December 23 - St. Theophan the Recluse - Keep Your Heart Free

"If you just eat, drink, have fun, go to bed, have a good sleep, wake up and do the same thing over and over again — where is the place for vigil? If you are busy days and nights with earthly cares, would you care about prayer? Vain cares are the chief enemies of vigil and prayer, so the Lord warns us to avoid them. . ."

Originally appeared at: Global Orthodox

Editor's Note: Saint Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894) was one of the most prolific and beloved spiritual writers of 19th-century Russia. His works comprise over twenty volumes. Although he lived the last twenty-eight years of his life as a hermit, his impact on his homeland was immense. His articles appeared in the popular spiritual journals of his time, his books were in great demand, and he personally replied to an average of thirty letters daily. We will be publishing excerpts from Thoughts for Each Day of the Year (Amazon). In it, St. Theophan takes us through the yearly cycle of Gospel and Epistle readings, humbly and reverently offering us brief but powerful daily meditations on the word of God. He also addresses the problems of his day: lack of faith, coldness of heart, trust in the rational mind rather than in the revealed Truth of God - which are problems of our day as well.


Thursday, 27th week after Pentecost
Epistle reading: 1 Timothy 6:17-21
Gospel reading: Luke 21:28-33

Keep Your Heart Free

“Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” [Luke 21:34]. “That day” is either the last day of the world, or the anyone’s last day on earth. It comes like a thief in the night and catches as a snare. “Watch ye therefore, commands the Lord, and pray always” [Luke 21:36]. And since surfeiting, drunkenness, and vain cares are the chief enemies of vigil and prayer, the Lord warns us to avoid them.

If you just eat, drink, have fun, go to bed, have a good sleep, wake up and do the same thing over and over again — where is the place for vigil? If you are busy days and nights with earthly cares, would you care about prayer?  

— Then what? I cannot live without food. I have to earn my living. Certainly this has to be taken care of!

— That’s correct. Yet the Lord never said, “Do not work”, “Do not eat”, “Do not drink”, but only “Do not let your hearts be overcharged with all that.” Work with your hands, while keeping your heart free. Eat well, but do not burden yourself with food. Drink wine on occasion, but do not let it disturb your mind and heart.

Separate your external business from the internal, and make sure that the latter is set as the mission critical task for your whole life, while the former is only a side job. Keep your mind and heart inside. Let only your body, hands, feet, and eyes go outside when needed. “Watch ye, and pray always.”

To stand before the Son of Man on that coming day with clear conscience, we have to be even now, in this present life, continually standing before Him. There is only one way of achieving this: conscious, sober prayer of the mind working in your heart. If we follow this way of prayer, “that day” will never catch us off-guard.

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