Not only the seat of our emotions, it is also the source of the choices of our intellect and our will.
The “heart” is mentioned more than 800 times in the Old Testament and 150 times in the New. The heart is both the physical organ as well as the most intimate depths of the human being. Not only the seat of our emotions, it is also the source of the choices of our intellect and our will. This is why God “commands” us to love “with all our heart.” But what does that really mean?
Our heart can be torn between a great desire for good and a propensity to evil. It is thus the source of sin that creates conflict in the inmost depths of man. And so the cry of one who prays consists in begging God for an undivided heart, just as God himself is one and undivided (see Ps 86). A heart at one in its desires, its thoughts, and its actions. A heart turned toward the one Lord. In order to unify our heart, we must avoid allowing ourselves to be invaded by false reasoning or sometimes obsessive ideas. This is what we call “spiritual combat.” By keeping watch over our eyes and over our ears, we keep constant watch over what we see and what we hear in order to remain united to the Lord at every moment of our lives.
At morning prayer, a Jewish man attaches to his left arm — the side of the heart — and to his forehead (the mind) little boxes called tefillin, or phylacteries. These boxes contain the word of God. This act is accompanied by a prayer: “May the desires of our thoughts and hearts be subjugated to His service.” This “subjugation” to God is the only means to free oneself from slavery to sin. It allows one to undertake the true Exodus — the escape from self — in order to march toward the land of freedom that is to be found in God.
The heart of Jesus leads us to “mad love”
Christ fully lived this freedom as a child of God: he had no will other than the will of God, no other desire than to love him and do as he commands. We then understand why the whole history of the universe converges on the heart of Christ. There we discover that limitless love for his heavenly Father, which consumed him and enflamed him with zeal for each and every one of us. In the symbol of the human heart of Jesus is revealed the infinity of divine love. The heart of Jesus leads us, too, to that “mad love” of which St. Teresa of Avila spoke.
St. John situates Pentecost at the instant when the heart of Christ is pierced by a blow of the lance. It is at that precise moment that the Holy Spirit is given to the world. The Holy Spirit is “transferred” to us in order to create “a new heart” within us, a filial heart in the likeness of that of the Only Begotten Son of God. The heart of Jesus beating within his Eucharistic Body. The Host henceforth becomes the throne of divine mercy and the locus of the perpetual Pentecost. The Eucharist is a “school of freedom” that teaches us the language of the heart — the language of the “gift.” The gift that flows from the heart of God: the Holy Spirit, the gift of self, the true joy of the human heart.
Father Nicolas Buttet