Archimandrite Zacharias: Any Thought Expressed in the Holy Scriptures Can Become a “Burning Coal” Sunday, Jun 16 2013 

elderzachariasAny thought expressed in the Holy Scriptures can become a ‘burning coal’ that will touch the heart as it touched the lips of Isaiah.

That is why we should always study the word of God and have it dwelling richly in our heart, as St. Paul says (cf. Col. 3:16).

It is easy for grace to ignite one of these thoughts at the time of prayer, and then we have one verse from the Scriptures to pray with for a long time. And the Holy Spirit prays with us because this particular word is given by him.

This single thought that brings tears and repentance may come from the Holy Scriptures, quickened by grace; it may come directly from God Himself, through prayer; it may come from the hymnology of the Church, from a word of an elder or a brother; it can come from anywhere.

God is constantly seeking our heart, and He can provoke it with whatever is at hand. We only have to be ready to ‘snatch’ it.

Prayer of self-condemnation is especially helpful. The prayers before Holy Communion are full of these thoughts of self-condemnation before the thrice-Holy God.

I think that if we read them carefully we would always receive great help; one day one sentence from those prayers will stay with us and work repentance, another day another one, and so on.

Prayer of self-condemnation helps a lot because it follows the path of Christ, which goes downward. He is the One Who first went down, and He then ‘ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men’ (Eph. 4:8).

For this reason Fr. Sophrony says that those who are led by the Holy Spirit never cease to blame themselves before God and this leads them downwards. But we must be careful, because not everybody can bear this.

Those who are healthy psychologically can do so and find great strength and consolation, but for those who are less strong, there is another way which involves giving thanks to God continuously and balancing the prayer by ending it with the words ‘although I am unworthy, O Lord’.

St. Maximus the Confessor says that true humility is to bear in mind that we have our being ‘on loan’ from God. We find humility if we thank God continuously for everything, if we thank Him for every single breath He gives us.

In one of the prayers before the Sacrament of Baptism, we say that God has spread out the air for us to breathe, and we find a similar idea in one of the prayers of the kneeling service at Pentecost.

Consequently if we thank God for everything and for every single breath of air that He gives us, we will maintain a humble spirit.

Archimandrite Zacharias (Zacharou): The Hidden Man of the Heart (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2007) @ Discerning Thoughts.

Archimandrite Zacharias: Prodigal Sons Sunday, Nov 1 2009 

The great tragedy of our times lies in the fact that we live, speak, think, and even pray to God, outside our heart, outside our Father’s house.

And truly our Father’s house is our heart, the place where “the spirit of glory and of God” would find repose, that Christ may “be formed in us”.

Indeed, only then can we be made whole, and become hypostases in the image of the true and perfect Hypostasis, the Son and Word of God, Who created and redeemed us by the precious Blood of His ineffable sacrifice.

Yet as long as we are held captive by our passions, which distract our mind from our heart and lure it into the ever-changing and vain world of natural and created things, thus depriving us of all spiritual strength, we will not know the new birth from on High that makes us children of God and gods by grace.

In fact, in one way or another, we are all “prodigal sons” of our Father in heaven, because as the Scriptures testify, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. Sin has separated our mind from the life-giving contemplation of God and led it into a “far country”.

In this “far country” we have been deprived of the honour of our Father’s embrace and, in feeding swine, we have been made subject to demons. We gave ourselves over to dishonourable passions and the dreadful famine of sin, which then established itself by force, becoming the law of our members.

But now we must come out of this godless hell and return to our Father’s house, so as to uproot the law of sin that is within us and allow the law of Christ’s commandments to dwell in our heart.

For the only path leading out of the torment of hell to the everlasting joy of the Kingdom is that of the divine commandments: with our whole being we are to love God and our neighbours with a heart that is free of all sin.

Archimandrite Zacharias (Zacharou), The Hidden Man of the Heart (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2007) 12-15.

Hat tip to Sr Macrina Walker OSCO (A Vow of Conversation)

Archimandrite Zacharias: Discovering the “Deep Heart” Monday, Oct 26 2009 

All of the ordinances of the undefiled Church are offered to the world for the sole purpose of discovering the “deep heart”, the centre of man’s hypostasis.

According to the Holy Scriptures, God has fashioned every heart in a special way, and each heart is His goal, a place wherein He desires to abide that He may manifest Himself.

Since the kingdom of God is within us, the heart is the battlefield of our salvation, and all ascetic effort is aimed at cleansing it of all filthiness, and preserving it pure before the Lord.

“Keep thy heart with diligence; for out of it are the issues of life”, exhorts Solomon, the wise king of Israel. These paths of life pass through man’s heart, and therefore the unquenchable desire of all who ceaselessly seek the Face of the living God is that their heart, once deadened by sin, may be reconciled by His grace.

The heart is the true “temple” of man’s meeting with the Lord. Man’s search “seeketh knowledge” both intellectual and divine, and knows no rest until the Lord of glory comes and abides therein.

On His part God, Who is “jealous God”, will not settle for a mere portion of the heart. In the Old Testament we hear His voice crying out, “My son, give Me thy heart”, and in the New Testament He commands: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength”.

He is the one who has fashioned the heart of every man in a unique and unrepeatable way, though no heart can contain Him fully because “God is greater than our heart”.

Nevertheless, when man succeeds in turning his whole heart to God, then God begets it by the incorruptible seed of His word, seals it with His wondrous Name and makes it shine with His perpetual and charismatic presence.

He makes it a temple of His Divinity, a temple not made by hands, able to reflect His “shape” and to hearken unto His “voice” and “bear” His Name.

In a word, man then fulfils the purpose of his life, the reason for his coming into the transient existence of this world.

Archimandrite Zacharias (Zacharou): The Hidden Man of the Heart (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2007) 11-12.

Hat tip to Sr Macrina Walker OSCO (A Vow of Conversation)

Archimandrite Zacharias: A Heart as Wide as the Heavens Friday, Oct 23 2009 

No matter how daunting and difficult the struggle of purifying the heart may be, nothing should deter us from this undertaking.

We have on our side the ineffable goodness of a God Who has made man’s heart His personal concern and goal.

In the book of Job, we read the following astonishing words “What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment…” (Job 7:17-19).

We sense God, Who is incomprehensible, pursuing man’s heart “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).

He knocks at the door of our heart, but He also encourages us to knock at the door of His mercy: “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Lk. 11:9-10).

When the two doors that are God’s goodness and man’s heart open, then the greatest miracle of our existence occurs: man’s heart is united with the Spirit of the Lord, God feasting with the sons of men.

Let us not fail to humble our spirit. If we acquire this blessed habit, many of our faults will be corrected. For example, the thought may come to mind that we have grieved our brother, and we know that in order to be pleasing to God and to remain in His presence we must be reconciled to the person we have grieved.

In order to enter Paradise, one must have a heart as wide as the heavens, a heart that embraces all men.

If a heart excludes even just one person, it will not be accepted by the Lord because He will not be able to dwell in it.

Prayer is an endless creation; it is a school that teaches us to remain in the presence of the Lord. This effort to remain with the Lord is an exercise that finally overcomes death, which is why our prayer must be neither superficial nor mechanical.

We must unite mind and heart in order to learn true mental prayer, in other words, we must pray with our whole inner being, with all our mind and heart.

Prayer is a school, and humility is the key to success in this discipline. Let us be humble. Let us have the certainty of our own nothingness before God, knowing that the only thing that makes us truly human is the breath that our God and Creator has breathed into us.

In every other respect we are earth, and earth is trodden underfoot. What makes us truly precious is the breath of God, received by us at the time of our creation and at our re-creation in holy baptism. This breath is what makes us the image and likeness of God.

Archimandrite Zacharias [Zacharou] (the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, England): The Hidden Man of the Heart

Hat tip to The Handmaid (Christ In Our Midst) and Deacon Charles Joiner (Orthodox Way of Life)