Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paths to the Heart

     Its amazing how even though we share the same human nature we can be so different. Sometimes these differences complement and there other times when they challenge. However, even in the challenge we can discover that "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17)".In regards to spirituality I believe this truth is even more valid. Since no two people are the same each person expresses their faith differently. At times these differences might make us uncomfortable but for each person there is way that best helps them to the Heart where God abides. Born out of these differences we discover that there has been a rich history of spiritual traditions in the Church. In these we can find that where one tradition enriched a person it might not bring about the same potential in another. It's not that one is superior to another but there are some traditions that work well with a persons experience of human nature.
     As someone who grew up outside of the Church my path towards the Heart was not which I guess you could say would be a normal one. I had no spiritual traditions other then what I gleaned from Christian elements in our culture. Naturally as I became acquainted with Christian traditions I went from one to another always searching for what best helped me experience God. However, this journey was taken not without weakness. Later, I would look back on some of my choices and see there was a tendency to see my personal spirituality dictated on how well I was accepted by a tradition. This is a pattern that you can often see in converts who in coming into the Church do their best to show how they're not like other traditions because they hold their old spirituality as inferior, which makes them feel inferior when they are identified with it. They often forget, as I did, that they probably would not be who they are if they did not experience the things they did in their previous spiritual traditions. In my own life I am not proud that I was a heathen but even in this there is a story of God leading me to where I am today.
     Spirituality is not dictated by a tradition but it can be informed by one. Unfortunately, do to our weakness we often see that our own spiritual tradition is the only right one. So we often go out of the way to make other spiritualities look inferior. In my opinion this is where the source of many of the divisions that we have in the Church today. In seeing differences its natural to ask how a spirituality can be harmful but we must also ask how it can be beneficial. Once I had to do this very thing when I was praying with some friends of the Charismatic movement. One of the people praying reminded me of a Pentecostal TV Evangelist for he was loud and very emotional. Before I had a chance to judge him I felt like God was saying to me in my Heart that He has many sons and there all different. From that experienced I learned that just as an earthly father enjoys the gifts of his own children our God accepts everything that we do in faith. Also, it is through this kind faith that we discover Him in our Hearts.
     Understanding the Heart in spirituality has been an important theme in the Byzantine tradition. It says in the Philokalia in many ways that the Heart (the center of what we are), as distinguished from our physical heart, is place where we truly experience life. It is here where God has made a place for us to experience all of what He is and  it is our role in the spiritually we practice to mediate that experience into our lives. There is no doubt that among Christian traditions we have one of the most developed tradition in this regard. In our spiritual tradition we have a whole spiritual science known as Hesychasm that shows us the way to reach the Heart. However, at the same time this system that we have is not an isolated one. For in all the spiritually in the Church the goal is the same even though it is expressed differently and because of this there could be found many paths to the Heart.

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