personal example.

We Christians believe that our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to save people by the example of His life, which He sacrificed for all mankind. Christ did not reject or condemn anyone. On the contrary, He called everyone to Himself: Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light (Mt. 11: 28–30). To be disciples of Christ means to follow His example, being zealous in prayer and practicing asceticism in order to acquire a meek, humble and peaceful heart, free from the passions that cause people to lose peace of mind.

That is why Christian spirituality appeals to the human heart, so that it can become like the heart of Christ our Lord, Who became a man. But why exactly to the heart, and not to the mind, which is so exalted by the modern world? Because the heart is the center of the human being, and it is in it that we find existential unity with all Creation. All of people’s physical and mental powers are concentrated in the human heart. That is why our spiritual life should embrace the heart. Then we will feel joy and unity with everyone and everything. The most significant sign of such an inner spiritual state is the feeling of love and compassion for fellow human beings, for animals and for all living things, as the seventh-century monk St. Isaac the Syrian used to say.

As opposed to this, if someone is in a state of sin, his heart loses its inner integrity and unity. Such a person also loses his inner balance and peace, becoming selfish, withdrawing into himself, distancing himself from others and forgetting them. He begins to be afraid of others, to view them as enemies and oppose them. Others fall prey to such a man with a sullied heart, and he attacks them in his selfish, mercenary interests.

​N. Karazin. Crime and Punishment. 1893 ​N. Karazin. Crime and Punishment. 1893     

But how can we change our hearts to make them realize the presence of God in our lives and see fellow human beings around us? The pursuit of peace of mind, happiness, and self-fulfillment are fundamental human needs. For Christians, peace of heart is a gift from God, a result of the work of the grace of God in accordance with the measure of our faith. The Orthodox faith that we confess should not be reduced to intellectual knowledge or some sentimental emotions. It obliges believers to live according to the Divine commandments. God is hidden in His commandments. He who fulfills the commandments of Christ lovingly bears Christ in his heart, and with Him the whole of humanity.

A merciful heart is acquired primarily through prayer. For a believer, prayer is the breath, the “oxygen” of his life. Without regular prayer your soul becomes hardened and insensitive to God and your neighbors, and faith turns into an ideology, even if you do not realize it. However, only prayer performed by the mind in the heart is true, authentic prayer that transforms the human heart and makes it like that of Christ. The practice of such prayer requires not only concentrated attention, but also an ascetic life and abstinence in everything, especially in food. Because it is impossible to pray properly when your stomach is full. That is why the ancient Orthodox tradition recommends observing fasts. Moderation in itself is a great virtue and a true benefit for the health of the soul and the body. In addition, fasting has social consequences, especially in an unfair world like ours.

Thus, a believer purifies his heart through prayer and abstinence, and it is made calm by the grace of God. Such a person begins to radiate peace, becoming a peacemaker: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9). In our age we really need such people. Let’s strive for this. Amen.

1 Paraphrased from Dostoevsky’s, The Brothers Karamazov.—OC.

Nina Leigh6/15/2024 4:00 pm
"For Christians, peace of heart is a gift from God, a result of the work of the grace of God in accordance with the measure of our faith." Lord, have mercy. Grant us strong faith. Amen.
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