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Clean the Field of Our Heart | KFP Articles
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Friday, 23 November 2012 20:36

The coming year is the Year of Faith, so it is fitting t0 quote from Columbanus' sermons on Faith. Last year, we read his first sermon on Faith, Presence of the Trinity. The second sermon, also on Faith, puts the focus on cleaning our own heart. In the sermon he makes a basic and yet most important point:

Since, just as the depth of the sea is invisible to human sight, even so the Godhead of the Trinity is found to be unknowable by human senses. And thus if, I say, a man wishes to know what he ought to believe, let him not think that he understands [better] by speech than by believing;’’ (cf. Aug. Serm. xliii. 6, 7)  for knowledge of the Godhead will recede farther when he seeks it than it was. Therefore seek the supreme wisdom, not by verbal debate, but by the perfection of a good life, not with the tongue but with the faith which issues from singleness of heart...

Though God is everywhere, God is not knowable by the senses.  God is knowable by the heart and it is by fine tuning the heart in the everday pilgrimage of our work that we are to seek Him.  The goal here is simple and clear, we must root out the weeds of the heart.  Columbanus begins by quoting St. Faustus:

He says: 'If the tiller of the soil and farmer of the land, who is preparing his field for sowing seed, does not think it enough for him to have cleft that earth with sturdy share and softened the hard sods by frequent ploughing, but over and above is anxious to clean that field of useless grass, to free it of harmful rubble, and to pluck up and destroy the growth of thorns and roots, in the belief that his land will never yield good seed unless it is clear of bad grass, thinking that that prophetic word applies to himself', Break up your fallow ground and sow not over thorns;’’  (Ierem. 4. 3)

how much more ought we to clean the field of our heart from the harmful motions of the vices, and to believe that it is not enough for us to till our body's clay with the toil of fasts and vigils, unless we are anxious above all to correct our vices and form our characters, seeing we believe our hope of harvest is laid up not on earth but in heaven? Therefore let us seek above all to root out the vices and plant the virtues; let us root out pride and sow humility, let us pluck up wrath and lay down patience, let us prune envy and plant good-will.’’ (sq. cf. Paen. Venniani 29)

But if the flesh is harrowed and the soul does not bear fruit, it is as if a field were continually ploughed and yet the crop never grew, or as if a man fashioned a statue of gold on the outside and of clay within. For what use is it if without the city walls war is being waged, while within it suffers ruin?' As if a man dug outside his vineyard and right on its boundary, while leaving it, untilled within, to thorns and thistles! For of what use is the religion of the outward man, if there is not also shown an improvement in the inner? That person can be false and a thief, that person is false and a hypocrite, who displays one quality in his bearing and another in his character. Then let us not be like whited sepulchres,’’  (Matt. 23. 27)

Let us study to show ourselves splendid and adorned within and not without; for true religion resides in lowliness not of habit but of heart. For where else does the Lord dwell, save in the heart of the truly humble, according to that saying of Isaiah, But on whom shall I look, or with whom shall I abide, save with the humble and peaceable and with him who fears My words?’ (sa. 66. 2)

Therefore whoever wishes to be made God's dwelling-place, should strive to make himself humble and peaceable, that he may be known to be God's servant, not by his greed for talk and pliability of mien, but by the reality of his lowliness; for goodness of heart requires no false unction of talk. Idle then is a religion decorated with prostrations of the body, equally idle is the mere mortification of the flesh, and the hollow devotion of the outward man, unless it be accompanied by a fruitful moderation of the mind. What use is it for the passions to be assailed by a servant, when they are found to be in league with the master? Then, lest perhaps we should labour without fruit, let us take pains to be freed from our vices by God's help, that thereafter we can be adorned with virtues. Thus let us cleanse ourselves as far as we are able from every taint of vices, from pride first, from ill-will, from anger, from blasphemy, from injustice, from spite, from melancholy, from vain glory, from covetousness, from malice, from all bitterness; that we may be possessed by lowliness, gentleness, kindness, courtesy, sobriety, mercy, justice, joy, and love.


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