The Paths of Our Hearts

From Homilies on St, Luke’s Gospel 21 (234-240)

We read these words in the prophet Isaiah: “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare he way of the Lord! Make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” The Lord wishes to find a way by which he might enter your hearts and walk therein. Prepare this way for him of whom it is said, “Make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” The voice cries out in the desert: “Prepare the way.” This voice first reaches our ears; and then following it, or rather with it, the Word penetrates our understanding. It is in this sense that Christ was announced by John.

Let us see, therefore, what the voice announces concerning the Word. “Prepare,” says the voice, “the way of the Lord.” What way are we to prepare for the Lord? Is it a material way? Can the Word of God take such a way? Ought we not rather to prepare an inner way for the Lord by making the paths of our heart straight and smooth? Indeed, this is the way by which the Word of God enters in order to take up his abode in the human heart made ready to receive him.

How great is the human heart! What width and capacity it possesses, provided it is pure! Do you wish to know its greatness and width? Look at the extent of the divine knowledge that it embraces. It tells us itself: “God gave me sound knowledge of existing things that I might know the organization of the universe and the force of its elements, the beginning and the end and the midpoint of times, the changes in the sun’s course and the variation of the seasons. Cycles of years, positions of the stars, natures of animals, tempers of beasts, powers of the winds and thoughts of people, uses of plants and virtues of roots” (Wisdom 7:17-20).

Thus you see that the human heart knows so many things and is of no small compass. But notice that its greatness is not one of size but of the power of thought by which it is capable of knowing so many truths.

In order to make everyone realize how great the human heart is, let us look at a few examples taken from everyday life. We still retain in our minds all the towns we have ever visited. Their features, the locations of their squares, walls, and buildings remain engraved in our hearts. We keep the road which we have traveled painted and engraved in our memories; and the sea over which we have sailed is harbored in our silent thought. As I have just said, the human heart knows so many things and is of no small compass.

Now if it is not small, and if it can grasp so much, we can prepare the way of the Lord there and make straight the way where the Word, the Wisdom of God, will walk. Let each of you, then, prepare the way of the Lord by a good conscience; make straight the way so that the Word of God may walk within you without stumbling and may give you knowledge of his mysteries and of his coming.

Origen (ca. 185-254) was an Egyptian scholar and theologian, who taught at the Catechetical Schools of Alexandria and Caesarea wrote extensive Biblical commentaries and theological treatises. He was the greatest of the Alexandrian theologians and his allegorical methods of interpretation deeply shaped subsequent Biblical study and ascetical practice.


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