Hope and the Heart – Fr. Dmitri Staniloae

The following comes from Fr. Dmitri Staniloae’s Orthodox Spirituality. (pg. 178)

You have the experience of the congestion [crowdedness] of the heart when you are disturbed, and “ample room” when you are peaceful. But uneasiness, in regard to the future is the fruit of uncertainty, just as peace is the fruit of certainty. Care is the offspring of the fear of the future, thus of uncertainty, of the timidity that it won’t be just the way we want it.

In the treatise On Baptism Mark the Ascetic repeats many times that the heart where Christ dwells from Baptism can’t be opened but “by Christ Himself and by intelligent hope,” in other words by the hope that sees the unseen, or the things in the other life. Then the heart is really opened, no longer being ruled by care itself. And only when hope gains control of us and by it the heart is opened, do we escape the thoughts of the world, or thoughts of care.

Thus the opening of the heart coincides with the victory of hope in us and with an escape from care and its thoughts. This opening of the heart is one of the proofs of things beyond the world. Hope is vision with the heart, with the deepest part of our spirit, thus it is an intimate mystical conviction, a state of transparency of our nature to the things beyond this world.

I well recall my wife’s admonition about 5 months before we converted to Orthodoxy. I had been quietly job shopping for about a year, with no results. Beth said to me, “I believe it’s going to happen very soon. I think we should begin to give thanks for it now. Anybody can give thanks after it’s here.”

And so that day we added to our prayers psalms of thanksgiving, giving thanks for the fulfillment of a hope we could not yet see – but that, by faith, my wife could see (I bless God for her every day). Within a month her heart’s vision came to pass, and I received a job offer that made our conversion a possibility. The goodness of God, in the land of the living, is a vision granted to the heart of hope. May God give us all hearts that are full of such hope, able to see in the “intimate mystical conviction” the “things beyond this world.”


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