Prayer of the heart

Daily Reading for June 21

In brief, do everything as though in the presence of God and so, in whatever you do, you need never allow your conscience to wound and denounce you, for not having done your work well.

Proceeding in this way you will smooth for yourself a true and straight path to the third method of attention and prayer which is the following: the mind should be in the heart—a distinctive feature of this third method of prayer. It should guard the heart while it prays, revolve, remaining always within, and thence, from the depths of the heart, offer up prayers to God. (Everything is in this: work in this way until you are given to taste the Lord.) When the mind, there, within the heart, at last tastes and sees that the Lord is good, and delights therein (the labor is ours, but this tasting is the action of grace in a humble heart), then it will no longer wish to leave this place in the heart. . . and will always look inwardly into the depths of the heart and will remain revolving there, repulsing all thoughts sown by the devil. . . .

Therefore our holy fathers, harkening to the Lord, . . . have renounced all other spiritual work and concentrated wholly on this one doing, that is on guarding the heart, convinced that, through this practice, they would easily attain every other virtue, whereas without it not a single virtue can be firmly established. Some of the fathers called this doing, silence of the heart; others called it attention; yet others—sobriety and opposition (to thoughts), while others called it examining thoughts and guarding the mind.

Keep your mind there (in the heart), trying by every possible means to find the place where the heart is, in order that, having found it, your mind should constantly abide there. Wrestling thus, the mind will find the place of the heart.

From Simeon the New Theologian (949-1022), in Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, translated by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E. H. Palmer (London: Faber and Faber, 1951).

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