Orthodox America

  On Spiritual Peace of Heart

Excerpts from Unseen Warfare as edited by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and revised by Bishop Theophan the Recluse

     Your heart, beloved, is made by God for the sole purpose of loving Him alone and of serving as a dwelling for Him. So He calls to you to give Him your heart, saying My son, give me thine heart (Prov. 23:26). But since God is peace passing all understanding, it is quite indispensable for the heart, which wishes to receive Him, to be peaceful and free of all turmoil. For only in peace is His peace, as David says. So strive above all things to establish and make firm the peaceful state of your heart. All your virtues, all actions and endeavors should be directed towards achieving this peace, and especially your valiant feats of struggling against the enemies or your salvation; as the great practiser of silence, Arsenius, says: 'Make it your whole care that your inner state should be in accordance with God, and you will vanquish your outer passion."

     Peace of heart is disturbed by passions; so if you do not allow passions to approach the heart, it will always remain at peace. in the unseen warfare, the warrior stands full: armed at the gates of the heart and repulses all those who attempt to enter and disturb it. While the heart is at peace, victory over the attackers is not difficult. Peace of heart is both the aim of spiritual warfare, and the most powerful means to achieve victory in it. So, when passionate turmoil steals into the heart, do not jump to attack the passion in an effort to overcome it, but descend speedily into your heart and, strive to restore quiet there. As soon as the heart is quieted than the struggle is over.

     Human life is nothing but unceasing warfare and endless temptation. Temptation provokes struggle, and. so warfare ensues. Owing to this warfare you should always keep awake and do your utmost to guard your heart and watch over it, to keep it peaceful and quiet. When some disturbing movement arises in your soul. strive with zeal to stifle it and pacify the heart, lest this confusion makes you stray from the right path. For the human heart is like a weight on a clock or like a boat's rudder. If you make the weight lighter or heavier, this will immediately change the movement of all the wheels, and the hands will cease to show the correct time. If you move the rudder to the right or left, the course of the boat is at once altered, so that it no longer stays on its former course. In the same way, when the heart is thrown into turmoil, everything within us is brought into disorderly movement and our very mind loses the capacity of right thinking. This is why it is so necessary not to delay in quieting the heart as soon as it becomes troubled by something internal or external, whether in time of prayer or at any other time.

      And you must realize that you will know how to pray rightly only when you have really mastered the task of guarding your inner peace. So direct your attention to this subject and try to find out how to achieve a state of affairs when every action is done in peace of heart, with pleasure and joy. I should say, in brief, that preserving peace of heart should be the constant endeavor of your whole life; you must never allow it to be cast into disorderly turmoil. Then, doing all your business tranquil in the shelter of this peace, as it is written: My son go on with thy business in meekness (tranquility) (Eccleasticus 3:17) you will attain the bliss promised to the tranquil. Blessed are the meek .for they shall inherit the earth.


"On the Means of Preserving Inner Peace"

To preserve inner peace:

     1) First of all keep your outer senses in order and flee all licentiousness in your external conduct,-namely, neither look, speak gesticulate, walk nor do anything else with agitation, but always quietly and decorously Accustomed to behave with decorous quiet ness in your external movements and actions you will easily and without labor acquire peace within yourself, in the heart; for, according to the testimony of the fathers, the inner man takes his tone from the outer man

     2) Be disposed to love all men and to live in accord with everyone, as St. Paul instructs: If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Rom. 12:18).

     3) Keep your conscience unstained, so that it does not gnaw at you or reproach you, in anything, but is at peace in relation to God to yourself, to your neighbors, and to all external things, If your conscience is thus kept clean, it will produce, deepen and strengthen inner peace, as David says: Great peace have they Which Love Thy law and nothing shall offend them (Ps. 119:165).

     l) Accustom yourself to bear all unpleasantness and insults without perturbation, It is true that before you acquire this habit you will have to grieve and suffer much in your heart. But once this habit is acquired, your soul will find great comfort in the very troubles you meet with. If you are resolute, you will day by day learn to manage yourself better and better and will soon reach a state where you will know how to preserve the peace of your spirit in all storms, both inner ant outer.

    If at times you are unable to manage you heart and restore peace in it by driving away all stress and griefs, have recourse to prayer and be persistent, imitating our Lord and Saviour, Who prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane, to show you by His example that prayer should be your refuge in ever stress and affliction of the heart, and that, no matter how faint-hearted and grieved you may be, you should not abandon it until you reach a state when your will is in complete accord with the will of God and, calmed by this, your heart is filled with courageous daring and is joyfully ready to meet, accept and bear the very thing it feared and wished to avoid; just as our Lord felt fear, sorrow and grief, but, regaining peace through prayer, said calmly: Rise, let us be going; behold, he is at hand that doth betray Me (Matt. 26:46)