Opening Heart

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 — Week of 5 Lent

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 957)

Psalms (morning) 119:145-176 // 128, 129, 130 (evening)

Exodus 7:8-24

2 Corinthians 2:14 – 3:6

Mark 10:1-16

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

“And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 91)

That imaginative phrase comes from the first canticle assigned for Morning Prayer on Wednesdays in Lent. It comes from the Prayer of Manasseh, part of the Apocrypha.

The “heart” is a theme throughout today’s Office.

In Hebrew tradition the heart is the intersection of the human intellect and will. Marcus Borg argues convincingly in his book “The Heart of Christianity” that the heart is a metaphor for the inner self as a whole — “the self at a deep level, deeper than our perception, intellect, emotion, and volition. As the spiritual center of the total self, it affect all of these: our sight, thought, feelings, and will.” (p. 151)

Today our story from Exodus speaks of Pharaoh’s hardened heart. In 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the message and Spirit of Christ being written on our hearts, making us letters of the Spirit. In Mark, Jesus complains that the Mosaic law allowing a man to write a certificate of dismissal and thus divorce his wife was a commandment reflecting our hardness of heart, not the loving intention of God. And our Collect for this week asks that our hearts may be fixed upon God’s will, “where true joys are to be found.”

The Greek word for “hard hearted” is sklerokardia — sclerosis of the heart. It is so natural for our hearts to become hardened, closed. It is the natural result of our defensive protections as we grow up in an unreliable and threatening world. It is as if our selves become encased in a tough, “protective” shell. In its mild form, a closed heart is judgmentalism, insensitivity, self-centeredness, ordinary self-interest. In its severe form, hardness of heart is violence, brutality, arrogance, rapacious greed.

“And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart.” I want to have an open heart, a soft heart. Sometimes, in order for our hearts to be opened, the protective shell must be cracked, like an egg that must be broken open to release the life within.

It seems to me that opening our hearts and opening our eyes go together. When I am awake and observant, alive to the wonder and beauty of life, my heart is more alive. When I am in touch with a sense of gratitude, my heart is softer. When I am motivated primarily by compassion, my actions are more heartfelt.

Today, may I bend the knee of my heart, so that the Spirit may write upon it, softening and opening my heart that it may be fixed upon God where true joys are to be found.

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