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2013-07-14 message

posted Jul 14, 2013, 7:48 PM by St. John's Webmaster   [ updated Jul 14, 2013, 7:49 PM ]

Last week, we saw that love has a rational component. We usually associate rationality with the mind, so today, we are going to briefly look at the relationship between heart and mind. We usually refer to the part of ourselves which generates feelings as the heart. Yet, as Fr. Stephen Freeman points out, “The distinction between mind and heart is not a distinction between thought and feeling. Rather it is a distinction between the mind (seat of thoughts and feelings) and the heart (the seat of a deeper awareness—sometimes called the nous in Orthodox writing). Orthodox spiritual practice would ultimately look for the integration of the whole person and the union of mind and heart” (from Mind and Heart, on the author’s blog, glory2godforallthings.com).

So, from the very beginning, we see that, in the Christian understanding of man, thought and feeling do not originate in separate places; they are not, in some way, removed from one another. Moreover, there is more to us than even the totality of rationality and feeling: there is the ability to perceive God on a level surpassing both. We will explore this aspect of our humanity in a future bulletin.

For now, we remain on the topic of rationality and feelings and we can say that, left unchecked, neither is entirely trustworthy. It is likely that each of us, being honest with ourselves, can find an instance where we built up a perfectly rational argument for something we wanted, even though it may not have been the best thing for us. On a grander scale, most dictators could offer logical reasons for their actions—making it easy for them to be called heartless. On the emotion side, we all probably have stories of friends who fell in love with someone who was not good for them with unfortunate consequences of various magnitude.

All this fallibility can leave us confused, indecisive, stagnant. I would suggest instead, that it leaves us quite simply, aiming for heaven, on the path of salvation, the path of holiness. We know that we were created by someone whose rationality is infallible and whose love is all-encompassing and we know that we were created in His image and likeness. It stands to, well, reason, that growing in that likeness will help us use our rationality for our good and the good of those around us, and make our emotions less likely to be swayed by the unhealthy. Let us travel this path together, as we continue to explore how we understand love.

With love in Christ,
+Fr. Peter