I often think about the admonition of the fathers to “guard your heart.” It seems so obvious to me that the disposition of my heart has everything to do with how I will perceive and react to everything around me. An anxious heart perceives everything as a threat – a disaster or vexation in the making. An angry heart perceives the slightest hindrance as a great provocation. A sad heart can have a difficult time finding joy in anything. It is clear that it is not the world that is assaulting us – but our own hearts which use the world against us as a weapon.
There is a Greek word, philotimo, which when used in its spiritual meaning carries the sense of “responsive gratitude,” an awareness of deep appreciation and gratitude for all of God’s gifts. We do not seem to have a single English word for this disposition. But it is a word that describes the most proper and natural state of man’s heart. Philotimo is a state within which we can perceive the world in its truth and respond appropriately.
It is no mistake that the proper name for the Divine Liturgy is the Eucharist. Again, this is a Greek word which simply means “thanksgiving.” God has called the Church in its most profound act of worship to stand before Him in thanksgiving – blessing Him for the goodness of His creation and His great kindness to us in the coming of His Son. It is the Holy Spirit setting us in the place where we most truly become what we were created to be. Man is homo eucharisticus, or he lives in a distortion that is less than truly human.
Thanksgiving is a wall of protection against anxiety – for how can we fear that for which we give thanks? Thanksgiving is the oil of gladness that anoints and heals the saddened heart. Thanksgiving is the solemn rebuke of the wayward energy of our anger.
Guard your heart. Let nothing rob you of your humanity. Let nothing destroy the peace of your heart. With true philotimo rejoice in the presence of God.