Spiritual Reading 5

5. The Vital Center

In the Bible, the heart is the vital center of human life, sense, intellect, and will. For instance, thoughts arise from the heart: Jer-7:31, 1Cor-2:9. Wicked strategies come from the heart: Jer-17:9, Mk-7:21, Luke-6:45. The heart can be opened to wisdom: Acts-16:14. The heart can focus attention and will: Luke-21:14. God knows our hearts: Jer-12:3, Luke-16:15, Rom-8:27. God writes his law on the heart:-Jer 31:33. Grace comes to the heart deep within us: Rom-2:15, Heb-8:8. The Holy Spirit enters our hearts: Gal-4:6, Rom-5:5, Eph-1:17. heart refers to the innermost secret core of ourselves: Matthew-24:28, Rom.-10:6, and 1Peter-3:4 speaks of: “the hidden self of the heart.”

“Heart” in the New Testament also refers to (a) the center and foundation of physical life, Acts 14:17; Jas. 5:5; (b) the seat of moral nature and spiritual life, the center stage of grief, John 14:1; Rom. 9:2; 2 Cor. 2:4; joy, John 16:22; Eph. 5:19; the desires, Matt. 5:28; 2 Pet. 2:14; the affections, Luke 24:32; Acts 21:13; the perceptions, John 12:40; Eph. 4:18; the thoughts, Matt. 9:4; Heb. 4:12; the understanding, Matt. 13:15; Rom. 1:21; the reasoning powers, Mark 2:6; Luke 24:38; the imagination, Luke 1:51; conscience, Acts 2:37; 1 John 3:20; the intentions, Heb. 4:12, cp. 1 Pet. 4:1; purpose, Acts 11:23; 2 Cor. 9:7; the will, Rom. 6:17; Col. 3:15; faith, Mark 11:23; Rom. 10:10; Heb. 3:12.

In Christian theology, the kingdom of God is within the heart. The altar in a cathedral represents the heart. This resembles the Islamic view of the human heart as God’s throne and of Allah as the heart of hearts and of the whole world. The Epistle to the Ephesians says: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith….” 3:17

Carl Jung wrote: “The utterances of the heart, unlike those of the discriminating intellect, always relate to the whole. In this sense, the heart shows the meaning of things in great perspective. What the heart hears are the great things that span our whole lives, the experiences which we do nothing to arrange but which simply happen to us.” Thus the heart can be configured as both personal-individual and transpersonal-collective, the heart of a person’s life and of the world’s life. In this sense the heart mirrors the psyche itself which includes both our personal experience and the heritage of wisdom of the entire human collective that keeps stirring in all of us.

The rational mind is most comfortable with division. It is intent upon distinguishing and setting up oppositions. Division leads to subtraction. The heart is most comfortable with addition. It holds the tension of opposites with serenity because it has become comfortable with paradox. Addition leads to multiplication. Both these styles are necessary at different times. The mind helps us zero in on specific differences; the heart helps us make room for diversity.

It is clear from our cursory look at various traditions that heartful devotion is a form of mystical spirituality. A commitment to devotion grants a vision of the spiritual world as a world of heart, an exciting place in which to be alive and a fertile place in which to become who we wholly are. Awareness of one’s spiritual nature turns any place we are into a sacred place. The unanimous cheer of all religions is that the center of the universe is the center of our own hearts.

We now notice the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in modern art, on posters, and even in tattoos. There is a collective consciousness of this image that resonates in people regardless of their religious affiliation. A universal symbol is not only visible everywhere; it is in everyone’s soul.

Symbolon in Greek also means password. The Sacred Heart is not only a symbolic sign. It is also a passport to participation in what it signifies. This is reality/symbol (res et sacramentum) that contains a power to awaken us to spiritual truth and to give us an appetite for it. Then we find that life’s inner meaning is the same in the heart of Jesus as in our heart as in the heart of the world. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is indeed the center of the mystical body of humanity and the universe. Images of the Sacred Heart show Christ not only showing his heart but offering it, the center of his being, to us. The center and heart of divinity is given to each of us individually, i.e., as part of our relationship to Jesus. Life’s meaning is revealed as the giving and receiving of divine love. Devotion is then a life of gratitude.